The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) has been approved for a $45,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and will use the money to support a Creative Exploration Zone (CEZ) in the City of Chester’s Historic Arts and Culture District.

This zone, to be located in the 500 block of Avenue of the States, will test methods to temporarily animate public outdoor spaces using local creative energy and talent. It will bolster the cultural assets and evolving creativity within the city’s arts and culture district by developing a series of design-and-build events that involve the community's youth.


“With this project, Chester’s youth will have the opportunity to connect the city’s cultural identity to their personal lives and hopes for the city’s future,” said Laurie Zierer, PHC’s executive director. “We’ll also have the opportunity to explore the role of the humanities in creative placemaking and socially-engaged revitalization.”

This project will be led by PHC and the City of Chester, as well as The Artist Warehouse and Widener University; other partners include The Public Workshop and City of Chester youth organizations. The organizations will bring together local artists, community leaders, and youth to animate public outdoor spaces in ways that capture the community’s imagination, distinctive identity, and creative expression.


“To see everything come to fruition with arts and culture in Chester is amazing, and we are really excited about it,” said Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland. “I believe we can be the art hub, not only of Delaware County, but of Pennsylvania.”

In addition to strengthening civic engagement among the community’s youth, the Creative Explorative Zone will raise awareness about the revitalization of the city’s downtown, facilitate and expand entrepreneurial investment, and inform and guide policy as it relates to land-use and design of improvements.

“I hope this opportunity will allow us to engage the youth and show them the power of working with a diverse team to accomplish goals,” said Devon Walls, owner of The Artist Warehouse. “It’s exciting that they will be able to use their creative expression to make an impact on their community.”

PHC is one of 64 recipients of Our Town awards totaling $4.3 million in support of projects across the nation. The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at