Chester Made partners have been invited to make presentations on the initiative and its impact both locally and nationally, from the 15th annual Imagining America conference in Baltimore to the National Humanities Conference of the Federation of State Humanities Councils in St. Louis. A selection of presentation summaries appears below.



Philanthropy Network's Sparking Solutions Conference

  • Theme--Learning and Leading Together in a Diverse Landscape
  • Session--The Art of Community Engagement: Utilizing the Arts, Culture, and Humanities as Tools to Connect, Collaborate, and Transform

November 12, 2015, Philadelphia

Effective community engagement is a critical piece of any significant change initiative, but it is also one of the most challenging to accomplish in a meaningful and authentic way. Creative tools and approaches to engagement can play a critical role in overcoming these challenges, helping to increase understanding of community values, foster engagement across diverse stakeholder groups, and ultimately produce more satisfying, equitable, and rewarding outcomes for all involved.

This session explored the opportunities presented by the arts, culture, and humanities to foster engagement and collaboration around critical community issues.

Community leaders and regional funders shared insights from a number of outstanding community engagement initiatives taking place in our region that have utilized visual and performing arts to help drive community change and growth. These examples demonstrated the powerful impacts that can be had when funders, nonprofits, government, and most importantly, community members, use creative tools to achieve a common goal.

Drawing from the experiences shared by our presenters, session participants engaged in a meaningful dialogue on how these lessons can be applied and expanded upon in their own work and throughout our region.


Maud Lyon, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Artists working with community members to give them voice--and ownership of change
Andrew Frishkoff, LISC Philadelphia
Aviva Kapust, The Village of Arts and Humanities
Using the arts to talk about difficult, deep issues, and blending old Germantown with new Germantown
Trapeta Mayson, Historic Germantown
Changing the narrative of the community
Laurie Zierer, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
Devon Walls, The Artist Warehouse



Imagining America Conference

  • Theme--America Will Be! The Art and Power of "Weaving Our We"
  • Session--What Makes Chester, Chester: How Community Narratives Are Informing City Planning

Saturday, October 3, 2015, Baltimore

Chester Made created a dynamic public space for city residents to articulate personal stories and identify cultural assets toward re-imagining a positive community narrative and informing future revitalization efforts.

In this session, participants experienced theatre- and story-based strategies used to engage a wide cross-section of Chester residents while building the arts-based engagement capacity of local artists. The Chester Made Ensemble gave a repeat performance of its presentation to Chester City Council, Bob Leonard hosted a talk show–style conversation, and the audience had multiple opportunities to ask questions and exchange with the presenters.

The Pennsylvania Humanities Council situated the Chester Made project within its new Civic Engagement Initiative, which applies the humanities as a tool for creating knowledge, social capital, and policy change. Chester city planners discussed mapmaking and arts-based practices as new ways to inform planning for a cultural corridor. Widener University described its role and approach in assessing community outcomes, and reflected on how Chester Made served its own learning regarding community engagement strategies grounded in democratic values.


  • Bob Leonard, Professor of Theatre, Virginia Tech (moderator)
  • Laurie Zierer, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
  • Lisa Jo Epstein, Executive Director, Just Act
  • Don W. Newton, Founding Board Member, Chester Arts Alive!
  • Chester Made Ensemble members Sister Mafalda Thomas-Bouzy, Stefan Matthews, Tanina Harris
  • Devon Walls, The Artist Warehouse
  • James Turner, Director of Business Development, Chester Water Authority
  • Sharon Meagher, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Widener University
  • Mary Beth Semerod, Graduate Student, Widener University
  • Pam Korza, Co-director, Animating Democracy, Americans for the Arts