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The future site of the Forman Arts Initiative's first permanent space, with the former electrical substation on the corner
Photo: Isabel Kokko, courtesy the Forman Arts Initiative, Philadelphia

The Forman Arts Initiative (FAI) has announced plans for a new permanent home in Philadelphia’s West Kensington neighborhood. Artist, social innovator, and urban planner Theaster Gates will partner with FAI’s Executive Director Adjoa Jones de Almeida to help shape the renovation and activation of the site’s four existing buildings and the establishment of programming and partnerships both on-site and throughout the city. 

Founded in 2021, Forman Arts Initiative (FAI) provides grants to Philadelphia artists and arts organizations, most notably, the ​​Norris Square Neighborhood Project, a network of public gardens, and Taller Puertorriqueño, a community center for Puerto Rican arts and culture. From its establishment, founders Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice envisaged growing FAI into an arts center for community activation and participation that is inclusive, democratic, and future-focused. West Kensington, while historically rich and artistically vibrant, has received less funding and resources from the city than other neighborhoods.

The collaboration between FAI and Gates will build on Gates’s previous work, like Dorchester Projects in Chicago and the forthcoming arts and industry incubator at the former St. Laurence Elementary School, which used the power of culture and creative practices to develop new platforms, touchpoints, and opportunities for communities in divested neighborhoods. Throughout the process, FAI and Gates will maintain close contact with local community members to ensure their perspectives remain central to the creation of the campus and its eventual programming. The campus currently consists of a 100,000-square-foot site spanning nearly the entire 2200 block of North American Street, and containing five structures/spaces