A Plan for Action to Improve Philadelphia’s Housing

In fall 2018 I partnered with SAYGRID LLC and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Philadelphia to create a Housing Action Plan for the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Housing and Development. This 20-page document outlines the City’s ambitious goals for making housing equitable and affordable in the coming decades—especially for those residents living in units with housing tax credits that are due to expire soon. We worked closely with the city as well as LISC to craft a document that was accessible and readable as well as detailed and informative.Housing-Action-Plan-Final-for-Web cover

How to Jumpstart a community

In 2017, I partnered with Andee Mazzocco of SAYGRID Design to develop a suite of materials for the Jumpstart model of community development. Created by Ken Weinstein of Philly Office Retail, Jumpstart helps local aspiring developers to create equity and keep wealth local while improving blighted properties. The program provides training, mentoring, and networking opportunities, as well as financing options that new developers might not always have. It’s already had a significant impact on the Germantown section of Philadelphia, and is now expanding to Kensington and Mt. Airy. The Barra Foundation provided support to translate Ken’s materials so that neighborhoods in other cities and towns across the U.S. could leverage this same approach. Philadelphia LISC was an essential partner in how to showcase the best of Jumpstart.

In 9 months, our team created a marketing brochure, a 60-page training workbook, a PowerPoint slide deck, a 30-page “How-to” guide for neighborhoods, and a website. I managed the project and developed all the content, in close consultation with Ken and his team. Beautiful photography was done by Steve Legato. Site development by Steven Mangione Web Services. You’re sure to read more about Jumpstart in the coming months.Jumpstart thumbnail



Buy-in for a Green City’s “Clean Waters”

This summer marked the five-year anniversary of the Philadelphia Water Department’s nationally recognized “Green City, Clean Waters” program devoted to green infrastructure for stormwater management. The program, created in service of the city’s long-term sustainability plan, was branded by students at University of the Arts with the slogan, “Soak it up, Philly!”

green-city-panel-1Early in the initiative I provided interpretive planning and developed narratives for signage at various construction sites around the city. The goal was to advise residents about the greening efforts PWD was undertaking above ground—and the green engineering below ground. I integrated research from sites throughout northeast Philadelphia to develop content approaches and partnered with Philadelphia design firm Cloud Gehshan Associates. The signs were featured alongside a rain garden demonstration at 2014’s Philadelphia Flower Show.

In 2015 I also helped the Community Design Collaborative create a how-to guide for schools in Philadelphia that want to redo their schoolyards to make use of green design and maximize benefits for students, developmentally and physically.


This was the first in a series of guides for the Collaborative, and I look forward to more collaborations with them. (If you’re interested in all the good work they do, check out pages from the 125-page anniversary publication I created with them in 2011).



Bringing history to life with art@Bartrams

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The Lindy Institute’s report proposes ways to bring this historic treasure to life through art.

How do you infuse energy and culture into an historic site that’s an island among neighborhoods in the midst of slow revitalization? Here’s how: you make it the next piece of the Schuylkill River trail. And add art. Drexel’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation has garnered the vision for Bartam’s Garden, and is now seeking the funding to bring it to life.

I had the pleasure of editing this intensive 28-page proposal, which spans history, urban planning, and some of the best landscape-based art installations in the world.

You might not know: John Bartam (1699–1777) was a pioneering North American naturalist and devoted Philadelphian. His home and grounds are lovely—well worth a visit the next time you’re headed down 95 past the airport or on a trek into deep Southwest Philly. (Head over in the spring and summer for some dreamy and free kayaking and canoeing on the Schuylkill.)

The report was designed with sumptuous visuals by the eminently talented Andee Mazzocco at Whole-Brained Design.

Summit at Sundance on arts innovation

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National Arts Policy Roundtable 2014 report

Last year I wrote a report about an annual gathering of some of the most prestigious names at the forefront of arts and innovation. Americans for the Arts convenes an impressive group each year at Park City’s Sundance Institute (where Robert Redford joins them) for a weekend of sessions of brainstorming and discussion.

Throughout the summit artists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers—many of the talented individuals are all three—presented TEDx-style on initiatives and outreach that are cutting new paths for public art. It was exciting to showcase these new ways to engage audiences around the country.

Highlights from the 2014 event directly addressed the issue of community:

  • Ben Folds and his manager talked about the viral social media campaign to save an historic RCA Victor recording studio in Nashville—at one time the home to Elvis, Dolly Parton, and the Beach Boys and among the first to record African American artists. Folds’s heartfelt outreach via his 1.5 million followers on Facebook and 840K Twitter following—while he was on tour in Europe—started a wave of support to ultimately #SaveMusicRow from demolishing and development. But it also built a community of activism and preservation in the city and beyond.

Continue reading “Summit at Sundance on arts innovation”

The trajectory of a research university

Rowan University has undergone a number of exciting changes in the past 18 months. First, it became New Jersey’s newest comprehensive public research university (joined only by Rutgers). Second, it merged with the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, NJ, to offer an even more broad-based educational program with expanded research and clinical opportunities for students.

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To capture the university’s multifaceted talents and initiatives behind these changes, Rowan needed to devise a unique annual report—one that highlighted advances and successes from the previous year, but also branded the diverse research program in light of these developments. Rowan brought in ARC to devise an effective print strategy to integrate the growing South Jersey Technical Park, located on the edge of its Glassboro campus.

Alison conducted interviews with the Associate Provost for Research, who also directs the SJTP, and worked closely with the marketing staff to establish a structure for the publication, but also a voice. I conducted in-depth interviews with high-level administrators—including Dr. Kenneth Blank, who joined Rowan from Temple, in the new position of Vice President for Health Sciences—to integrate into the report the broad, innovative vision for the university in this area.

Continue reading “The trajectory of a research university”

A map for sourcing local food

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ARC worked with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF, and the talented Andee Mazzocco) to create a report that would make some highly complex research more accessible. The piece examined a model of the local supply chain for meat products, to help trace it back beyond the retail sector and through processors, to the food producers themselves.

ARC took an intensely technical research document, broke it down into digestible pieces, and translated it into a format that a layperson could begin to understand.

The model does not represent the actual flow of products through the supply chain, but rather identifies economic relationships that would minimize the distance that meat must travel from farms to processors—at multiple stages—before it is distributed to wholesale and retail outlets. The report covers a test area of agriculturally significant portions of Greater Philadelphia. The goal of the document was to help TRF identify new objectives for lending and technical assistance that would have a direct impact on how a local industry sources its products.

It was fascinating to become intimately acquainted with the excellent research capacity at TRF and its potential breadth of impact.

Profiling a Young Filmmaker

I was fortunate to have the chance to interview Bryn Mawr alumna Rehema Trimiew about her 2010 documentary Learning to Fly (watch it online) for her College Alumnae Bulletin. She spent four months in Zambia, filming a group of inspiring, determined young girls who are orphans and encouraging them to tell their stories and make films of their own, on cameras and computers Rehema had donated. Along the way she also learned an array of valuable lessons about the realities of on-the-ground filmmaking, as well as the resilience and creativity this work requires. She has since written a book about the process of making the film, which includes material from her MFA thesis.

I wish Rehema success with her future film projects, and look forward to following her promising career.

Gaining Leverage

I spent much of 2011 helping the Community Design Collaborative to create a book in celebration of the organization’s 20th anniversary. The result is LEVERAGE: Strengthening Neighborhoods though Design, published in September and now available at the AIA Bookstore in Philly (1218 Arch St.) as well as through Distributed Art Publishers and Amazon.com.

LEVERAGE showcases 20 projects that reflect the strong work the Collaborative has done over the past two decades to help neighborhoods and organizations transform themselves in three dimensions, through planning and design services that are entirely pro bono. A series of essays offer national and local perspectives on the impact the organization has made through this good work.

The talented folks at Smyrski Creative designed the book (and check out what they’re doing at the PMA through April 22, in association with the Zoe Strauss show).

Continue reading “Gaining Leverage”

A Match Made in Medicine

Finding a living kidney donor is a godsend for patients on dialysis. A donor who’s a match (in blood type) is even more precious. Berch Harris was fortunate enough to find both—in his wife, Vallerie Armstrong, whom he’d met at a hemodialysis center. I write about their courtship, marriage, and putting to the test the vows “in sickness and in health” in a recent issue of Surgical Solutions for the Department of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University.

I was also intrigued by what transplant surgeon Dr. Ramirez explained as the intricate logistics involved  in matching donors with recipients, especially if a patient’s loved one is willing to donate, but is not a match; it turns out that, since he/she could be a match for someone else, this could guarantee a kidney that is a match, and circumvent what could be a long wait on the transplant list. Jefferson is now part of an elaborate national network that orchestrates “paired kidney donation.” This can involved multiple pairs, and requires many operating rooms and organs transported—all of which needs to happen within a matter of hours.

At a time when it seems we’re scrambling to repair and protect ourselves from human error on all fronts, it’s heartening to read about medicine getting it right and making all the difference in people’s lives.