Tag Archives: economics

Structures of Support

Structures of Support is an ongoing, multi-phase project begun in late 2012 by Jeremy Beaudry, Katie Hargrave, and Meredith Warner. In this project we want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future.

Some people have a robust, healthy support structure — so healthy that they are almost unaware of it. Others’ support structures are weak, unhealthy, even non-existent, and that lack of support often puts them at risk. We want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future. We also want to break the mythology of bootstrapping that is so prevalent today and so embedded in the dominant narrative of our culture.

Structures of Support Survey

Based on our recent research and thinking, we have developed a survey which explores support structures—both personal and institutional. As a first step, this survey will provide us a baseline of data and stories. We imagine this information laying the groundwork for future workshops, visualizations, and conversations that probe our structures of support. In the survey we ask questions in four categories: Self Support, Space & Place, Others in your Life, and Quality of Life.

→ Click here to complete the Structures of Support survey

Visualizing the Survey Data


Much of what we have learned so far in our Structures of Support research — including wall drawings, visualizations, and posters — was displayed in an installation as a part of an exhibition at the Katherine A. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis from May 28th – June 15th.

Localizing the Structures of Support

For six weeks in the summer of 2013, we had the opportunity to gather stories and host conversations on the structures of support in the Germantown section of Philadelphia during our project Germantown City Hall for the Hidden City Festival. We brought many community members together in order to map past and current support networks and assets that might otherwise be invisible—things like informal civic groups, clubs, leisure groups, cooperatives, play groups, town watches, community gardens, and the like. Also, we continued to collect responses to the Structures of Support Survey via a paper version of the questionnaire.


→ We also asked neighborhood residents to reflect on the meaning of civic space for the community. Here are the video recordings of a select number of those interviews.

Related Notes

Dissecting the Sector

Dissecting the Sector was an intervention within a larger community conversation called “Culture, Creativity and the City.” This project asked the question “Can art cause harm?” as a way to open a conversation about the use of art as a tool for revitalization and community development. It was conceived of by Meredith Warner and supported by Jeremy Beaudry and Jethro Heiko.

On September 9, 2007 a “Town Hall Meeting” was hosted at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia called “Culture, Creativity and the City.” The event was described as “a rousing and important community dialogue began. At the heart of this dialogue were many of the core questions and ideas about how we, as Philadelphians, can harness the energy of the Creative Sector to consolidate Philadelphia revitalization and create the conditions to drive the economy.” This event related directly to the Think Tank’s previous investigation called “Scrutinizing the Cartography of Talent,” a Publicly Held Private Meeting.

The Think Tank drafted a series of questions that were printed and distributed on notecards at the event. Questions included: What is the fundamental ideological purpose of art? How do we create a space for cultural freedom? Can art cause harm? The stack of questions was passed to the moderator during the panel discussion and the last question, regarding harm, was asked of the panelists. The questions themselves were conceived of in response to author Julian Stallbrass being interviewed on Against the Grain. The questions were derived from his thoughts on the subject of art and commerce.

Listen to the moderator ask the question here.

At the “Culture, Creativity and the City” event, an audience member passed in a comment that “Philadelphia should become the Creative Capital of the East Coast.” When read to the crowd, it was followed by a bolstered cheer. But Philadelphia has been the murder capital of the East Coast. Doesn’t that count for anything? If there is a direct correlation between the well-being of a city and the amount of public art made available to its citizenry, then how it is that Philadelphia, which boasts more public art than any other city in the nation, is also leading the nation in murder? Either the correlation is false, or the art that is being implemented for this purpose is a failure. Is the notion of the “creative economy” nothing more than a scrim? What hides behind that scrim, who is directing the backstage? Who benefits from the thin veil of our city’s arty surface? And what is really happing in Philadelphia when you peek behind the art to see the city for what it is?