Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Beth Van Why

It Takes a Village
by Beth Van Why, 1 Oct 2009

Beth Van Why is the Programming Director for DesignPhiladelphia, now entering its fifth year and running October 7-13, 2009. As a practicing designer, she applies the design process through collaborative projects and interactions. Beth also teaches industrial design at The University of the Arts and is a co-founding member of Urban Studio, a program of Green Village Philadelphia.


Philadelphia is a nexus for education and has a diverse network of academic programs, colleges, and universities focused in design and creative fields. It also has a thriving and nationally recognized professional design community. A significant number of the designers practicing and living in the city have some connection to at least one of the region's academic institutions – either as alumni, faculty, guest critics, or neighbors.

Philadelphia: A Classroom for the Creative Community

When students transition from school to the professional realm, connections with former classmates and faculty are often maintained but not regularly used to further pursue creative endeavors. Opportunities to explore, design, and create that are intrinsic to the educational process do not go away once graduation occurs, but do often fall to a less prominent place on the ever growing to-do list. Exciting student projects and proposals for city spaces infrequently realized. Unique concepts for buildings, companies, or organizations rarely move beyond the final student presentation. This isn't because of lack of desire but often because of lack of connection to interested parties, resources, partners, and collaborators.

Philadelphia: A Classroom for the Creative Community

Collaboration is at the heart of the future of design. Many individuals and organizations have shared interests and goals but are often unaware of others working in the city that have those same goals. Connecting these parties allows the furthering of many exciting projects and creative concepts. Creating the connections is essential. Philadelphia's communities are open and accessible to those ready to engage. Philadelphia's creative community is unique in that many of its members desire these connections to share ideas, work together, and collaborate on creating innovative solutions to the many opportunities in the city. New collaborative possibilities occur through chance meetings and discussions initiated at shared interest venues – a series of individuals attend the same lecture, gallery exhibition, or opening – and those individuals begin working together to further the efforts of shared interests.

Philadelphia: A Classroom for the Creative Community

DesignPhiladelphia works to develop venues and times in which the creative sector and anyone interested in the creative realm can connect over shared interests, questions, and inquiries. We work with recent graduates to produce exhibitions of new Philadelphia-based work. Design firms open their doors and studios for anyone interested in seeing the everyday activity of the creative fields. Lectures and symposia are developed around pertinent topics and partnered with many local venues and professional organizations.

Philadelphia: A Classroom for the Creative Community

By partnering and working with individuals, businesses, and organizations we develop more opportunities for the creative sector to meet like-minded folks through conversations and events on topics of shared interest. For a week each fall we form venues for ideas to be presented, discussed, critiqued, and celebrated. The city becomes a classroom for the creative community. New partnerships and connections are realized in a setting that encourages discourse and dialogue. More opportunities to do those innovative, enterprising projects that were initiated during education can now come to fruition through the practiced evolution of professional, collaborative efforts.

Through showcasing the extent of design retailers, professional offices, museums and galleries, and professional creative opportunities, DesignPhiladelphia is playing a role in aiding the city's retention and attraction of young designers and creative professionals. DesignPhiladelphia continues to be instrumental in raising the national reputation of Philadelphia as not only a city of change and innovation but also a place to learn, explore, and create.

Print Article Brought to you by: Beth Van Why | Programming Director for DesignPhiladelphia

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