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According to Merriam Webster, the definition of impact is “having a direct effect.” But how should we measure the impact of philanthropic dollars? All funders and nonprofits must evaluate organizations and programs carefully and consistently, and often struggle with the challenges of creating meaningful change in the broadest possible way. At Impact100 Philadelphia, our members constantly study the breadth and depth of the nonprofits we fund, and know it is not an easy balance to strike. Every year during our grantmaking cycle, many hours are spent in Team Meeting and Focus Area Committee discussions hashing out this conundrum. Our only conclusion has been that there is no specific correct formula.

ArtWell, Impact100 Philadelphia’s 2014 Arts and Culture $100,000 grant recipient, has worked hard to create programs that reach a broad audience without compromising their deep and powerful effect, which makes this organization a leader in our local nonprofit community. By leveraging Impact100 Philadelphia’s grant and additional foundation funding,  ArtWell successfully developed a year-long program to move beyond traditional arts education and personal expression. In just three years, “The Art of Growing Leaders” has changed the landscape for over 650 students. ArtWell’s DeepWell initiative provides multi-disciplinary arts programs in multiple classrooms. This model was created in response to requests from partners to provide consistent, long-term programs. In order to have a greater impact on students, and to serve as an educational partner within the Philadelphia school system, ArtWell focuses on deep impact and longevity. Through increased presence and active relationship building in schools, ArtWell is better able to understand and meet the unique needs of each school community. Through the DeepWell model, students who would not otherwise have access to the arts receive consistent multidisciplinary arts programming, across grade levels and over several years. The breadth and depth are extraordinary.

The power of this program goes far beyond a traditional enrichment curriculum. The Art of Growing Leaders is an expansion of The Art of Growing Up® program, ArtWell’s long-running rites of passage module. Through mask-making, poetry, and multi-disciplinary arts, students build trust with one another and explore their identity and aspirations, inspired by cross-cultural coming of age traditions. Later in the program, students identify their unique strengths as leaders and work together on a social action project using art for advocacy and activism. Staff and teachers help students understand and express who they are, so students can imagine who they can become, and who they can inspire in their school and neighborhood. The magic created by ArtWell includes more than paint and paper mache. Parts of the curriculum focus on poetry, dance, music, and environmental sustainability. The ultimate goal, empowerment of each child, is achieved through the broadest possible exposure to all forms of the arts. The ripple effects can change communities.

ArtWell programming is not limited to schools, camps, and children. ArtWell@Work shares the transformative power of art, creative expression, and reflection to help people connect more deeply with purpose and power in their work and lives. They provide workshops for professionals that meet a range of needs including team building, leadership development, and self-care. Participants include representatives of some of Philadelphia’s most respected corporations, nonprofit organizations and universities. ArtWell’s focus on active listening, personal motivation, and self expression helps adults connect with long-dormant creative skills and become more productive with greater professional satisfaction.

The unusual blend of children and adults, breadth and depth of programming, and wide variety of arts and culture curricula makes ArtWell one of Impact100 Philadelphia’s most noteworthy grant recipients. Their 2014 award led to additional funding from the Lenfest and William Penn Foundations, which helped ArtWell expand services and forge new and deep relationships with traditional public schools, camps, charter schools, and businesses. How should we measure impact? By any stanard, ArtWell has a direct, powerful, and positive effect on our community. They define success as an Impact100 Philadelphia grant recipient. Click HERE to learn more about their school, professional programs, and workshops.

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