Empowering Artists. Transforming York.
The Parliament’s work addresses two interconnected needs in York City: 1) the need to advance the creative community—via increased opportunities for the public to engage with artwork created by local and regional artists, and through stronger supports for creatives themselves; and 2) the need to spur economic growth in the city’s struggling neighborhoods. At present, York City’s poverty rate is a staggering 37.9 percent, compared to just 10.2 percent for York County.
Considerable research shows that these two problems are fundamentally interconnected, and therefore their solutions should be as well. A 2010 report from the National Governors Association describes how promoting the “creative industries” provides a myriad of benefits to states and local communities, including creating jobs, attracting investments, enhancing the quality of life for residents, and drawing young professionals to the area. Similarly, a 2011 report from the American Planning Association notes that “arts, culture, and creativity can improve a community’s competitive edge, create a foundation for defining a sense of place, attract new and visiting populations, integrate the visions of community and business leaders, and contribute to the development of a skilled workforce.”
The future of York City hinges on its ability to attract young professionals and members of the “creative class” as residents and workers, plus its capacity to revive struggling neighborhoods facing increasing poverty and dilapidation. When an area is alive with artists, shops, restaurants, and events, the result is businesses that thrive, home values that increase, and communities that flourish.
As an arts-focused organization that is simultaneously dedicated to the social and economic revitalization of York City, the Parliament is perfectly poised to be a key part of the solution.
Programs and Services
The Parliament accomplishes its mission through a variety of programs and services, including:
Catalyst for economic development: The Parliament actively recruits new businesses to the Royal Square District of Downtown York, and runs a monthly merchant meeting for discussing joint marketing strategies and collaborative initiatives.
Exposure to art in an accessible way: The Parliament’s Pop Up Gallery initiative, which transforms the large storefront windows of blighted buildings into artistic displays, exposes the public to new forms of art while simultaneously helping property owners fill their spaces. Additionally, we provide artwork to various nonprofits and businesses (such as Downtown, Inc., CGA Law Firm, and the York City government offices) to create more opportunities for community members to see and engage with local art.
Events and programming for cultural venues: The Parliament coordinates several large-scale events each year that are transforming the city of York into an arts destination. These events build excitement about the area and support tourism in York City, while also enabling artists to grow and sustain their local businesses.
Direct support for creative professionals: The Parliament works with real estate developers and property owners to make their commercial tenant leases in Downtown York more flexible and art-friendly. Additionally, we provide professional development for creatives to help them develop their craft, brand, and business.
City beautification and community involvement: The Parliament coordinates neighborhood-wide clean-ups that not only improve the district’s aesthetic appeal, but also encourage residents to take pride and ownership of their neighborhood. We also maintain the Royal Square Gardens and are currently partnering with York College and local artist Erbin Rivera to produce a community mural.
A part of the Parliament’s impact is the intangible community excitement and energy our programs have generated; nevertheless, our work is guided by specific measurable goals and objectives. A sample of our measurable outcomes thus far includes:
Recruited 17 new businesses to the Royal Square District—including Redeux Marketplace, Prime Art Supply Co. & Gallery, and Glazin’—creating over 100 new jobs and attracting thousands of new visitors to Downtown York.
Transformed over 200 concrete parking space bumper blocks in York City, in partnership with artists of all ages from 9 different school districts and York College.
Coordinated many successful large-scale events, including the annual Spring Forward fashion & art event, which in 2015 sold 450 tickets, reached over 266,000 people through its marketing efforts, and ultimately raised over $18,000.
Produced over 75 gallery shows, 4 documentary premiers, 10 concerts, and 15 collaborative multimedia events.
Successfully planted 30 artists in Downtown York to establish and operate their creative businesses.
The Parliament Arts Organization was originally founded in 2010 as a community arts collective to give overlooked creative professionals an opportunity to share their talents publicly. Quickly our art shows began to draw the masses, and artists’ studios and galleries started taking over the vacant storefronts—highlighting the public’s desire for more opportunities to support and appreciate local artists’ abilities.
The Parliament’s role then transitioned into its present one of
- advocacy on behalf of the expanding artist community in York; and
- advancement of the economic growth of both the Royal Square District—defined as the block between King, Duke, Queen, and Princess Streets—and the broader York Metro Area.