Hidden City Philadelphia and CultureWorks are cut from the same cloth.
Both organizations were founded by Thaddeus Squire and grew out of the former Peregrine Arts, an organization that from 2006 to 2008 commissioned a series of site-specific art works, asking artists from a variety of disciplines to reinterpret historic sites throughout the city. The success of those works led to the first Hidden City Festival in 2009, which activated nine heritage sites around Philadelphia with works from ten artists. The festival attracted more than 10,000 visitors and made manifest the potential for creative engagement with the city’s forgotten corners.
The success of that festival led to an expansion of Hidden City’s programs, many of which are founded out of a deep love for curiosity (a subject that Hidden City director, Pete Woodall, spoke about in a recent Creative Mornings session).
Today, the centerpiece of the organization’s work is the Hidden City Daily, an online publication offering in-depth, well researched pieces on Philadelphia planning, design, architecture, and the city’s history and unique places. They also organize tours and events at sites and neighborhoods throughout the city, exploring places like the abandoned Mount Moriah Cemetery or the neighborhood where David Lynch drew inspiration for Eraserhead. The Hidden City festival was repeated in 2013, with nine new sites and ten new artists, again receiving extensive press and large audiences.
Despite publishing a dozen articles per week, the organization is small albeit mighty. As journalists and historians, the Hidden City team find CultureWorks’ support services freeing, allowing them to focus on the media they want to produce. Peter Woodall, Hidden City’s Project Director, comments on CultureWorks:
“I think it’s a great home for media. Most media organizations are started by journalists, so they are on the content side. For them, having the entire admin side—compliance, accounting, payroll, annual audits, all that entire side—be done in one place is incredibly valuable.”
Hidden City is expanding. In 2015, they opened Hidden City Mercantile , offering an assortment of books, maps, prints and other goods highlighting Philadelphia’s built environment. In 2017, they published Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City via Temple University Press. The book features more than 100 photos by architectural photographer Joseph Elliot as well as essays by Hidden City’s Peter Woodall and Nathaniel Popkin. The book has been well-received and has received much praise from many sources, including but not limited to: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, The Jewish Exponent, WHYY, The Smart Set at Drexel University, and many others.