#CULTUREWORKING with Homer Jackson





How did you get involved in the Cultural sector?

I’d have to say, it was back in the 1970s, when I was 13, or 14 years old. I was a member of Tioga Presbyterian Church and my mentors; school teacher, James Slaughter and community leader/church elder, Mary Madison negotiated a deal with Prints In Progress: the community arts program of what is now the Philagraphika. Prints In Progress wanted to place a printmaking workshop in the church. However, the church elders in exchange, demanded that one of their own be trained in the skills to do the work and be given employment. That was me.

Through Prints In Progress, I met many artists and arts administrators, including Anne and Allen Edmunds of Brandywine Workshop, Kippy Stroud of the Fabric Workshop, and the artist, John Dowell. I was also introduced to many possibilities, including the craft of printmaking and most important, the reality of a life of an artist. So, I’d have to say that was my introduction to the broader world of the arts and the art profession.

What’s the future of arts & culture of Philadelphia?

I’d have to say, that it would probably continue with our prevailing pattern; which ultimately is the reality of a Tale of Two Cities. The sourced and the under-sourced. Those with some access and those with none. This divide includes individuals and institutions alike. Throughout my career, I have observed this. It is a matter of race, class and zip codes. 

One of the most amazing and ironic things is the under-sourced have contributed so much to the culture of this city. Consider what artists like John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Teddy Pendergrass, Jill Scott, Boyz II Men, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince have accomplished here. Then, take a look at how much they interfaced with the rich cultural infrastructure in place during their time here and even how rare it is to see many of them presented in Philadelphia today. For each of those superstars, there are dozens of others walking these very streets unknown to us.

So, I expect more artists to exhaust lots of resources and energy trying to gain access, or attention in our local community, only to then grow frustrated, move on, or quit doing their work, when there is quite often, very little evidence that our cultural infrastructure carves out spaces for them.

When exploring the arts in Philly, what’s your one must-see?

This is a really tough one. There is so much to see, do and try. But, I’d have to say whether a foodie, or not, one key aspect of the cultural life of Philadelphia is that we really do have some of the finest, most diverse and reasonably affordable restaurants in the world. As the director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, I also must add that after you’ve feasted, you must head out to one of the many music venues around the region to see some of the finest musicians and vocalists in the world. 

Elizabeth Sytsma