PHOENIXVILLE - Just a few years ago, Phoenixville had been hard hit by a difficult economy and was struggling to maintain businesses and keep the crime rate down. But a campaign to enhance the quality of life, along with a neighborhood revitalization program, helped turned Phoenixville around. A real key to that effort has been the Phoenixville arts community.

Today, Phoenixville is a vibrant cultural center, hosting festivals like the upcoming Firebird Festival (see details below) and the annual BlobFest, which always draws a crowd. The popular First Fridays program brings summer crowds for live music, shopping, and dining, and Phoenixville encourages all kinds of street musicians to perform.

Local studios, galleries and theaters, with the help of private businesses like PECO and organizations like the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, are thriving.

"By choosing to revitalize the town through the arts, Phoenixville has really been a groundbreaking leader in showcasing the huge economic impact arts and culture can have on a community," said Jeff Gordon, manager of corporate relations for PECO. "Actively developing the local entertainment center has helped business thrive, diminish crime, and has truly changed the perception of the town."

PECO is a long-time supporter of the Cultural Alliance's PA Partners in the Arts grants program, which supports community based arts programming and organizations including the Colonial Theater, Jenkins Arboretum, the Phoenix Village Art Center, the Chester County Choral Society and Camphill Village Kimberton Hills.

This year's Phoenixville Firebird Festival will be held Saturday, December 12 on Phoenixville's Bridge Street. Local artists design and build a 25-foot Phoenix sculpture for this annual event, then build a bonfire around it that night. Starting at 4 p.m., several establishments along Bridge Street will host street performers, a Crafts Bazaar and music performances, followed by the bonfire at 8 p.m.

For more information on the Firebird Festival and other arts activities in Phoenixville, please visit www.phillyfunguide.com/phoenixville. The town also plans to commission public artwork, from murals to sculptures, to enhance the downtown, and will also restore and display the famous Asbury Park Ferris Wheel.

Phoenixville has expanded outdoor dining and performance spaces and has plans for even more development, anchored by the revitalization of the historical Colonial Theatre, the opening of the Phoenix Village Art Center and the development of the Foundry building as a special events venue. Once these projects are completed, it's expected that up to one thousand people will be in downtown Phoenixville on any given night.

"The arts have been a very important lever for this community, with arts activities being the anchor that have helped retailers, restaurants and other businesses create a vibrant and attractive local district," said Mayor Phoenixville Leo Scola.

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is committed to helping community arts and cultural organizations thrive throughout the area.

The Cultural Alliance has two dedicated community outreach directors who work on arts based development in target communities throughout the region.

"We provide advice, convene arts and civic leaders, and work with local businesses to ensure that the arts are seen as a valuable community development strategy," said Jessica Eldredge, Cultural Alliance Regional Director.

Cultural Alliance Regional Directors Nancy DeLucia and Jessica Eldredge provide counsel and support to local communities interested in arts-based development, working with local arts service organizations, community art centers, and civic leaders to build arts infrastructure around the region.

The Cultural Alliance is a leadership organization of over 375 nonprofit arts and cultural institutions located primarily in the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania. Its mission is making greater Philadelphia the foremost creative region in the world.

For more information on the Cultural Alliance, please visit www.philaculture.org.

Based in Philadelphia, PECO is an electric and natural gas utility subsidiary of Exelon Corporation and one of the Greater Philadelphia region's most active corporate citizens. PECO provides leadership, volunteer and financial support to numerous arts and culture organizations, including the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute, People's Light and Theater Company, and the National Liberty Museum.

PECO also sponsors cultural events all over the region, including the Multicultural Series at Penn's Landing, Family Saturdays at the Seaport, PECO Power Hour at the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Main Line Arts Center's Children's Art Festival. Additional information is available at www.peco.com.

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