For years, First Friday in Old City has given us a nice excuse to stroll around an ornately constructed part of town, meandering through art galleries and sipping wine, while nibbling on cheese, grapes, chocolate and such. The area is home to dozens of galleries and boutiques, spread through a neighborhood that rings with charm (except after midnight on a Saturday, of course).

Meandering up 3rd Street

Clearly, it’s events like First Friday and the reputation of galleries like Snyderman-Works that have helped bolster the national image of Philadelphia’s art scene over the past decade plus. This year, Old City was named to the list of America’s Top Art Places by ArtPlace America. It was listed behind urban neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Oakland, Dallas and Milwaukee. Milwaukee? Apparently its Third Ward is an urban enclave of Midwestern artistic activity.

The selection of these neighborhoods was based on a set of six indicators. Four measure the ingredients of vibrancy: the number of retail and service businesses, the percentage of independent businesses, the neighborhood’s Walk Score (Philly was also named the Fifth Most Walkable City this year) and the percentage of workers in creative occupations living in the neighborhood. Then two arts-related indicators were added: the number of arts-related non-profits and the number of arts-related businesses. Income adjustments were also applied so the neighborhood with the highest income wouldn’t receive additional points.

More Old City

“Art … is also a powerful catalyst for change within communities invigorating neighborhoods, supporting local businesses, and creating vibrant places where people want to be,” quoth ArtPlace America on its website.

Have you ever heard of the man who became a doctor so his son could become a poet? Art can represent a reflection of a society’s success. In this instance, we’re defining success as a civilization’s ability to survive and prosper. So to say, Philadelphia is the type of modern city where business thrives, as does development and art. After all, wasn’t it the artists who first headed toward Northern Liberties, improved its aesthetic and ultimately spurred a neighborhood’s revitalization?

(insert comment about them being priced out of the neighborhood here)

–Lou Mancinelli