Now entering its third year, Black Music City is a collaboration between WXPN, the non-commercial, member-supported radio service of the University of Pennsylvania; fellow Philadelphia public music radio station WRTI-FM, the non-commercial music radio service of Temple University; and REC Philly, a for-profit creative incubator and agency. The Black Music City project presents a way for each partner organization to offer direct support to artists working in the region and platform new works by emerging and established Black voices while talking about the very real, practical challenges that face Black creatives in the contemporary economic landscape.
The inaugural program in 2021 saw $48,000 in grants ranging from $1,000 to $3,500 awarded to 23 recipients in an array of artistic disciplines. In 2022, an expanded goal saw $92,000 made available to 46 artist grantees. Projects and their creators are featured in specially produced Black Music City videos, celebrated in a high-profile Juneteenth (June 19) event, and promoted by the project’s partners to the broader Philadelphia arts community and beyond. Drawing on various points of inspiration within the history of Black music in Philadelphia, cohorts of Black Music City grantees have worked on new music, alternative audio projects (podcasts, spoken word), digital art (photography, illustration), woodwork, textile art, poetry, painting, drawing, sculpture, books, and zines.
The concept itself — putting money in the hands of Black creatives so that they can engage their artistic practice in a manner that best suits them — is a clear action against the structural inequities in society that work to marginalize Black creatives, their art(s), and their creative processes. The effort is designed to be as accessible as possible, with a broad but engaging prompt, straightforward application, and judging criteria in plain language available in full on the project website. A panel of prominent Philadelphia-area Black professionals in the arts, media, and business judge the final round of grant applications and select the grantees. The Juneteenth event that marks the end of a program cycle provides grantees with a professionally produced platform to showcase the work completed during their participation in the program and expands access to new audiences / readers / patrons.