Forman Arts Initiative Announces New Permanent Campus in Philadelphia’s Kensington Neighborhood and Partnership with Theaster Gates

Visual Arts


Forman Arts Initiative Announces New Permanent Campus in Philadelphia’s West Kensington Neighborhood and Multi-Year Partnership with Artist Theaster Gates to Develop Citywide Programming

Image Captured Using Google Earth

Philadelphia, PA, May 30, 2024 — Forman Arts Initiative (FAI) is proud to announce its plans for a new permanent home in Philadelphia’s West Kensington neighborhood. Visionary artist, social innovator, and urban planner Theaster Gates will partner with FAI’s Executive Director Adjoa Jones de Almeida to help shape the renovation and activation of the site’s four existing buildings and the establishment of programming and partnerships both on-site and throughout the city. While plans are still being developed through a robust community outreach effort, FAI envisions its home will become a destination for local, city-wide, and national visitors alike to participate in community-focused art-based gatherings, bringing together diverse communities through visual art, food, music, and public educational programming.

The FAI campus will open to the public in phases, beginning in the summer of 2024 with outdoor spaces, community engagement rooms, and the interim FAI office. The larger programmatic space is scheduled to open in summer of 2025, followed by the grand gallery space in summer of 2026. The specific purposes of the additional spaces within the building currently addressed 2207-2225 North American Street will be determined through ongoing dialogue series with Kensington and Philadelphia residents, leaders, and activists.

“Since its founding, collaboration and dialogue with Philadelphia’s diverse communities have been central to how FAI supports the city’s cultural landscape, and those are the principles that will guide the vision for what this campus will become,” said FAI Executive Director Adjoa Jones de Almeida. “We are incredibly excited to partner with Theaster and to collaborate with local communities, as well as with our powerful network of advisors and grantees, to create a new kind of cultural arts space. The campus will lean into the rich tapestry of artists and arts-based organizations to develop innovative, collaborative programming that adds value to the lives of every-day people in Kensington, as well as to the organizations and artists who have long supported Philly’s cultural vibrancy and dynamic local communities.”

From its establishment, founders Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice envisaged growing FAI into an arts center for community activation and participation that is inclusive, democratic, and future-focused. West Kensington, while historically rich and artistically vibrant, has received less funding and resources from the city than other neighborhoods. Leading the initiative is FAI’s new Associate Executive Director Sunanda Ghosh, an accomplished non-profit strategist with over 25 years of experience serving the Philadelphia community. FAI is currently beginning to conduct a community needs assessment building on previous work led by local organizations in West Kensington. The assessment will also be carried out in conversation with a broad network of artists and cultural leaders throughout Philadelphia to determine how the FAI campus design and the programming which will activate it can best meet the needs and interests of local communities, as well as how it can connect Philadelphia’s cultural scene across neighborhoods, in dialogue with national and global audiences.

For the campus design, FAI is partnering with two local architectural firms, DIGSAU and Ian Smith Design Group, with renovations expected to begin in the summer.  Digsau will focus on the design and development of the overall campus, with Ian Smith Design Group focused on design activations for the outdoor sections.  Other partners include DVDL, cultural planners who, for the past five years, have worked with Forman and Rice to conceptualize aspects of FAI including programing, operations, site selection, and design strategies. Throughout the process, FAI and Gates will maintain close contact with local community members to ensure their perspectives remain central to the creation of the campus and its eventual programming. The campus currently consists of a 100,000-square-foot site spanning nearly the entire 2200 block of North American Street, and containing five structures/spaces:

  • 2201 North American Street: a two-floor building, originally an electric company substation turned design showroom turned event space
  • 2207 – 2225 North American Street: a four-story mixed-purpose office/retail building
  • 2227 North American Street: a 13,000 undeveloped vacant lot
  • 2235 North American Street: a two-story former foundry that fabricated metal sculptures
  • An additional open lot to the north of the former foundry

FAI anticipates the three buildings will be retained but substantially modified, with the four spaces eventually connecting to form one unified campus. In addition the two open spaces will be beautified and integrated into the overall design.

The FAI campus will also feature a gallery space, making available to the public works from FAI’s and the Forman’s private art collection, encompassing over 800 works with a strong emphasis on BIPOC and women artists. Also represented are several Philadelphia-based artists including Roberto Lugo, Alex da Corte, Jane Irish, David Hartt, and Nazeer Sabree, as well as other ground-breaking artists such as Cecily Brown, Cindy Sherman, Sam Gilliam, Mark Bradford, Adam Pendleton, Theaster Gates, Alma Thomas, Romare Bearden, Gordon Parks, Rashid Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, and Lorna Simpson, among others. While the FAI campus will not operate as  a typical museum, Jones de Almeida plans to employ its artworks as one of the educational entry points for community engagement at the campus through rotating exhibitions, recurring public programs, and arts education partnerships with local schools and youth development organizations.

The collaboration between FAI and Gates will build on Gates’ previous work, like Dorchester Projects in Chicago and the forthcoming arts and industry incubator at the former St. Laurence Elementary School, which used the power of culture and creative practices to develop new platforms, touchpoints, and opportunities for communities in divested neighborhoods.

“My past experiences engaging communities with this level of specificity have taught me meaningful lessons around both the possibilities and challenges of creating public spaces in collaboration with local communities,” said Theaster Gates. “This collaboration with Adjoa–who also comes from an art and community engagement background–gives us both an opportunity to build on the lessons we’ve learned from our previous respective experiences, and to develop a unique model for what a community-grounded, globally-relevant art space can look like.”

Together, FAI and Gates will work toward the goal of uniting artists, creative practitioners, and local community members to present art, cultural events, and public programs that center local communities in West Kensington while also engaging diverse artists and communities throughout Philadelphia. This work will expand on FAI’s existing programming, which includes Art Works, its grantmaking program supporting Philly artists and cultural organizations (in collaboration with Philadelphia Foundation), last year’s installation of Gates’ own Monument in Waiting at Drexel University, and Public Works, which places artists in residency within Philadelphia agencies (in collaboration with Mural Arts).

“Since meeting Theaster over seven years ago, Michael and I have been continually impressed by his expansive exploration of history, especially Black and Brown history, through social practice, performance, land art, and exquisitely crafted sculptures,” said FAI Co-Founder Jennifer Rice. Michael Forman, FAI Co-Founder, continued, “Theaster shares our belief in the importance of deeply investing in one’s local community through creative approaches. His work has been and will continue to be a daily inspiration to FAI. We are thrilled to work with him and Philadelphians on this exciting, community-enriching endeavor.”

In the fall of 2024, FAI will announce further details on its campus and community outreach plan. “We understand that through this dynamic collaboration with Theaster along with the rich network of artists and communities already engaged with FAI, we have the potential to create something really unique for Philadelphia,” said Jones de Almeida. “But to do so we must move at the speed of trust, meaning that we’re committed to taking the time to engage in deep thought partnership in order to co-envision a new kind of art center that is neither a museum nor a community center, but something in the middle, gaining shape and definition through a collaborative process.”

About Theaster Gates: Theaster Gates (b. 1973) is an artist and social innovator who lives and works in Chicago. Over the past decade, Gates has translated the intricacies of Blackness through space theory and land development, sculpture, and performance. Through the expansiveness of his approach as a thinker, maker, and builder, he extends the role of the artist as an agent of change. His performance practice and visual work find roots in Black knowledge, objects, history, and archives.

With a celebrated stronghold in Chicago, Gates’s career has seen international recognition from his participation in the Whitney Biennial (2010), documenta 13 (2012), and the Venice Biennale (2015), to major museum exhibitions all over the world. Recent solo exhibitions include The Listening Room, Seattle Art Museum (2011–12); 13th Ballad, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2013); Soul Manufacturing Corporation: To Make the Thing that Makes the Things, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2013); Processions, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2016); True Value, Fondazione Prada, Milan (2016); Black Archive, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2016); How to Build a House Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2016); The Minor Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2017); Black Madonna, Kunstmuseum Basel (2018) and Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2018); The Black Image Corporation, Fondazione Prada, Milan (2018); Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and Tate Liverpool, Liverpool (2020); Assembly Hall, Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis (2019); and Black Chapel, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2020); A Clay Sermon, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2013 and 2021); Slight Intervention #5, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (2021)Young Lords and Their Traces, New Museum, New York (2022); Black Chapel, Serpentine Pavilion, London (2022); Afro Mingei, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas (2022); Min | Mon, LUMA Foundation, Arles, France (2023); . Many of Gates’s recent exhibitions, including Black Madonna and Black Image Corporation, are a part of his ongoing engagement with the archives of Johnson Publishing Company.

Gates has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Isamu Noguchi Award (2023);  the National Buildings Museum Vincent Scully Prize (2023); twelfth Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts (2022); an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Institute of British Architects (2021); the World Economic Forum Crystal Award (2020); J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development (2018); Nasher Sculpture Prize (2018); Sprengel Museum Kurt Schwitters Prize (2017); and Artes Mundi 6 Prize (2015). Public collections include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among many others.

About Forman Arts Initiative: Forman Arts Initiative (FAI), founded by Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice, is dedicated to supporting community-based arts and creativity in Philadelphia through programming, convening, and advocacy. Over the coming years, FAI will serve as a platform to connect, mentor, and support artists and organizations around Philadelphia to deepen and to grow the rich cultural heritage of Philadelphia’s communities. Since 2021, FAI has been working in partnership with the Philadelphia Foundation to distribute $3 million in unrestricted funding over five years to community artists and organizations in the Greater Philadelphia Area through a new grantmaking program called Art Works. In 2023, FAI, in partnership with Mural Arts, established Public Works, a residency program that places artists in Philadelphia government agencies or organizations to develop public artwork. Forman Arts Initiative collaborates closely with DVDL, an agency of cultural strategists, to facilitate the programming and ongoing development of FAI.
For more information, visit

About Adjoa Jones de Almeida: Jones de Almeida is the inaugural Executive Director for Forman Arts Initiative (FAI). Throughout her career, she has focused on arts and culture as vehicles for personal and collective transformation. From 2013-2024 she worked at the Brooklyn Museum, as Director of Education, and later as Deputy Director for Learning & Social Impact. There she launched the Museum’s Social Action Framework, and several social justice partnerships that reimagined the role of museums in people’s lives. Jones de Almeida graduated from Brown University in 1995, and went on to help create Sista II Sista (SIIS), a collective that for ten years developed Freedom Schools for young women of color in Brooklyn. In 2005, she co-founded Diáspora Solidária (Bahia, Brazil), a community group committed to environmental justice, arts education, and youth development. She earned her MA from Columbia University in International Educational Development, and has written numerous articles on education and social change.


For all media inquiries, please contact:

Max Kruger-Dull
Tel: +1-212-675-1800
Blue Medium, Inc.