Picture this: Philadelphia as international art mecca

It’s too rich to pass up.

The opening of the new Barnes Foundation exhibition space on the Parkway in May is going to attract international attention. Now, the city of Philadelphia is partnering with a handful of the city’s major cultural institutions to show the world that Philadelphia is an art mecca.

About a year ago, David Brigham, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, called into his office the directors of both the Barnes and the Philadelphia Museum of Art  to talk about how to promote each other.

“Really, this is about bringing cultural tourists from around the world to Philadelphia,” said Brigham. “That’s something that is beyond the capacity of any one of our institutions. Together, and with the might of the GPTMC and the Convention Visitors Bureau, we can attract people to the city for the benefit of our economic development.”

The GPTMC — the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation — has launched “With Art Philadelphia,” a variation on its “With Love, Philadelphia” campaign. The collaborative effort, hyping the density and diversity of the city’s art offerings, is in partnership with the Art Museum, the Barnes, the Penn Museum, the Horticultural Society, and PAFA.

This is the first time the city and the participating institutions have created a publicity effort specifically about art. It is using the opening of the Barnes as a launching pad.

“Albert Barnes had this push-pull inside himself for intense competition and intense desire for collaboration. In general, the competition won out,” said Derek Gilman, president of the Barnes Foundation. “But if you look at his history and read his letters, there’s this endless desire to collaborate. He just doesn’t quite pull it off because of his personality. The goal underneath all of that was to get people to look at visual arts.”

The campaign will continue beyond the opening of the Barnes. Gary Steuer, director of the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, said he’d also like to see the campaign feature some of the many small art organizations and co-ops in town.

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