Pediatric hospital patients and community members of differing backgrounds and abilities work together to create a mosaic.
COSACOSA initiatives draw national attention. We distinguish ourselves through the development of replicable, scalable, model programs.

COSACOSA is recipient of the Cohen Award for "outstanding commitment to social and economic justice" from the City of Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

COSACOSA's Healing Art Project, our Art and Health initiative, is designated a Best Practice for the Arts in Healthcare by the National Endowment for the Arts, hailed as an “exemplary model for accessible art-making.”

COSACOSA's Connection Studios, our Art and Youth Development initiative, pioneered Youth Visions for Stronger Neighborhoods, a replicable new media curriculum for National Learn and Serve America and CTCnet. We were the only organization nationwide twice selected to lead the model program.

COSACOSA's Community Collections, our Art and Civic Engagement initiative, created work filmed and catalogued by the Smithsonian Institution for its Save Outdoor Sculpture! archives and initiated a community revitalization project that won the citywide block beautification award from the City of Philadelphia.

For thirty years, COSACOSA has designed innovative programs to deliver interactive “dialogues through art” directly into Philadelphia neighborhoods. COSACOSA – literally, la cosa que es la cosa (the thing that is the thing) – returns art to its original role as a centerpiece of community interaction, exploration, and mobilization.

In 1989, while collaborating on a project for El Museo del Barrio New York, Kimberly Niemela and her fellow artists created multilingual books with community members on the streets of the surrounding Harlem neighborhoods. The possible impact of similar, longer-term projects was immediately clear – the empowerment of city neighborhoods and the growth of citizen participation at a grassroots level. Upon returning to Philadelphia, Niemela and artist Philip Dit Wah Deng Tang founded COSACOSA.

In 1990, COSACOSA's first major initiative, Community Collections, began building civic engagement through the arts. Through long-term, neighborhood-based public art and media projects, the program examines Philadelphia's cultural histories and changing urban landscapes

In 1995, COSACOSA established a second organizational initiative, the Healing Art Project, a program exploring relationships among art, health, and community. Designed to engage individuals of all abilities in the art-making process, COSACOSA's Healing Art Project encompasses patient-centered and -created environmental and wayfinding projects for health-based facilities, community workshops, art and health exhibits, and other public presentations.

In 2000, a third initiative, ArtSmart, was launched to infuse art into the standard K-12 curriculum. Proving how hands-on art-making reinforces learning, ArtSmart offers workshops in reading, writing, math and the sciences to Philadelphia public and parochial schools.

COSACOSA's Connection Studios, a youth-driven initiative combining art and technology, began in 2003. Young people become civic leaders as they develop and create new media projects (in video, photography, web design, and sound art) proposing solutions to problems facing urban communities.

Other ongoing COSACOSA initiatives include Artolatry, online quarterly essays on art and cultural change and ArtistSight, an artist-in-community training program and information exchange for COSACOSA's partner artists and communities.

Community members and hospital patients collaborate on a Healing Art Project mosaic at Temple Hospitals.
COSACOSA's Statues project created an interactive forum for neighbors to consider the meanings of public sculpture in their midst.
Statues interactive performance in Clark Park was archived by the Smithsonian Institution.
Teens play COSACOSA's theatrical dialogue game to analyze community needs and assets.
Students at Chinatown's Folk Arts Cultural Treasures School and artist Homer Jackson play Change in the Making, our team-building dialogue game.
Rehearsal for Spare A Dime, a multimedia song cycle exploring the impact of economic crisis.