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Philadelphia Art Commission


This page lists sections of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter that establish the powers and responsibilities of the Art Commission.

Section 3-910

The Art Commission shall be composed of eight appointed members and the Commissioner of Public Property. Of the appointed members, one each shall be a painter, a sculptor, an architect, a landscape architect, a member of the Commission on Parks and Recreation, and an experienced business executive, and two shall be members of a faculty or governing body of a school of art or architecture. In all matters within the jurisdiction of the Commission pertaining to work under the special charge of any department of the City, the head of such department shall also for the time being act as a member but shall have no vote.


Sources: Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11.

Purposes: The Art Commission, formerly the Art Jury, is continued substantially as heretofore, with the addition of a landscape architect. The Commissioner of Public Property is made a member because the Commission is connected with his Department. Since the Commission from time to time passes on projects within the realm of other departments, the department head concerned is made a member at the time his project is being considered.

Section 5-900

The Department of Public Property shall have the power and its duty shall be to perform the following functions:

(a) Buildings and Other Real Estate.

(3) Whenever the City shall have been authorized by ordinance or otherwise to erect a new building or to remodel or alter an existing building, the Department shall when necessary employ a suitable architect, and also when necessary an engineer, to design the same. When the plans have been approved by the Mayor, the Managing Director and the Art Commission, the Department shall cause appropriate specifications to be prepared which shall be submitted to the Mayor and the Managing Director for approval. In the preparation of plans and specifications, the Department shall consult with the department, board or commission of the City or other governmental agency for whose use the building is being remodeled, altered or constructed. After a contract has been awarded, the Department shall supervise through its own engineers or otherwise, the remodeling, alteration or erection of the building under contract.

Section 5-903

(1) The Art Commission shall:

(a) Approve any work of art to be acquired by the City, whether by purchase, gift or otherwise and its proposed location;

(b) Require to be submitted to it, whenever it deems it proper, a complete model or design of any work of art to be acquired by the City;

(c) Approve the design and proposed location of any building, bridge and its approaches, arch, gate, fence, or other structure or fixture to be paid for, either wholly or in part, from the City Treasury or for which the City or any other public authority is to furnish a site, but any such action taken by the Commission shall conform to the Physical Development Plan;

(d) Approve any structure or fixture to be erected by any person upon or to extend over any highway, stream, lake, square, park or other public place within the City;

(e) Examine every two years all City monuments and works of art and make a report to the Commissioner of Public Property on their condition with recommendations for their care and maintenance;

(f) Approve the removal, relocation or alteration of any existing work of art in the possession of the City.

(2) “Work of art” shall include all paintings, mural decorations, inscriptions, stained glass, statues, reliefs, or other sculptures, monuments, fountains, arches or other structures intended for ornament or commemoration.

(3) If the Art Commission fails to act upon any matter submitted to it within sixty days after such submission, its approval of the matter submitted shall be presumed.

Sources: Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11.

Purposes:The functions of the Art Commission are essentially those of the Art Jury under the Charter of 1919. The functions of the Art Commission will affect at times City planning and for that reason its decisions must conform with the requirements of the Physical Development Plan of the City. The examination of the condition of City monuments and works of art is a new function and is included so that these important and expensive properties of the City shall not suffer from neglect.

Section 8-205

A department, board or commission shall not sell or exchange any real estate belonging to the City or grant any license, easement, right of way, or other interest over or in such real estate without specific authority from the Council so to do. In deeds of land made by the City, appropriate restrictions may be imposed, including a restriction requiring that the design and location of structures to be altered or erected thereon be first approved by the Art Commission.


Sources: The Administrative Code of 1929, Act of April 9, 1929, P.L. 177, Section 514, as amended; Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11 (e).

Purposes: The consent of Council is required before any interest in land may be transferred because of the value of such interests. The power of the City to impose restrictions in deeds of land made by it is intended as a means for facilitating planned City development, extending the powers of the Art Commission in appropriate circumstances, and for enabling the City to impose deed restrictions of any kind when otherwise appropriate or desirable.

Section 8-207

(1) No work of art shall be acquired by any department, board or commission, or erected or placed in or upon or allowed to extend over any building, street, stream, lake, park, or other public place belonging to or under the control of the City, or removed, relocated or altered in any way without approval first obtained from the Art Commission.

(2) No construction or erection requiring the approval of the Art Commission shall be contracted for by any officer, department, board or commission without approval first obtained from the Art Commission.

(3) Nothing requiring the approval of the Art Commission shall be changed in design or location without its approval.


Sources: Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, Article II, Section 11 (d) and (e).

Purposes: Provisions of the 1919 Charter are continued. See Section 5-903.

Zoning requirements

Every property in the City has a zoning classification. This determines what the property can be used for and what can be built on it. Some classifications need Art Commission approval. Most approval requirements are for commercial signs in special areas with strict standards.
Section 14-500 contains controls for these areas. It places restrictions on properties on these streets. It also requires approval by the Planning Commission for any facade change and the Art Commission for any sign change. Similar controls exist for commercial corridors citywide.
High-density zoning categories need a fine art component for projects that exceed the base allowable density for the site. Approval of this part of the project rests with the Art Commission.
Art Commission approval is also needed for:
  • Structures and permanent fixtures placed on or over sidewalks and streets.
  • Projections from private structures into or over a public sidewalk.
  • All newsstands and other street furniture placed on public sidewalks.
  • Bridges, public and private, if they span a public street.