Sustainable Development Goals Campaign in Philadelphia

A dramatic new initiative in America’s first World Heritage City  

The Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. Seventeen fundamental goals have been identified. Collectively, they address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. 

Adoption across the world

In 2015, 193 countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a target to achieve each goal by 2030.

There are calls on corporations to do more, and leading businesses have responded. In a recent analysis by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, it is reported that in a world-wide survey of 729 companies, 72% mentioned the SDGs in their annual corporate or sustainability report, 50% had identified priority SDGs, and 54% of those identifying priority SDGs had mentioned them in their business strategies. Click here to see the PwC report.

The Sustainable Goals Campaign in Philadelphia is designed to bring awareness to the importance of the goals and encourage a broad commitment to their effectuation, both locally and in the wider world. 

Detailed descriptions of the goals

The Sustainable Development Goals span a whole spectrum of issues the planet is facing. Information about each goal can be found on a website created by the United Nations: www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment. You can access more information about each goal by directly clicking on the titles below:

The role that Philadelphia will play

Philadelphia has many organizations that are doing the work of the goals. All too often, however, that work lacks general recognition and adequate funding. The Sustainable Development Goals Campaign in Philadelphia has been designed to change this situation. A unique, multi-layered initiative, this campaign combines a creative mix of ingredients - the interpretive power of art, the knowledge resource represented by our region’s colleges and universities, eminent corporate and individual sponsors, and strategic siting of each of the works to be created - with financial contributions to Philadelphia-based nonprofit organizations exemplifying the respective goals and doing their work.

The awareness-raising facet of the Campaign will lead the way for the other elements. Over the next three years, 10’ x 10’ canvasses will be created and installed at strategic locations across the city. Each one will be an original work of art, painted by a prominent Philadelphia artist. In effect, Philadelphia will become an art gallery devoted to the Sustainable Development Goal movement.

Global Philadelphia Association has already commissioned the first artwork, and it will proceed to commission 16 more unique works of public art, one for each goal, and arrange to have them placed at various sites throughout the Greater Philadelphia community.

Sponsors of the paintings will enjoy the distinction of being identified with a goal and enabling great art in support of it. Hosting sites will be admired for displaying the canvasses at their locations. University-led research projects will accompany each SDG project.

Finally, and importantly, a portion of every sponsorship fee will be donated to a nonprofit organization doing the real work of a goal being celebrated. In all, seventeen worthwhile organizations will be highlighted and receive grants generated by the Campaign. The Campaign will thereby give greater visibility to what they do and provide example-setting funding.

Progress of the campaign

Gender Equality, the fifth of the seventeen SDGs, has become the first goal to be celebrated in the campaign. Thanks to the sponsorship of Glenmede Trust Company, a beautiful and colorful calligraphic interpretation of the goal has been created by well-known artist Barbara Smolen, with help from two assistants, Brianna Hornberger and Ellis Rosenberg.

The painting will be installed on the 17th Street side of Friends Select School, just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, at a ceremony on the afternoon of October 3, 2019

New Century Trust, a Philadelphia-based organization devoted to empowering women and girls, has been selected as the first recipient of a campaign grant. For more information on its work, visit www.newcenturytrust.org.

As the campaign proceeds and the various goals secure sponsorship and site locations, this section will report on its progress.

About the artist

Barbara Smolen's artistic practice focuses on social justice. For two decades her mural art throughout Philadelphia has beautified the city and drawn TV, radio, scholarly, and political coverage to issues such as gun violence, domestic abuse, immigration, food insecurity, and gender equality. She teaches drawing and design as an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design at Drexel University. Her work is in books and in public and private collections.

What you can do

Our objective is to complete the campaign in the coming three years. Toward this end, we will be contacting prospective sponsors, artists, site owners, and volunteers who can help make it happen.

You, too, have a role to play. Please join in making a global statement by: 

  • Sponsoring a goal and its associated public art
  • Providing a space in your community
  • Carrying out a related activity
  • Volunteering to help

For more information, contact Zabeth Teelucksingh, [email protected], (215) 563-2482.