How to Obtain Approval from the Philadelphia Art Commission

How to Obtain Approval from the Philadelphia Art Commission





The Purpose of the Philadelphia Art Commission


The Philadelphia Art Commission manages design standards concerning artwork, signage, and certain construction projects throughout the city.  The role of the Art Commission is to ensure that designs and artwork are “beautiful, orderly, and appropriate so that the City is a desirable place to live, visit, and do business.” 


Most of the projects we have submitted to the Art Commission for approval have included signs, awnings, and canopy installations.  The majority of the projects have been in the Center City and Old City locations as these are heavily governed by the Art Commission.


How to Submit a Complete Art Commission Package


Step One: Assemble All Documentation: Including plans, pictures, supporting documentation (like spec sheets), and your cover letter.

Step Two: E-mail a cohesive PDF Document to the Art Commission.

Step Three: Drop off six copies of the packet to the Philadelphia Art Commission.


We created a complete checklist that outlines exactly what your drawings need to contain, the pictures you must provide, and what your cover letter should outline.





The Process of Getting Art Commission Approval


Compile and Submit Your Application


Like most processes for obtaining approval from a City of Philadelphia department, approval from the Art Commission can be arduous. However, you can make it much less arduous for yourself and the committee by submitting a complete and accurate package in the correct way the first time.


Sign Committee and Art Commission Review


Once you have submitted your package via email and in-person, you will have to wait for two separate reviews to occur. Most projects need to be reviewed by the Sign Committee before they are reviewed by the Art Commission. The Sign Committee is a sub-committee within the Art Commission that holds their monthly meeting on the third Wednesday of the month. The Sign Committee will make its recommendation to the Art Commission during that meeting. Although it is not required, you may attend the Sign Committee meeting.


Following the Sign Committee meeting and recommendation, the Art Commission will review the application and the Sign Committee recommendation at their next meeting, which occurs once per month on a Wednesday.  At this time, the Art Commission will make the final decision to approve, deny, or request more information from the applicant about their submission.


Both Committees snail-mail all communications and decisions, so be on the lookout.



How to Know if Your Project Needs Art Commission Approval


Submit your zoning and building permit application to Licenses & Inspections

If the application requires Art Commission approval you will receive a request for additional information from the plans examiner assigned to the permit review. Although this is a surefire way to know if you need approval, it’s not always the best to go about it this way since you generally only have 60 days to answer additional information requests. We always obtain Art Commission Approval first before submitting permit applications.


Ask the Art Commission

Go to their office, e-mail them, or ask them if your project will require their approval.   They state that anything that is installed or constructed on/over the public right-of-way requires their approval (which is why all of our sign projects have required their approval). Also: “…construction projects located on City property or funded with City money, and all public art to be acquired by the City or placed on public property” needs their approval as well.


Art Commission Submission FAQs

  • Can I just submit the application package digitally?
    • No: You must also submit six hard copies in person at the Art Commission office.
  • Is there a way to have a meeting to gauge the likelihood of approval before submitting an entire package?
    • Yes: You can go down to the Art Commission or email/call them and ask to set up a preliminary meeting to go over the designs.


Still Need Help With Your Art Commission Submission?


Philadelphia Zoning is happy to work with you on your project to ensure a complete and accurate Art Submission and smooth approval process. We have helped City Fitness with three of their Art Commission approvals, The Church of Scientology with their Art Commission Approval, and many more!


Philly Zoning Team
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