In 1995 Penn Ave from Mathilda to Negley was 70% vacant storefronts. Penn Ave included community festivals with art components and art galleries such as Garfield Artworks which opened in 1992. “The Bride on Penn Ave”, a mural by the late Judy Penzer, was commissioned in 1995 by the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation (BGC) and completed in 1996. In 1997, The Spinning Plate lofts commissioned a study that indicated that individuals working in the arts made up a large portion of community members in the surrounding areas and were in need of spaces to live and work.
The Penn Avenue Arts Initiative was created in 1998 as a joint strategy of BGC & Friendship Development Associates to support artists in the renovation of blighted, formerly vacant buildings. This initiative was part of a larger community development strategy that weaves together neighborhoods and facilitates residential, commercial, and cultural projects.