Arts groups call on Philly to help out with pandemic relief funds

The Universal Dance Ensemble performed at the #fundPHLarts rally outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 11, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Universal Dance Ensemble performed at the #fundPHLarts rally outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 11, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Sidewalk performances at City Hall Wednesday had a specific purpose. Arts and culture groups gathered to call for more funding in Philly’s budget.

Performers from drummers and jugglers to artistic dancers gathered outside the hub of city government to highlight where the city’s arts and culture grants are going.

The groups are asking for extra funding, including $1 million in additional cultural fund money to give out to groups especially in need. The request also includes $4 million in money to organizations and institutions owned and run by the city to cover their operating expenses.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Patricia Wilson Aden of the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance said $6.2 million total they’re asking for is “the minimal investment needed. It is, in fact, a drop in the bucket for the overall city budget, which is over a $5.8 billion budget. So, when you talk about $6 million, it is less than 1%.” She also pointed to $800 million in American Rescue Funds that are available. “We all understand that there must be a rainy-day fund, but we believe that this will be a resource that is very well spent.”

Patricia Wilson Aden, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, lead a rally to showcase Philadelphia artists and ask art lovers to demand more funding for them, at the #fundPHLarts rally outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 11, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Poet Denise Forman also spoke out for those in the arts community and said the funding for the arts and cultural organizations in Philadelphia needs to happen without a fight.

“Art is the thing that feeds our spirits, it is the thing that when things make sense, it builds community. We are not begging anymore; it is an imperative that we fund the arts fully.”

Poet Denise Forman read a poem titled, “Petition”, and said people come to Philadelphia and stay in the city for the arts, at the #fundPHLarts rally outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 11, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

David Acosta is artistic director of Casa de Duende, a group that commissions, curates, and produces art exhibitions and performances with contemporary artists. The group’s focus is on the social relevance of art. He said groups such as his can make small grants stretch.

“Those grants really, you know, help support some of the smaller arts organizations in the city, the most diverse in terms of both just populations, but also in terms of medium and artistic representation. And we are diverse because we cover all sections of the city,” Acosta said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
David Acosta, Artistic Director of Casa De Duende and a Philadelphia Cultural Fund Grant Recipient, argued that art heals at the #fundPHLarts rally outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 11, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Councilmember Derek Green was at the rally and said, “Every year we go to this dance where the administration cuts down the arts and culture. We put money back in the budget. And then next year, the budget’s cut again for arts and culture groups. And we put the money back in.”

Alina Hing with Cambodian American Girls Empowering (CAGE) performed a wishing dance at the #fundPHLarts rally outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 11, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Green added that the arts and culture groups are a violence deterrent, something that is very important at a time when the city is struggling with the issue of violence citywide.

He said the city’s arts and culture act as a magnet to bring people back into Philadelphia from out of town and from the suburbs.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal