As Philadelphia City Council continues its ongoing hearings to determine the budget for the next fiscal year, artists congregated at City Hall to lobby for arts funding.
The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is asking Council to maintain the Philadelphia Cultural Fund at its current $3.14 million level. PCF distributes grants, ranging from $2,000 to $15,000, to 285 organizations, including theater, music, and historic groups. Most operate with less than $150,000 a year.
“There are lots of project grants, but nobody is that interested in paying for the rent in your office, or postage, or ink for your printer,” said Lois Welk, interim president of the PCF. “It’s very hard when you do have not a base to generate general operating support.”
Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget proposal allots $1.8 million to the fund, a 40 percent reduction from last year. The PCF teamed up with the GPCA to lobby City Council to increase that allotment to $3.1 million.
“We’re not asking for an increase. We’re asking to maintain it at the level that it is,” said Maud Lyon, executive director of the GPCA.
In the courtyard of City Hall, the Anna Crusis choir sang as part of GPCA’s rally to save arts funding. Anna Crusis, based in Philadelphia, is the oldest feminist choir in America. Its current season – the 40th – is funded in part by the PCF.
Inside City Hall, violinist Diane Monroe tried to serenade Nutter outside his office, but was asked by security officers to relocate to the staircase at the main entrance. A theater group, a dance troupe, and a roaming barbershop quartet performed through City Hall to call attention to the importance of arts in Philadelphia.
“These are organizations that are working in neighborhoods, and working directly with kids and educational programs,” said Lyon. “This is really the grass-roots arts and culture.”
Last year, Nutter proposed the same amount for the PCF – $1.8 million – to which City Council added $1.3 million. City Council’s budget negotiation process is a lengthy one, not expected to be finalized for months to come.