The head of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund is stepping down. Barbara Silzle led the city’s arts and culture granting operation for seven years.
Silzle has not only run the fund, but often has had to protect it from the city itself. The operation that distributes public money to hundreds of small- and mid-sized arts and culture organizations every year has been regularly cut, or threatened to be cut in the city budget.
“Barbara’s leadership has been especially vital during the years of the pandemic, which saw drastic cuts to the Fund’s budget, which had a ripple effect across the sector,” said board chair Magda Martinez, in a statement.
During the pandemic in 2020, Mayor Kenney’s proposal to eliminate the Fund altogether sparked protests. Ultimately, that year the city sent $1 million into the Fund, a 71% reduction from more than $3 million the previous year.
This year, Kenney’s budget proposal would cut the Fund by almost a third, from $3.5 million to $2.5 million, less than 1% of the city’s overall $5.6 billion budget.
Silzle has been working in the Philadelphia cultural sector for decades, including as executive director of the Leeway Foundation for 5 years. She also served as vice president of the Lansdowne Borough Council from 2009 to 2011. She is leaving the Cultural Fund to “explore other interests,” according to a statement.
She will remain executive director until July 15, leading the Fund through the city’s current budget planning process for 2023, which should be approved by the end of June.