Philly arts and culture get an unexpected $21.3 million from City Hall

People gather on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

People gather on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia’s arts and culture sector will receive an unexpected influx of $21.3 million from City Council’s midyear budget transfer, approved on Thursday.

As part of an overall $275 million distribution, most of which will go to the city’s pension fund, the bill will give allotments of money ranging from $50,000 to $3 million to more than a dozen cultural organizations, including the Art Museum, the Mann Center, the African American Museum, and the forthcoming Calder Gardens, which broke ground two weeks ago.

The transfer also sends $2 million into the city’s Cultural Fund, which distributes support grants to small and mid-sized cultural organizations. The allotment makes the Cultural Fund larger than it has ever been before, at $5.5 million.

The transfer is a dramatic change for the Cultural Fund. Mayor Kenney’s administration had once proposed to completely eliminate the Fund from the city budget in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

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The 2020 budget talks ultimately restored money to the Cultural Fund – albeit less than normal – but the threat of being zeroed out sparked pushback from the city’s arts sector, said Patricia Wilson Aden, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

“It’s a welcome surprise, but we believe it is a signal that our years-long advocacy is being heard,” Aden said. “We were asking the city to leverage what we perceived as undervalued assets. This is a very welcome result of the impassioned pleas from the cultural community for the city to do just that.”

The midyear transfer reflects a surplus of cash in the city’s pocket that must be spent.

The largest sums of money are going to Philadelphia’s marquee cultural attractions: the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Zoo, Mann Music Center, the Please Touch Museum, the Franklin Institute, and the Calder Gardens each received $2 million.

The Dell Music Center is getting $3 million, as is the African American Museum Philadelphia, signaling the city’s support of the AAMP as it begins to relocate to a new, more prominent home on the Parkway.

Amounts of less than $500,000 are going to a variety of organizations including the Marian Anderson Museum, Mural Arts, Historic Philadelphia, and the Georgia Gregory School of Music.

Smaller grants of a few thousand to tens of thousands will be distributed by the Cultural Fund, created in order to support a broad swath of mostly community-based organizations.

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“The grants that these organizations will receive are the direct line between this mid-year transfer and the organizations that are doing the work on the ground,” Aden said. “So, yes, we do have some large institutions that are benefiting, but we are very pleased that the Philadelphia Cultural Fund has received such a generous infusion of funds that will allow smaller organizations to benefit.”

The midyear transfer also sent money to public safety initiatives, such as cameras for Safe Play Zones ($475,000) and witness protections programs ($1 million), and social service organizations like Caring for Friends ($100,00), Young Chance Foundation ($100,000), and the Center for Black Education Development ($150,000).

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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