Save the arts and serve all the people, restore OACCE and PCF budgets
Artblog solicited testimonials about the proposed cuts to the city budget that would axe the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF).

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Cropped image of the Office of Arts, Culture & Creative Economy 100% budget reduction
Mayor Kenney’s proposal for a 100% budget cut ($4,419,130 to $0) to the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy.

Dear readers,

Cavalierly thrown out of the budget along with their staffs and programs, the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) are apparently not deemed within the Mayor’s three stated budget priorities: Safety, Health and Education (P. 5). We object.

The notion that art is not a priority is just plain wrong — especially now, when folks are uniting via virtual concerts and public art projects, and children are drawing rainbows in their windows as a symbol of hope and community. Furthermore, OACCE’s Art in City Hall and Percent for Art and PCF’s 300+ programs further racial equality by their focus on Philadelphia artists and local programs serving diverse populations. What message is sent by cutting — via the OACCE cut — the $231,000 allocated to the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP)?

Revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19 require severe budget tightening; and the arts cuts of $4 million are within an overall proposed reduction of $649 million. But surely, out of a nearly $5 Billion budget ($4,895,285,000) there are other, less harmful reductions that can be made. Cutting arts funding by 100% was easier than looking more creatively at the budget or ending the 10 year tax abatement, which serves the rich-and-getting-richer.

It’s time to put the money where it belongs, with the people. Reduce funding for tourism, sports teams, and large cultural institutions that can (and do) fundraise perfectly well all by themselves. Look creatively, Mayor Kenney, and restore funding for OACCE and PCF programs and staff, which will serve the emotional, educational, health and safety needs of all your people.

-Artblog

Budget Hearings – Public Testimony May 27, June 9

There is no Council hearing specifically on the elimination of OACCE because the budget is under $5 million. There are two dates for the public to provide testimony on any part of the revised City budget and this is the only time that City Council will be able to hear voices from the cultural community.

Public Testimony
Wednesday, May 27th, 3 – 5 p.m.
Tuesday, June 9th, 3 – 5 p.m.

You must register to provide Public Testimony: To register, call 215-686-3407, or send an email to budget.hearings@phila.gov by 3 p.m. on the day before that Council session and submit the following information:

• Full name
• Call-back telephone number where you can be reached
• Identify the bill number or resolution number that will be addressed – Ordinance #200287 (Ordinance to adopt FY21 budget), and Resolution #200307 (Resolution to accept changes in FY20 and 21 budgets).
• State whether your comments are for, or against, that particular bill or resolution.

Speakers will be given up to three minutes to speak. The remote hearing may be viewed on Xfinity Channel 64, Fios Channel 40 or http://phlcouncil.com/watch-city-council/


This does not have to be written into the story of how we fought COVID19. We won’t stand for the “elimination” of agencies which care for the creative spirit and public art of the city. -Anne Ishii

“Welcome to Philadelphia,” someone said to me sarcastically, when I expressed my outrage at Mayor Kenney’s announcement of the 2021 budget for the city, which eliminates the Office of Arts Culture and Creative Economy and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

“Welcome to Philadelphia.” Like it could only ever be a sarcastic barb. How could I possibly feel welcome in a city that doesn’t support what I do, what I stand for, who I am. Welcome to Philadelphia sounds in verbiage, very much like what I had been saying to friends before this crisis:

“Come to Philadelphia.”

Today I am mortified to be in a city that values its arts and culture sector so little as to declare expendable what was already a mere pittance of a budget ($4mm, or half of one percent of the deficit). Funding for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the Office of Arts Culture and Creative Economy “will cease to exist”?

This does not have to be written into the story of how we fought COVID19. We won’t stand for the “elimination” of agencies which care for the creative spirit and public art of the city. I don’t want to be in a city that can live without publicly funded, equitably distributed arts funding and advocacy that supports mostly small organizations created by artists of color. Working at the intersection of the arts and social justice–12 Gates, SAADA, Beyond Bars, AAU, The Village of Arts and Humanities to name but a few. It affects groups like ours, sure, but will be the death knell for most independent arts groups looking to grow and find support.

Without public funding and more importantly, the city’s nominal support of arts and culture, you create a power vacuum in the arts that will be filled by an oligarchy of private interest groups. And the bleeding edge of creative industries–the people who give Philadelphia its gritty, weird, fun, nerdy, outspoken, beligerence-will stop investing in Philadelphia. People will stop coming to Philadelphia, and then all our artists will do the inevitable: take that sarcastic welcome as an indication to leave Philadelphia.

The arts are not some corsage in the lapel of the city’s newsletters, nice to flaunt occasionally. We are not the martyred orchestra playing till the last passenger of the Titanic absconds certain doom. We are the refuge for all of the lost souls. We are the sea. We are the movie-makers, not the extras. We are your city.
Anne Ishii, Executive Director, Asian Arts Initiative

Adapted by the author from her AAI blog post

We all know the well documented impact on the city economy the arts sector has:
— Generates $3.4 Billion in economic activity in Philadelphia
— Provides jobs and sustains 55,000 full-time employees
— Generates $157 Million in City tax revenue
-Carmen Febo San Miguel

While I fully understand that the City is facing an unprecedented budget challenge, I must describe that since I came to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico in 1976, I have seen our city grow to become one of America’s greatest and diverse cultural hubs. It is incomprehensible to those of us that have fought hard for over 50 years to establish a visible, meaningful presence for the arts in City government that, in one move there will not be an office in City Hall. The minor short-term budget savings associated, in addition to the additional savings of eliminating the cultural fund, is more a reflection of how art is undervalued by this administration than the true impact of these savings. The impact of these cuts far outweigh the long- term economic damage that will be inflicted on the arts sector.

We all know the well documented impact on the city economy the arts sector has:
— Generates $3.4 Billion in economic activity in Philadelphia
— Provides jobs and sustains 55,000 full-time employees
— Generates $157 Million in City tax revenue

But, even more importantly, is the negative effect this message sends in the midst of the trauma of this crisis, when audiences are clamoring for access to the affirmative, creative experiences that the arts provide, in every community, at all income levels, to every citizen, and to every child.
Carmen Febo San Miguel, Executive Director, Taller Puertorriqueño

The defunding of PCF will disproportionately affect small organizations–many of these are run by marginalized artists: people of color, women, and the LGBTQI+ community. -Harry Philbrick

Philadelphia’s arts and culture will be essential components in the eventual revival of our economy. One of the reasons that Philadelphia has been growing and thriving over the past 20 years is the growth of the arts. Hundreds of arts organizations all over the city fuel Philadelphia’s status as a destination in the region and in the country as a whole. The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and the The Philadelphia Cultural Fund are symbolic of the City’s support for the arts sector. Their complete dissolution is therefore a tragic mistake. For Philadelphia Contemporary, which I founded four years ago, receiving support from PCF was a marker indicating we had “made it” into the cultural community. The defunding of PCF will disproportionately affect small organizations–many of these are run by marginalized artists: people of color, women, and the LGBTQI+ community. These neighborhood-focused, grassroots, growing organizations don’t qualify for private funding aimed at major institutions.
Harry Philbrick, Founding Director, Philadelphia Contemporary, 19123

The arts play a vital part in the cultural and economic landscapes of our communities -Betty Leacraft

Mr. Clarke, Philly needs this office! The Arts play a vital part in the cultural and economic landscapes of our communities! I live within “your district” and saw you appear onstage, last Summer, praising the highly successful and well attended Girard Avenue Festival! Please don’t allow your underserved communities to suffer yet another blow to activities that help galvanize those living in your district.
Betty Leacraft, Fiber/Textile Artist, Leeway Awardee and Grantee

While this lack of financial investment [for the arts] has always struck me as a tragic blindspot, the complete dismantling of PCF and OACCE stands out as self-destructive. -Nato Thompson

Before joining Philadelphia Contemporary in 2017, I worked in New York City at a public arts organization Creative Time. I commuted to New York from Philadelphia for ten years because I love this city. No small part of that was my appreciation for the arts community. The arts community in this city is vast and the amount of sweat equity this receives for the little amount it puts in should not go unrecognized. The city, it is well known, has not placed much priority on the arts in terms of financial support. While this lack of financial investment has always struck me as a tragic blindspot, the complete dismantling of PCF and OACCE stands out as self-destructive. The arts are why myself and so many others found this city to be such an incredible place to call home. I hope that we can not only not cut these departments but also invest in a strategy where the arts, with its vast array of constituents and leaders, can guide us out of the difficult financial future that awaits.
Nato Thompson, Artistic Director, Philadelphia Contemporary

It has erased my confidence in the value of moving forward with the City on this project. How can the already understaffed Percent for Art office have the capacity to manage all of projects currently in progress with these cuts? -Jennie Shanker

I’m the selected Percent for Art artist at the Maplewood Mall in Germantown. After 6.5 years of work on this project, I now must consider walking away from it. With the threat of the City’s public art expertise being diminished, I do not believe it would be wise to continue. The City is a partner in these projects to protect the interests of all parties. It no longer feels safe.

Maplewood Mall has potential and charm, but it had been neglected for decades. In initial community meetings, there were doubts that the discussions would lead anywhere. People had lost faith that the City cared and that any promise would be kept.

It’s now under construction. The artwork is fully integrated into the site thanks to a ground-breaking initiative that brought me into the design team from day one. I was about to sign a contract to complete the work when the quarantine hit. Then the mayor’s budget was announced. It has erased my confidence in the value of moving forward with the City on this project. How can the already understaffed Percent for Art office have the capacity to manage all of projects currently in progress with these cuts? Additionally, how can I be confident that this work will be properly maintained by a city divesting itself from its support of the arts?

The purpose of this project is to revitalize a gem of a site in Germantown that the City has neglected. It’s meant to attract Revolutionary War Museum visitors to spend time in Germantown, giving them a beautiful, unique setting to explore after seeing the historic sites. Without proper management by the City, I see this project as something that will suffer the same disregard that Maplewood has seen for decades. I see no reason to continue down that path.
-Jennie Shanker, Percent for Art artist, Educator, Leeway Grantee

We were able to leverage PCF funding to produce four international exhibitions that have been innovative, meaningful, and timely, and which brought media attention not just to us, but to the City of Philadelphia. -Leslie Kaufman

I am the president of Philadelphia Sculptors, a small nonprofit that has benefited greatly from PCF funding. As a small organization, we are not eligible for funding from most foundations. Since the late 90’s, PCF funding has kept our head above water and allowed us to mount exhibitions that we never could have done without its funding. We were able to leverage PCF funding to produce four international exhibitions that have been innovative, meaningful, and timely, and which brought media attention not just to us, but to the City of Philadelphia. As a result of this funding, we were in a position to partner with the Government of Quebec, allowing us to welcome Canadian artists and become part of their cultural exchange. Without the opportunities provided to us by PCF funding, we would be restricted to small exhibitions and would never have attained the position we now have in the world of sculpture. Through this funding, we have been able to aid artists by providing them funding for their participation in our shows, and to hire them as contractors to do administrative, graphic design, and publicity. We have enabled artists to stay in Philadelphia, both by funding them, and by giving them exhibition opportunities. PCF funding has been essential to our existence for over 20 years, and it is one of the most enlightened programs that Philadelphia has. We cannot afford to lose it!
Leslie Kaufman, President, Philadelphia Sculptors

It is time to end the ten year tax abatement which has long out-lived it purpose, not the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) and Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE). -Tristin Lowe

I moved to Philadelphia in 1991, Into a space at Coral and East Dauphin. At that time, the area was rather blighted, crime and crack were pervasive. The expansion joints in the sidewalk, the cracks in the pavement were filled with tiny plastic vials. At the Dauphin El stop, water was perpetually raining down thru the eroding stairwell that doubled as a urinal. But I loved it. Philly. There was a rawness, an honesty, a grittiness, and a feeling that you could do anything. There was a community of artists, and co-ops like Vox populi, Nexus, High Wire, The Clay Studio, The Rosenbach Museum, the Fleisher Art Memorial, The Project Room. All these venues and more were doing great things. There was an amazing underground music scene as well. Ortliebs, The Kyber Pass, The Ruba Club, Silk City, the Unitarian Church, the Lone Star, etc., all these places planted seeds of the arts and culture in our city. That crack war zone is now called “America’s Hottest New Neighborhood.” (ICYMI, How Forbes has labeled Fishtown, May 2018)

While my artwork might not be in the most public of places, the process which took a few of years couldn’t have happened without the passionate involvement of numerous local businesses. We are social animals, and it’s the Arts that brings us together, and brings people to the city, and its impact on the city is immeasurable. From Robert Indiana’s Love Park sculpture to Claes Oldenburg’s Clothespin on the Parkway, the Orchestra and Sun Ra, to the Duchamp collection at the PMA, the arts bring people from all over the world. As of 2018 “The Arts contribute $763.6 Billion to the U.S economy, more than Agriculture, or Transportation. Employing 4.9 million workers with earnings of more than $370 billion. Furthermore, the Arts exported $20 billion more than imported, providing a positive trade balance,”

At this Time when we might be going into an economic Depression, and it is the arts that draw us out, evoking a connection with each other and with humanity, while creating the economic stimulus for our City, it is hard for me to understand how cutting funding in the Arts is proposed. As of 2005, for every 1 dollar spent on investment in the Arts there’s a least 7 dollars returned. “Our industry also generates nearly $30 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year. By comparison, the three levels of government collectively spend less than $4 billion annually to support arts and culture—a spectacular 7:1 return on investment that would even thrill Wall Street veterans.”

It is time to end the ten year tax abatement which has long out-lived it purpose, not the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) and Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE).
-Tristin Lowe, Percent for Art artist, 19119

The PCF and the OACCE are absolutely essential parts of life in this city. -Virginia Maksymowicz

The PCF and the OACCE are absolutely essential parts of life in this city. Thanks in large part to the expertise of Tu Huynh, Art in City Hall is particularly valuable. The gallery and display cases provide a unique educational venue. Every sector of society passes through those halls, from our elected representatives to citizens serving jury duty to school children to tourists. I know of no other exhibition space that can boast such a diverse audience. The three most recent shows — “PhotoVoice” (the work of 33 students who used photography to explore health issues); “Bethel Burying Ground: A Tribute to A Sacred Place” (exploring Philadelphia’s early 19th-century free Black community); and “American Peril: Faces of the Enemy” (a portrait series by local photographer, Justin Chiu, addressing racial prejudice) — exemplify the range of topics highlighted. Support of this invaluable program MUST be continued.
Virginia Maksymowicz, 19104, Artist, Professor Emerita, Franklin & Marshal College

The Cultural Fund helps us plan, it helps us learn, it helps us grow. It allows us to survive and thrive. -Billy Dufala

The Cultural Fund was the first funding our program ever received and made the first iterations of our dream possible. Since our organization’s humble beginnings, the Cultural Fund has been a part of the driving force behind what has allowed us to create the opportunities we have made possible for our community. It has allowed us to continually educate a curious public and aids in our ongoing work to deliver creative contributions to the cultural landscape of our amazing city. The Cultural Fund helps us plan, it helps us learn, it helps us grow. It allows us to survive and thrive.

Billy Dufala, Artist, Co-founder, Director of Residencies -RAIR

Show the city residents who are arts and culture workers, those who engage in the Art in City Hall program, and city residents that benefit from our city’s arts organizations, that they matter as much as any other constituents in the city. -Amie Potsic

Dear Mayor and City Council,

I write to you on behalf of Art in City Hall’s Exhibitions Advisory Committee as chair of the committee and supporter of the program’s impact on the city of
Philadelphia. I implore you to reconsider the new proposed budget, which
suggests eliminating the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy
(OACCE) and Art in City Hall (AICH). The AICH program is one of the most far
reaching, impactful, and accessible artistic offerings in the city of Philadelphia, which should be awarded, rather than removed. With 108,557 audience members in 2019 alone, the program touches artists, students, and constituents from every region of Philadelphia. The program should be funded to continue as it is one of the city’s creative innovations and contributions to the arts and culture landscape of Philadelphia, which has been the driver of Philadelphia’s economic revitalization in recent years.

I urge all of you to consider the positive impact of the arts on our citizens, and specifically the Art in City Hall program, when evaluating the upcoming budget. To eliminate the Art in City Hall program and the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy is a short-term fix that will hinder the growth of the city in the long-term. Show the city residents who are arts and culture workers, those who engage in the Art in City Hall program, and city residents that benefit from our city’s arts organizations, that they matter as much as any other constituents in the city. To eliminate the office and program entirely is an unnecessary burden on the artistic community and reduces the reputation and honor of the city of Philadelphia overall. Please reconsider the proposed budget and keep the Art in City Hall program. The value of the program and its impact cannot be overstated.

Amie S. Potsic, CEO & Principal, Amie Potsic Art Advisory, LLC
Chair, Art in City Hall Exhibitions Advisory Board

Excerpt from a longer letter by Amie Potsic

Staying connected to our communities and the arts is what makes living in isolation sustainable for many of us. -Jarrod Markman

When we start talking about money it is easy to forget that innovation doesn’t just come from advancements in technology. Innovation comes from a more human place – an experience, a desire, a need. During this pandemic every aspect of our day-to-day life must be innovated, the ways we all keep sane most of all. Staying connected to our communities and the arts is what makes living in isolation sustainable for many of us. The continued funding from PCF will ensure that Da Vinci Art Alliance and many other important community art organizations are still here as we begin to rebuild. With funding from the PCF, Da Vinci Art Alliance serves over 8,000 annual patrons, 200 visual art members, and educational outreach programs reaching hundreds of neighborhood youth and dozens in memory care-units. Without funding from PCF, our neighborhood and community will feel this loss most deeply.
Jarrod Markman, Executive Director, Da Vinci Art Alliance

I am struck by the essential connections Philly’s cultural offices and commissions make: bringing artists, architects, local businesses, city officials and neighborhoods together to create lasting public works. -Mark Stockton

Mark Stockton, Score, 2016, Marian Anderson Recreation Center, Percent for Art Program

In 2016, I was given the opportunity to create Score, a 60’ site-specific mural that celebrates the history of baseball, its impact on our culture and community, and the life of Marian Anderson through Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Program. Looking back on my experience, I am struck by the essential connections Philly’s cultural offices and commissions make: bringing artists, architects, local businesses, city officials and neighborhoods together to create lasting public works. Essentially, these programs act as amazing hubs for interdisciplinary activity. When these unlikely partners (my project incorporated youth baseball, architecture, cultural history, music, professional sports and the arts) are invited into a discussion- then a new civic space has been created, allowing these communities to respond to one another through creativity. In a time of isolation, the resulting works stand as monuments to our ability to connect with one another.
Mark Stockton, Philadelphian Artist- 19125, Associate Teaching Professor- Drexel University, Board Member- Vox Populi

By supporting the arts we support each other -Christine McDonald

I have had the pleasure of being included in three exhibitions through the Art in City Hall program, and my time working with the staff and Tu Huynh for those exhibitions was wonderful. The inclusion of my artwork came as I was just completing my undergraduate degree at Temple University and it was such a vote of confidence firstly that art matters and that secondly art has an important place in Philadelphia – a city I have called home for the last six years. By supporting the arts we support each other, and intrinsically human creativity. I hope the City Council can move Philadelphia forward with more creativity, rather than elimination.
Christine McDonald, Sculptor, 19125

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10 year tax abatement, amie potsic, Amie Potsic Art Advisory, anne ishii, art in city hall, asian arts initiative, betty leacraft, billy dufala, Budget, budget hearings, Carmen Febo San Miguel, Christine McDonald, da vinci art alliance, drexel university, educational, emotional, Fiber artist, fleisher art memorial, FY21, germantown, Harry Philbrick, health, High Wire, Jarrod Markman, jennie shanker, Jim Kenney, Leeway Awardee, Leeway Grantee, leslie kaufman, LGBTQI+, Maplewood Mall, marginalized artists, Marian Anderson Recreation Center, mark stockton, mayor kenney, nato thompson, nexus, nonprofit, oacce, office of arts and culture, office of arts culture and the creative economy, Ortliebs, PCF, percent for art, Percent for Art Program, philadelphia, Philadelphia Contemporary, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, philadelphia sculptors, Public Testimony, rair, Recycled artist in residence, Recycled Artists in Residence, Revolutionary War Museum, safety, Silk City, taller puertorriqueno, ten year tax abatement, testimonials, Textile Artist, the clay studio, The Kyber Pass, the Lone Star, the project room, The Rosenbach Museum, The Ruba Club, the Unitarian Church, tristin lowe, tu huynh, vox populi

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