Strong testimony at City Council hearing May 27 to reinstate funding for arts and culture
Artblog rounded up some testimonies given to City Council on May 27 by artists, arts workers and arts organization leaders and presents them here for the record, a stream of passionate and well-formed arguments to save OACCE and PCF. If you haven't yet done so, reach out to your Council person with your support for the Arts in Philadelphia.

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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 to the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy.

Dear Readers, the budget testimonies below were delivered virtually (by phone) on 5/27/2020 to Philadelphia City Council during time allotted for public testimony. The testimonies are made available to us by the authors, with their permission. We urge you to read them and to listen to the recorded testimonials at YouTube here. A second opportunity for Public Testimony  exists on Tuesday, June 9, 3 – 5 PM. Register ahead of time to express your comments to City Council. Two previous Artblog posts include Information on how to register to testify and How to find contact information for your Councilperson. Thank you for your advocacy. -Artblog

[ED. NOTE: Post updated on 6/4/20 with new testimony from Thomas Devaney, received since original publication on 5/29/20]


What I want to know is, when the Covid-19 lock-down is over, do you want a city with theater, with dance, with art on the street and in the galleries, with young families reviving aged-out neighborhoods, with restaurants and bars teeming with life and joy, with community art centers where anyone of any age or income level can make art? -Libby Rosof

My name is Libby Rosof. Good afternoon. I am one of the co-founders of theartblog.org, which at 17 years old is one of the oldest, most widely respected art blogs on the internet.

What I want to know is, when the Covid-19 lock-down is over, do you want a city with theater, with dance, with art on the street and in the galleries, with young families reviving aged-out neighborhoods, with restaurants and bars teeming with life and joy, with community art centers where anyone of any age or income level can make art? Or do you want the kind of Philadelphia I moved to in 1967, the Philadelphia that was the punchline to a W.C. Fields joke.

That joke city grew into a 21st Century artist mecca, nurtured in part by the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and a number of programs, including the wildly democratic Philadelphia Cultural Fund, which gives operating funds to 350 small and mid-sized art organizations, including Artblog, that bring art into the lives of rich and poor, young and old, in every Councilmanic district. Also the Art in City Hall program displays art made by citizens from school children to the fire department, to professional artists. OACCE also oversees two important public art programs that are national models. One maintains the oldest and largest collection of public art in the nation, and the other commissions new public art via the widely copied Percent for Art program.

Not only is art a civic good and a source of joy and pride. It also is profitable. The city’s arts sector, generates $3.4 billion in economic activity generating $157 million in City tax revenue. The cost to the city is only 1/10 of 1% of the City’s budget, according to Pew et al. Cutting the art budget is penny wise and pound foolish.

Unless we recognize the complexities that make our city great, we will be undercutting the conditions that fuel our vibrant city life.

The Artblog has invited our readers to testify on our pages as to why arts funding for OACCE and PCF should be restored to the city budget. Read all about it at theartblog.org.

Libby Rosof, Co-chair, Board of Directors, and co-founder, Artblog

Artists care deeply about Philadelphia. We invest in the City. We are civically engaged. We are community activists. We volunteer. We give back. -Sarah McEneaney

My name is Sarah McEneaney.
I am testifying in response to Bills : 200287 and 200307

Good Afternoon Council President Clarke and all Council-members. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

I moved to Philadelphia for college in 1973 and attended the University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. I am a 65 year old working artist and community activist.

The proposed budget would eliminate the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. I urge you to not support any budget that would do this.

The Arts Office with a bare bones operation does so much for the City of Philadelphia.

– The One Percent for Art Program – which manages and implements public art commissions as well as taking care of Philadelphia’s public art. I know the value of this program first-hand having been a recipient of a One Percent for Art Commission and serving on committees in support of other One Percent for Art Projects.

– The Arts Office hosts and funds free arts programming and arts education across all disciplines throughout all Philly neighborhoods.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund provides equity and access in the arts by supporting hundreds of small and mid-sized arts organizations across the City.

The arts support thousands of jobs in all kinds of businesses. A modest investment of public money yields a huge return.

Our Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has the numbers- the proof that Arts & Culture is a $4.1 billion economic engine for Philadelphia.

The arts are a vital part of life here. We will come back from this health crisis. We need the arts for a healthy return – and when I say healthy I mean in body and spirit and economically.

Artists care deeply about Philadelphia. We invest in the City. We are civically engaged. We are community activists. We volunteer.
We give back.

Forty years ago artists, after graduating from the many prestigious art programs in our Colleges and Universities, more often than not would leave Philadelphia for other states and cities. That has changed significantly in the last 20 years. Artists are staying here , making their careers and raising families here. And people of all professions are moving to Philadelphia in large part because of the Arts here. That was recognized in 2008 when the City created the Office of Arts , Culture and the Creative Economy

We know and accept that some cuts need to be made but I respectfully ask – Please do not eliminate the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and its hardworking bare bones staff from Philadelphia.

Thank you

web links
http://www.locksgallery.com/artists/sarah-mceneaney
http://www.tibordenagy.com/artists/sarah-mceneaney
https://www.greenhousemedia.com/red-brick-green-grass-blue-sky

Sarah McEneaney, Percent for Art Artist

I also want to make a special plea not to abandon support for the African American Museum of Philadelphia, one of the most important and certainly the most visible cultural institution for a huge percentage of Black Philadelphians. Beyond a place of exhibition, it is a place of gathering, of creation, and of learning. -Louis Massiah

Thank you very much Council President Clarke, and other members of Council. My name is Louis Massiah. And I am offering testimony in consideration of ordinances No. 200287 and 200307 related to the amending of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget.

Specifically I am quite concerned about the proposed elimination of funding for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund along with the hundreds of neighborhood cultural organizations that it supports; the defunding of the African American Museum of Philadelphia, and the closure of the Office for Arts Culture and the Creative Economy.

I am the director of the Scribe Video Center, a media arts center located in West Philadelphia, but serving neighborhoods throughout the City through our community history projects, outdoor neighborhood screenings, our After-school youth media programs, and our FM community radio station WPEB. Our programs directly involve over 5000 Philadelphians each year. we have been the proud recipients of the Councilman David Cohen Award made by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

We know that one of Philadelphia’s greatest assets is the culture that emanates from the neighborhoods. Community culture is a key reason that Philadelphia is a healthy and liveable city. The history of accessible cultural institutions goes back to the earliest days of the City, including institutions founded by Benjamin Franklin and AME Mother Sarah Bass Allen. In the Late 19th century we see organizations that blossomed during the settlement movement. and today, throughout Philadelphia there are places like Taller Puertorriqueño, Asian Arts Initiative, PhilaDanco, Brandywine Print Archive, the Clef Club and Scribe which are very much part of this tradition.

Philadelphia distinguished itself nationally when it created the Cultural Fund as a peer review, rather than patronage based way of strengthening community culture.

The Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy, through the robust programs that it manages has been pivotal in helping ordinary citizens and small community groups avail themselves to the rich cultural resources of the city. In particular I must mention the exceptional work of Jacque Liu, Margot Berg and Tu Huyn in connecting artists and communities to each other.

We are aware of the huge impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our health, our lives, and our work. And that there may need to be spending contractions to keep the City on solid financial footing – but culture – creating it, sharing in it – is part of our identity, part of life. It is essential for a liveable healthy city. It is what keeps us civilized. Support provided by our tax dollars to the Cultural Fund is sometimes the main source of funding for the many community arts organizations in every councilmanic district. Although many are quite small, these organizations have an outsized effect and impact on community life.

I also want to make a special plea not to abandon support for the African American Museum of Philadelphia, one of the most important and certainly the most visible cultural institution for a huge percentage of Black Philadelphians. Beyond a place of exhibition, it is a place of gathering, of creation, and of learning.

I hope that Council’s decisions about how revenues will be spent take into account the importance of community based arts as a life-blood of the city and that taxpayer support for these vital entities – the cultural fund, the African American museum, and the office for arts and Culture – is not eliminated.
Louis Massiah, Director, Scribe Video Center
www.scribe.org

We urge that the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, be maintained at meaningful levels so that our city’s small and neighborhood cultural organizations are not left completely without support during the greatest economic downturn in living memory. Many of them will simply not survive. -Sean Kelley

Good afternoon Council President Clarke and members of council. My name is Sean Kelley. I am Senior Vice President at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site. I also served as Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund from 2009 to 2012. I’m here testify about Ordinance #200287 and Resolution #200307.

When I started as Eastern State Penitentiary’s first full time employee in 1995, our annual budget was less than $100,000. The first grant we ever received was from the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

• 25 years later, in an era when many Americans believe that mass incarceration is the civil rights issue of our times.

• Eastern State has become the closest thing our nation has to a National prison museum

• We are proud second chance employers, believing that people who have experienced incarceration play a central role in connecting the general public to these complex and emotional topics.

• During the quarantine, our programming has shifted to focus on the impact of COVID 19 on incarcerated Americans.

• We employ 68 people. Last year we hosted 310,000 visitors (not TBTW) daytime visitors.

Our success story, with critical, early support from the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, is not unusual. It is how the cultural fund has always worked. To this day about half of the Fund’s grantees have operating budgets of less than $150,000 with little or no paid staff.

The Cultural Fund’s rigorous peer review process encourages professionalism and structure to small and emerging organizations, and, critically, it provides peer support even as it evaluates excellence.

The Cultural Fund often serves as a gateway to larger funding… Many larger funders see the Cultural Fund as a seal of approval, a first step toward increased capacity.

In fact, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s peer-reviewed focus on small and medium, community and neighborhood based organizations is the strategy that many larger funding organizations are moving toward today. In other words, the structure and priorities of our city’s Cultural Fund have been 30 years ahead of their time.

We know that cuts are inevitable. We urge that the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, be maintained at meaningful levels so that our city’s small and neighborhood cultural organizations are not left completely without support during the greatest economic downturn in living memory. Many of them will simply not survive. Additionally, our city needs to be in a position to return full investment in this critical office and this critical fund in the coming years without having to rebuild the them from scratch.

Thank you so much Council President and Members of Council for your time and careful consideration.
Sean Kelley, Senior Vice President, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site

I was thinking of one of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s tenets– to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of Philadelphia and encourage a sense of pride and commitment in the city. Which led me to think of a public art project I did in Vernon Park in Germantown. I remember vividly the day a resident hugged me, thanking me for making the artwork. She said “If the city allowed you to make this piece and gave you money to make it, they must know we are still here. They haven’t forgotten us.” This artwork served as one reassurance that our economically depressed neighborhood still mattered to the city. -Karyn Olivier

Good afternoon, Council President Clark and members of the City Council. My name is Karyn Olivier and I am here to testify against Ordinance #200287 and Resolution #200307. I vehemently oppose the defunding and elimination of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

I am an artist, professor and resident of Germantown. I received a tenure track post at Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University, but resisted moving to Philadelphia, instead choosing to commute. Though Philadelphia was a far less expensive city to live in, and known for its historical importance, it didn’t seem to hold as many possibilities for artistic rigor, sustainability and criticality. Though our graduate program at Tyler attracted the most talented young artists, more often than not, they would leave when they graduated. That changed about 7 years ago, and now, approximately 80% choose to remain in Philadelphia and become working artists and stewards of the city. That retention of creative capital equates to money in the city’s pocket. I moved to Philly 9 years ago for the same reason my students are now staying—because of the opportunities offered by OACCE and PCF.

I was thinking of one of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s tenets– to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of Philadelphia and encourage a sense of pride and commitment in the city. Which led me to think of a public art project I did in Vernon Park in Germantown. I remember vividly the day a resident hugged me, thanking me for making the artwork. She said “If the city allowed you to make this piece and gave you money to make it, they must know we are still here. They haven’t forgotten us.” This artwork served as one reassurance that our economically depressed neighborhood still mattered to the city.

Yes, artists are resilient, resourceful, inventive and know how to stretch a dollar. But NO dollars??? NO acknowledgment that the nicknaming of Philadelphia as “the sixth borough” was not a direct result of the artistic community and the success of many arts and cultural organizations would be disingenuous and morally corrupt. The elimination would severely impact the artistic and cultural fabric of this city. It’s the public art, the cultural programs, and the funding these offices provide to smaller organizations that have grown our city. And the impact of the funds is exponentially greater than the small, minute really, grants they receive from the city.

I think about the COVID pandemic, and our federal governments diminutive and slow response, relying on the public sector and private philanthropy to bail us out in some respects. And I think about what has pulled many citizens of this city, this country and the world through this pandemic—love, care and tenderness towards one another; and the Arts. What an outpouring, an abundance… How many free songs, performances, films, videos, dj dance parties, poems have we each taken in? They have been a salve during these incomparable times.

I also think of another public artwork I created through the OACCE at Stenton Park, in Nicetown, which consisted of engraved pavers with quotes from important historical figures significant to the area, and a large blackboard. Recently I saw penned on the blackboard the words “ When things go wrong, don’t go wrong with them.” How fitting today to think of those words. Things have gone horribly wrong—the stress on the healthcare system, the incomprehensible death toll, the intense sadness and personal losses in many ways, the economy…But to strip the arts, to leave a gaping hole, will only strike another horrible blow to our beloved city.
Karyn Olivier, Public art artist, professor, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University

The Cultural Fund is the way the city supports the arts in Philly – and has since 1994. It has earned its reputation for EQUITY. ACCESS. TRANSPARENCY. And INTEGRITY. 349 Philadelphia arts organizations received a FY20 grant: – 76% are led by women – 36% are led by people of color – Over 60% provide access to the arts to Philadelphia’s children in and out of school. – And these groups are in neighborhoods throughout the city, in every council district. – Barbara Silzle

I speak today to implore the City to restore funding to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund so that we can continue to support the city’s nonprofit arts and culture community. The Mayor’s budget zeros out funding for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. The Cultural Fund is the way the city supports the arts in Philly – and has since 1994. It has earned its reputation for EQUITY. ACCESS. TRANSPARENCY. And INTEGRITY.

349 Philadelphia arts organizations received a FY20 grant:

– 76% are led by women – 36% are led by people of color – Over 60% provide access to the arts to Philadelphia’s children in and out of school. – And these groups are in neighborhoods throughout the city, in every council district.

The Cultural Fund is a nonprofit organization that the city contracts to provide annual general operating grants to Philadelphia arts organizations. We have a board of directors comprised of arts leaders, community members and representatives named by the Mayor and City Council President. We hire a firm to audit our finances annually. Grant applications are reviewed through a transparent and robust process that includes site visits and peer panels.
This operational structure enhances the integrity of the grant-making process and ensures continuity across mayoral administrations in terms of PCF-grantee relationships and funding practices.

I like to say the Cultural Fund disperses city funds in a way that truly is OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, and FOR THE PEOPLE. And the city can be proud of that.

Our allocation for the past 6 years has been $3.14 million. While a cut of 20% would be difficult, eliminating funding would be devastating to the arts in Philadelphia.

Many of our smallest, neighborhood-based organizations would not survive. And 45% of our grantees are very small, operating with budgets under $150,000.

The economic and social return on the city’s financial investment is immense.

As Philadelphia emerges from this crisis, the arts must be here for Philadelphians. And the Philadelphia Cultural Fund must be here for the Arts.

I hope City Council will ensure that the Philadelphia Cultural Fund is maintained through this financial crisis.
Thank you for your time.
BARBARA J. SILZLE Executive Director, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund

Importantly, Philadelphia has one of the largest and most important collection of public art in any American city; and as Chair of the City’s Public Art Advisory Committee, I urge support of the City’s Public Art Program, which professionally manages commissioning, conservation, and collection management, including donation, placement, removal, relocation, and deaccession – as the steward of over 1,000 works of public art in neighborhoods throughout the City. -Penny Balkin Bach

Council President Clark and Council members:
Thank you for the opportunity to express my concern and support for the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the City’s Public Art Program — which all face elimination in the City’s revised budget.

My name is Penny Balkin Bach, and I am the Executive Director of the Association for Public Art, which is a recipient of support from the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Like many of you, I wear a few hats. I am a proud native Philadelphian. I am the Chair of the City’s Public Art Advisory Committee, and I have served on the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council over the course of five Mayoral administrations. Accordingly, it troubles me to think – after all this time, progress, and public appreciation – that we may be facing a devastating blow to support for the cultural community and the neighborhoods and communities that benefit from our creative work.

And I do mean WORK. The arts and culture community not only offers creative approaches to civic life – so dearly needed in our current environment – but collectively we are a job-creating engine, a unifying and humanistic force, a tourism catalyst, an education provider, and an all-around economic benefit to the City.

Given the unexpectedly dire financial crisis that the City is facing, I understand that extremely difficult cost-saving decisions must be made. However, cuts to arts and culture will have an adverse trickle-down effect on the well-being and economic health of the City. I will leave it to others to explain how the sector drives billions in economic impact.

Importantly, Philadelphia has one of the largest and most important collection of public art in any American city; and as Chair of the City’s Public Art Advisory Committee, I urge support of the City’s Public Art Program, which professionally manages commissioning, conservation, and collection management, including donation, placement, removal, relocation, and deaccession – as the steward of over 1,000 works of public art in neighborhoods throughout the City.

Thank you for your daily concern for Philadelphia and its citizens, and again I urge you to continue financial support for arts and culture in Philadelphia.
Respectfully,
Penny Balkin Bach, Executive Director, Association for Public Art

As we slowly emerge from this pandemic, I truly believe that our community arts organizations will be critical assets that will provide a safe and welcoming environment for children and families as they begin to rebuild the sense of community that is so central to what makes Philadelphia such as special place to live. – John McInerney

Thank you Council President Clarke and all the council members for this opportunity. My name is John McInerney. I am speaking in support of The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Public Art Program and the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.

I am an artist and an art worker but more importantly, I am a Philadelphian who cares very deeply about our city, one of the truly great city’s of the world. A city rich in diversity; resilient and proud.

I am speaking today also in my role as the Vice Chair of the board for Eastern State Penitentiary, a city owned historic site that is not only one of the top ten tourist attractions in the city, but a nonprofit committed to historic preservation and social justice. Eastern State is just one example of the range of committed arts nonprofits across Philadelphia that contribute to the health and vibrancy of our communities. From Walnut Hill to Strawberry Mansion, from Roxborough to East Oak Lane, arts organizations are embedded around the city. Most have budgets under $100,000 a year, with 3 out of every five of them focused on serving and providing direct services to children.

For many of these groups, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund is a key source of support that is critical to their operations. I strongly urge the Council to restore the Cultural Fund. The Cultural Fund is a critical resource for arts groups across the city and, unlike almost any other source of funding, is committed to supporting ALL arts nonprofits in the city, particularly the smallest and most vulnerable that are located outside center city. For many, it is the only grant they will receive and is critical to their operations. I have served on local, regional and national grant panels and I cannot stress how carefully these grants are administered, and how broadly they are distributed. As we slowly emerge from this pandemic, I truly believe that our community arts organizations will be critical assets that will provide a safe and welcoming environment for children and families as they begin to rebuild the sense of community that is so central to what makes Philadelphia such as special place to live.

Along with our community based arts groups, the city is also blessed with one of the oldest public art programs in the country, which has carefully stewarded the largest collection of public art of any major city. Starting at the center of City Hall, with the sculpture of William Penn by Alexandar Calder and spreading throughout the city, our public art celebrates our diversity, commemorates those we have lost, and helps us celebrate our collective identity.

One of my favorite is El Gran Teatro de la Luna by Rafael Ferrer. A sculpture that celebrates Philadelphia’s rich latino and puerto rican culture and that was absent from Fairhill Park for 14 years. It was only through the dedicated work of the city’s public arts program that the sculpture was able to be restored and reinstalled in Fairhill Square. The city’s public art program was able to leverage core city funding to get both state and federal support to restore this iconic and joyful sculpture, which also was critical to transforming FairHill park back into a safe and friendly gathering place for Philadelphian’s. It was both catalytic and emblematic of the importance of our public spaces for neighborhood stabilization and cohesion. Alongside with its neighbor, Taller Puertoriqueno, which is a cultural fund supported community art center, these investments have reaped direct benefits for the thousands of philadelphian’s located within walking distance of Taller and Fairhill Square. These are just two examples of over 1000 public art works and over 300 arts groups throughout the city that would be impacted under the currently proposed budget.

Over the last decade, the city has been able to build on its arts investments, organizing our cultural fund, public art programs., the % for art program, and other city arts resources under the city’s Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy. In addition to the elimination of the Cultural Fund, these bills would also effectively eliminate that office. Again, recognizing the need to reduce budgets across departments throughout the city in response to the city’s projected deficit, I also respectfully urge council to restore the Office of Arts and Culture at a reduced funding level. The ability to have a centrally organized office to coordinate and lead the city’s arts efforts is critical for the city and to ensure that citizens’ have a resource to help them access the arts across Philadelphia.

We are living through a generation defining moment like no other in our lives. I understand the incredibly difficult challenges the city and this council are facing. There are now two worlds, the one before the corona virus, and the one we will create collectively going forward. I urge you to restore these cuts so that the arts can continue to be a resource for reflection and healing, for celebration and for commemoration. Our public art, our parks, our community arts organizations are the delicate thread that weaves us together as a community. Please preserve these modest but incredibly important programs. Thank you.

John McInerney -Artist, Art Worker. Vice-Chair of the Board, Eastern State Penitentiary

From an Artist’s point of view, I have been involved in several 1% for the Arts Projects with the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy, and I have shown with numerous non-profit organizations that the Cultural Fund supports. The Office also takes care of the conservation of an amazing and vast collection of Public Art, as the Philadelphia Museum does, but without their funding capabilities through wealthy donors. -Ava Blitz

My name is Ava Blitz, and I am speaking as an active artist in support of keeping the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, the seminal 1% Public Art Program that has inspired many different cities, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. To eliminate it, instead of an understandable 20% decrease in funding across the board used for other entities, is I feel a draconian and damaging action, that would put Philadelphia’s and Philadelphia’s economy, health, and education- all considered worthwhile endeavors, at risk.

I would also like to thank the Council, for their effort at a new review of this action- to put these resolutions on hold, and allowing time to review from all viewpoints.

From an Artist’s point of view, I have been involved in several 1% for the Arts Projects with the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy, and I have shown with numerous non-profit organizations that the Cultural Fund supports. The Office also takes care of the conservation of an amazing and vast collection of Public Art, as the Philadelphia Museum does, but without their funding capabilities through wealthy donors. Their staff works tirelessly and professionally to facilitate the sharing of ideas through art, to create warm and welcoming landmarks that add beauty, vitality, and excitement to the city. The Office is an equal opportunity employer, and works long and hard in creating Calls for Artists, and in choosing the most qualified artists to compete for these opportunities; not based on who the artists knows, but based on their work. As an older female artist, where discrimination in the field is historically high, and I was given the opportunity to make a mark on Philadelphia’s health, well-being, and education, while actually making a living for a short time. These organizations support a minimal amount of administrative jobs, plus the work of countless artists, who do often work for free, sharing their ideas for the benefit of the greater good. I think it is wrong to take away the few opportunities that artists and cultural workers have to make a living, (through a commission or the selling of artwork in exhibitions) while still enjoying the economic and social benefits that these same people offer to the City. There are so many artists and cultural workers in this City, which contribute to its very success, and without whom the City will suffer.

I would like to describe two of my projects, as they show how valuable the arts are, again, to the City. The first is a glass mosaic called ‘Pink’ at the Philadelphia International Airport, that brings an oasis of the natural world into a sometimes stressful environment for visitors and employees. I, and the Airport public art program, have received countless notes of appreciation from perfect strangers, who tell of how much the artwork was appreciated and how it had made their visit to Philadelphia a positive one.

Another glass mosaic is in the vestibule of the Martin Luther King Older Adult Learning Center. It also brings a window to the natural world into an inner City urban environment, and creates a welcoming landmark in a beautiful brand new building that serves the City’s less fortunate elders in so many ways- from free lunches to social and educational activities, courses, and trips, creating a home away from home, all of which is symbolized in the comforting mosaic tapestry called ‘Flying Carpet’. Also visible from the street by pedestrians, and passing cars and buses, the work uplifts the whole neighborhood.

As you can see, the arts are front and center in facilitating Philadelphia’s health, wellbeing, and education. Please reconsider these cuts, reinstate the Office of Arts Culture, and the Creative Economy, the Public Art Program, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. and apply cuts fairly and proportionally across the board.

Thank you so much for your time.

Sincerely,
Ava Blitz, Artist

It’s important to remember that the Arts Office really is a matter of people working with people. -Thomas Devaney

Good afternoon, Council President Clark and City Council members.

I am here to testify about Ordinance #200287 and Resolution #200307

My name is Thomas Devaney.

I speak as an arts professional and an active member in the cultural community.

I am a life-long Philadelphian and I love this city.

My most recent book is entitled Getting to Philadelphia.

I recently completed a documentary film called Bicentennial City, which I co-directed, on the Bicentennial in Philadelphia in 1976.

One footnote about that film and time is that LOVE Statue, the Closepin, and the Flags of the World on the Parkway all come out of that very difficult time in our City’s history.

I have two comments today:

The first is: I completely disagree with the elimination of the Office of Art, Culture, and the Creative Economy and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Following the lead of Councilmember At-Large David Oh, I urge you to hit pause for further deliberation about the proposed drastic action to eliminate these offices.

My second comment is this: to put this conversation into perceptive: with a budget that is currently ½ of 1% of the city’s Budget – the Office of Art, Culture, and Creative Economy and the Cultural Fund has created remarkably effective and meaningful programs that touch every corner of the city.

It’s exactly the kind of thing the City can do, the kind of thing that people want, and the rate of return is measurable and real.

It’s important to remember that the Arts Office really is a matter of people working with people.

They are top-level arts professionals with deep roots in this city and its diverse arts communities. I know firsthand that they are well-respected and have great credibility, which is no small thing.

Let’s celebrate and be proud of their work.

It is simply a fact that our City, which has great poverty and need, would be all the poorer without our intentional support for the arts.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that somehow the core functions of the Office will continue without the Office.

The Arts and Culture Office is a meeting place inside the most significant meeting place in the City.

The shining example of this is City Hall itself: the building is more than a building – City Hall embodies the convergence of the civic and the cultural.

This is an emotional time, we know that there will be some cuts, but this is not the time to get out of the Arts.

We need to use all of our resources and the Arts and Culture Office is one of them.

Thomas Devaney, Author, Educator, Pew Fellow
Bio: Thomas Devaney is a 2014 Pew Fellow and co-director of the film The Bicentennial in Philadelphia (2020). His most recent books include Getting to Philadelphia (Hanging Loose Press) and You Are the Battery (Black Square Editions). He teaches at Haverford College. Homepage: thomasdevaney.net

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african american museum, asian arts initiative, barbara silzle, benjamin franklin, Brandywine Print Archive, budget hearings, coronavirus, Council Hearing, Councilman David Cohen Award, covid-19, covid19, eastern state penitentiary, ffice for Arts Culture and the Creative Economy, John mcinerney, Karyn Olivier, libby rosof, Louis Massiah, oacce, office of arts culture and the creative economy, PCF, penny balkin bach, percent for art, PhilaDanco, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, Public Testimony, Sarah Bass Allen, sarah mceneaney, scribe video center, sean kelley, taller puertorriqueno, testimonials, the Clef Club

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