More strong testimony at City Council hearing, June 9, reinstate funding for arts and culture!
Artblog rounded up some testimonies given to City Council on June 9 by artists, arts workers and arts organization leaders. We present them here for the record, a stream of passionate and well-formed arguments to save OACCE and PCF.

sponsored
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.

[ED. NOTE: Post updated on 6/18/20 with new testimony from Alvin Clay and 6/15/20 with new testimony from Patricia Wilson Aden, received since original publication on 6/12/20. Scroll to the bottom to see Alvin’s and Patricia’s testimony. Check out the Testimonies from the hearing on May 27th, 2020]

We need artists to amplify the stories of our neighbors who are aching to be heard. Enlist artists to help de-escalate civic strife and transform conflict. Engage community artists as key strategists and problem-solvers as we envision reopening our schools. -Germaine Ingram

I am Germaine Ingram, testifying in opposition to Bill 200287

A few years ago, internationally celebrated sculptor Ann Hamilton came to Philly to create a massive, immersive installation, called “habitus”, at Pier 9 on Delaware Avenue. This billowing, moving sculpture activated our senses, curiosity, and imagination to explore our personal and collective memories and associations with cloth. Hamilton states that one key to her life as an artist and a citizen is embracing “not knowing”. She says that not knowing isn’t ignorance. It “involves work and research.” “Not knowing is a permissive and rigorous willingness to trust, leaving knowing in suspension, trusting in possibility….”

In these times of stupefying claims to certainty—-such as when national leaders pronounce that military-backed “domination” of our streets is the required response to long-overdue protests of eons of police brutality on black and brown bodies——in these times, our capacity to embrace a stance of “not knowing” is essential to addressing the increasingly complex challenges we face. As we are shaken awake by multiple, intersectional, global pandemics, we need the capacity to suspend bogus claims of certainty;—- to, as James Baldwin said, “lay bare the questions that are hidden by the answers”, in order to listen to both research and intuition, to see possibilities and opportunities, and to engage all sectors and knowledge systems in finding ways forward that honor the humanity and aspirations of every being.

Artists are experts at creating new possibilities from a posture of not-knowing. Artists are practiced in embracing the surprises and innovations that emerge from interdependence and unpredictability. Now is not the time to hobble our artistic resources. Now is the time to engage artists and the artistic process as never before in helping to envision and shape the new and uncertain civic terrains that we all are inescapably moving toward. We need artists to amplify the stories of our neighbors who are aching to be heard. Enlist artists to help de-escalate civic strife and transform conflict. Engage community artists as key strategists and problem-solvers as we envision reopening our schools. Embed artists in our health care and social service systems to help raise the measure of deep listening, empathy and responsiveness. Invite artists into government agencies to shake up linear approaches to policy and practice. Artists are primed to be the stewards of our public spaces, keeping us attuned to the collective memories and civic lessons that reside there.

We can’t afford to abandon the infrastructure that is critical to making Philadelphia’s arts and culture community so rich in diversity, talent, creativity, innovation, and dedication to the vitality and vibrancy of our city. Rather, we need to muster and invest in the arts and culture sector, a community that is uniquely equipped to see possibilities and launch discoveries in the midst of this sustained uncertainty.

Germaine Ingram,
Performing Artist and Cultural Strategist
Board member, Leeway Foundation
Redevelopment Authority Public Art Committee
Advisory Committee, Picasso Project, a program of Pa Citizens for Children and Youth
Board member, ArsNova Workshop
Former member of board of Philadelphia Cultural Fund

Instead of reducing the need for funding arts and culture, the protests against police brutality and in support of black lives underscore the necessity for the continuation of the City’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE) -Judith Tannenbaum

Good afternoon Council President Clarke and all Council members. My name is Judith Tannenbaum. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I speak in opposition to Ordinance 200287 and Resolution 200307.

The past two weeks have been fraught with emotion and trauma for our city and for the nation.

Instead of reducing the need for funding arts and culture, the protests against police brutality and in support of black lives underscore the necessity for the continuation of the City’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE). This exemplary department oversees the Public Art Program, Art in City Hall, and other vital programs that reach out to all segments of our community.

The recent removal of the Rizzo statue illustrates that art is an integral part of society, not something neutral or removed from it. It represents who we are and what we value. The people of Philadelphia–black, brown, white, gay, straight, trans, young and old– demanded that the Rizzo statue be removed because in 2020 it is not acceptable to honor a former mayor [and police commissioner] who blatantly mistreated black and gay citizens. The arts embody our history and beliefs. They are not frivolous or arbitrary.

I simply cannot imagine the city of Philadelphia without the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE) or the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. Both are positive agents that affect the quality of life for all citizens—on a daily basis and long-term.

I moved to Philadelphia in 1986 to work at the Institute of Contemporary Art (at the University of Pennsylvania). Twelve years after relocating to Providence, RI, I chose to move back to Philadelphia because of the strength of its arts and cultural community. I missed the breadth and depth of my interactions with artists and arts institutions—from small start-ups and mid-size organizations to major institutions, all of which are served by the OACCE and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

I’d like to speak briefly about the city’s Percent for Art program. Established in 1959, it is the first and oldest program of its type in the country—a model for other cities across the nation. In its 60 years, more than 650 sculptures, murals, and memorials have been commissioned for every neighborhood of the city (with funds from real estate developers designated for new construction or major renovation projects). They range from Center City icons like Claes Oldenburg’s Clothespin to works by accomplished regional artists. The artworks enhance our urban environment and engage with the communities that come into contact with them every day. A remarkable professional staff of only two manages this vast collection and administers the City’s new Percent for Art commissions.

The Covid-19 shutdown and current racial conflicts require immediate attention. They also force us to rethink priorities and take a stand about what we value. Visual art, theater, dance, and music distinguish a free society. The survival of the Office of Arts and Culture is critical for the future of our city.

Judith Tannenbaum, Artist, Curator, Consultant

Judith Tannenbaum is a contemporary art curator and consultant who has organized numerous exhibitions of painting, sculpture, video, and interdisciplinary work. She held senior positions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (1986 to 2000) and the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (2000 to 2013). Recent projects include Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy (2019) and A New View Camden (2020).

To remain the world class city that National Geographic has recognized, we must maintain PCF and the OACCE. Mayor Kenney himself urged support for the arts in a letter to Congress. I urge you to start at home by rejecting the proposed cuts. -Elizabeth Spungen

Thank you for allowing me to speak in reference to Bill Numbers 200287 and 200307. I am Elizabeth Spungen, a lifelong Philadelphian and the Executive Director of The Print Center, a visual arts nonprofit dedicated to the democratic media of photography and print. Since 1915, we have served the city and have prioritized equity and access. We provide exhibitions as well as long-term residencies in 20 high school classrooms each year, in districts across the city.

The COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on Arts & Culture. The arts are the highest expression of our humanity and are needed now more than ever. In challenging times they bring inspiration, hope and solace.

Arts & Culture is a 4 billion dollar economic engine, which is a remarkable return for the city’s investment of 4 million. Our community does extraordinary work and brings enormous benefit with relatively minor financial support. The proposed cut is minimal in the face of the projected deficit, and is not logical. Arts & Culture are the way back to a thriving city. People returning for cultural activity will engage all sectors of the economy. Crippling Arts & Culture will significantly delay the City’s recovery. I urge you to restore funding to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the Office for Arts Culture and the Creative Economy.

Despite its benefits, Arts & Culture are always the first on the chopping block – this must change. The brilliant, innovative thinkers that lead our community should be welcomed at the governing table. Instead of eliminating support, Philadelphia should have a Cabinet-level Arts position.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund is the life blood of the city’s small organizations. Their impact is felt in every neighborhood. Eliminating PCF will devastate organizations, like The Print Center, that rely on their support to serve audiences and create equity and access. To remain the world class city that National Geographic has recognized, we must maintain PCF and the OACCE. Mayor Kenney himself urged support for the arts in a letter to Congress. I urge you to start at home by rejecting the proposed cuts. Imagine how much more we could do to support our community if we were not always fighting to survive.

Elizabeth Spungen, Executive Director, The Print Center

The city should follow the forward vision of President Roosevelt’s Federal Arts Project of the WPA during the Great Depression. The artistic, historical, social and humanistic effects of these endeavors have influenced American Art and culture to this day. -Carmen Febo San Miguel

I’m Carmen Febo San Miguel, from Taller Puertorriqueño, while I fully understand the City’s unprecedented budget challenges, I would stress 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 most diverse cultural hubs. It is incomprehensible to those of us who have fought hard for over 50 years to establish a visible, meaningful presence for the arts in City government that, in one decision, there will be no art office or art presence in City government. The relatively small short-term budget saving associated with the elimination of the Office of Arts and Culture and the Creative Economy and of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, is more a reflection of how art is so undervalued here rather than of the significance of these modest savings. On the other hand, the negative impact of these cuts will be felt in every community, at all income levels and ethnicities, by every citizen, and every child.

The economic impacts of the arts in Philadelphia are well documented and already mentioned.
They:
— Generate $3.4 Billion in economic activity
— Provide jobs and sustains 55,000 full-time employees, and
— Generate $157 Million in City tax revenue

In addition, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund grant recipients alone represent
Direct expenditures of over $709 million.

In terms of diversity and inclusion, the PCF since its founding in ‘91, has awarded over $51 million to Philadelphia’s art and culture sector, where 47% of grant recipients operate with budgets under $150,000.

These grant recipients provide programming that serve a Total Attendance of over 12 million with a close to 50-50 split of free versus paid admissions.

It would be ill advised this amount of equitable economic activity that reaches every community in Philadelphia, at this time of not only unprecedented economic downturn, but also of social and racial unrest. The arts provide a powerful transformative, healing, constructive and unifying force.

The city should follow the forward vision of President Roosevelt’s Federal Arts Project of the WPA during the Great Depression. The artistic, historical, social and humanistic effects of these endeavors have influenced American Art and culture to this day. Continuing to support the arts and the neighborhood programming will help the city achieve a successful recovery that impacts:
∙ Safety: Communities with greater access to the arts experience fewer acts of violence and fewer incidents of ethnic and racial harassment.
∙ Health: High cultural engagement in low-income neighborhoods results in lower rates of chronic illness and reductions in poverty without displacement.
∙ Wellbeing: Neighborhood arts strengthen residents’ connections with one another and foster pride of place.

Thank you.

Carmen Febo San Miguel, Executive Director, Taller Puertorriqueño

I moved to Philadelphia four years ago excited—and with expectancy—for the opportunity to live and work in a city that was in the front lines of cultural innovation, political activism and opportunity manifest in its cultural organizations and the creative vision and agency of many different artists. -Patricia Phillips

Greetings. I am Patricia Phillips. I am the Chief Academic Officer at Moore College of Art & Design. The roots of the college go back to 1848, a striking investment in the purpose and longevity of the arts.

In addition to a long career in higher education, I also have dedicated the past 40 years to thinking and writing for museums and cultural organizations, journals and books for national and global audiences and readers on the vital and vibrant role of artists who work within urban communities and public spaces to address important and timely issues of cities, including justice and equity, work and labor, public and environmental health, and other urgent and long-term issues of a shared public realm. There is spectacular evidence that artists, generally with the support of essential arts and civic organizations, promote strong communities that are the foundation of great American cities.

These are our invaluable and indispensable Artists in Context, who frequently—with the logistical and financial support of future-minded arts organizations such as Public Percent for Art Programs, the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and other civic initiatives—embrace and engage the dynamics, diversity, challenges, and opportunities of urban environments. I invite you to imagine what New York City would be like without its Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as other city organizations that provide the time, space, research, resources, and opportunities to unite artistic vision with community and civic aspirations.

I continue this work now and into the future (and now here in Philadelphia) because I have witnessed countless times how artists uniquely and significantly bring purpose and impact to our complex, often challenged contemporary cities and their diverse environments, contexts and communities. I write and advocate that because of artists and important civic arts organizations, change happens. And it matters; it is consequential for all cities—and all citizens.

I began, guided by years of observation and experience, with the idea of Artists in Context who are passionate about cities and committed to their futures. And I pivot briefly to focus on artists as catalysts who inspire and animate change, through the invaluable questions they ask, their boundless curiosity, their capacity to transform urgent ideas into vibrant urban forms, and their fierce belief in a shared common good.

Forty years ago, Mierle Laderman Ukeles (who once lived in Philadelphia) became the first artist-in-residence for the New York City Department of Sanitation. Artist Rick Lowe’s Project Rowhouses animated the renovation of abandoned workers’ housing in a historically African-American community in Houston to address significant issues of homelessness and abandonment, inequity and injustice. And Theaster Gates’ community art projects and interventions in Chicago have brought expansive resilience to the city. Artist Suzanne Lacy’s The Roof is Burning, which organized conversations between Black youth and the Oakland, California police on the roof of a parking garage, is so vividly prescient now as we witness and mourn the death of innocent Black citizens in the hands and custody of police officers. Art and artists do not create entertaining accessories for cities; art brings us to difficult truths and the necessity of epic transformation.

A city without art, artists, and its arts organizations becomes just a location—culturally and, ultimately, economically diminished. I moved to Philadelphia four years ago excited—and with expectancy—for the opportunity to live and work in a city that was in the front lines of cultural innovation, political activism and opportunity manifest in its cultural organizations and the creative vision and agency of many different artists. Honestly, the arts and artists are always a striking return on investment with exponential effects that resonate through generations and across Philadelphia’s distinctive and diverse neighborhoods and communities. Art has impact. It brings us together. It mobilizes change. I have witnessed this over and over again. This is a major reason that I moved to Philadelphia in 2016. Severe budget cuts to art, culture, and the organizations and people who serve and advance their missions may appear to be a frugal imperative now, but it will have devastating reverberations throughout the entire city for years to come.

“Art and design and the institutions that surround them have to take a stand, share responsibility and continue to propose alternative visions and bold imaginations, question what is proposed to us, step outside existing frameworks and keep pushing the future forward.”— Studio Time: Future Thinking in Art and Design, Jan Boelen, Ils Huygens, Heini Lehtinen

Artists and our arts organizations have always been American cities’ essential workers. They are ubiquitous—venturing to all neighborhoods and communities—and impactful. Artists and our arts organizations need support now more than ever—in Philadelphia and beyond.

Patricia C. Phillips, Chief Academic Officer, Moore College of Art & Design

I spent so much time in survival mode that it forced me to take care of myself at a young age. My life was changed at seven years old when I was introduced to the arts. -Shelley Power

Good morning, I’m Shelly Power, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Ballet. Thank you for allowing me to speak today.

The arts in Philadelphia are a source of inspiration for our community and part of what makes our city so beautiful. The Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy’s budget is the largest way Philadelphia supports the operations and programming of these organizations.

The proposed closure of the arts office and elimination of this budget will cut the City’s support of the arts in a time of need, impacting not only employees, but our communities. We’re at record highs for unemployment and families need free cultural programming now more than ever.

At Pennsylvania Ballet, we serve more than 17,000 children and adults yearly with free arts education. This includes School Programs that expose new worlds and opportunities to children— of which eighty-five percent are economically disadvantaged— and Adapted Programs that make dance accessible to all through partnerships with Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and organizations supporting children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.

The arts provide an outlet for individuals to deal with the challenges of life. These shared cultural experiences contribute to the health of our communities with a positive impact on emotions, attitudes and beliefs. It bridges differences and connects people.

As a child I grew up with two parents that were alcoholics. I spent so much time in survival mode that it forced me to take care of myself at a young age. My life was changed at seven years old when I was introduced to the arts. There was a dance studio next door and I would often peer into the window at how happy the children looked. One day the teacher caught my eye and invited me inside. I’ll never forget how those classes affected me mentally and emotionally. It felt like freedom and that I finally found a place where I belonged and could escape my troubles.

We experience many stories like these every day at Pennsylvania Ballet— including those individuals that we may never know the extent in which we touched their lives.

When children come from disruptive homes, they’re searching for something consistent to hold onto—and that comes from more than a formal education. I would have never made it through high school without choral group, drama club and dance. If my dance teacher never invited me into class as a child, I may not be where I am now.

Ensuring this access to the arts is a priority for me. The most rewarding part of my career is witnessing children make progress and develop right before your eyes— all while having fun and feeling safe.

But despite how crucial this outlet is, we’re still seeing drastic cuts in arts funding in education and public programming systems. Our goal is to fill these gaps with our Community Engagement programs and help individuals from different backgrounds find common ground with one another.

It pains me to think that these programs could be in jeopardy, along with the many others offered by our city’s vibrant arts organizations. If we’re not supported in doing this as non-profits, then why do we exist?

I urge you to restore funding to the Culture Fund and reinstate the existence of the arts office in the next iteration of the City’s budget.

Philadelphia has worked so hard for the presence of an arts office. We need this support from our city, and it would be devastating to lose it.

Thank you for your time.

Shelly Power, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Ballet

Because of the Cultural Fund, community members have jobs directly in their communities and communities are vibrant and thrive, despite inequitable funding cuts and lack of resources. -Jessica Craft

My name is Jessica Craft and I’m the founder and Chief Executive Officer at Rock to the Future. I’m speaking in support of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Rock to the Future provides music programs for hundreds of Philadelphia youth each year directly in community locations and under-resourced schools at no cost to participants. Through music, we help youth achieve their fullest potential – our after school program has a 100% post-secondary education rate, and thousands of community members enjoy free performances from our students annually. Youth grow and express their unique identities in safe spaces, learn teamwork and career skills, and find positive ways of self-expression. Rock to the Future is one of hundreds of grassroots organizations that rely upon the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

The elimination of the Cultural Fund will devastate community arts organizations that already operate on shoestring budgets and endless passion. Many organizations will not survive without this funding, and their services cannot be replaced.

Cultural Fund grantees support the education, safety and health of Philadelphians, and keep those citizens here — key goals for our City. These organizations –

  • Interrupt the cycles of violence
  • Advocate for the welfare and rights of immigrants
  • Preserve, honor, share, and celebrate artifacts and art forms pertaining to the experiences of black and brown people and other marginalized communities
  • Are an outlet for local content and community news
  • Connect and heal communities

And make arts accessible.

Because of the Cultural Fund, thousands of children throughout the city have access to arts programming directly in their schools and neighborhoods. Thousands of community members have the chance to discover, appreciate, and share arts and culture from around the globe. Because of the Cultural Fund, community members have jobs directly in their communities and communities are vibrant and thrive, despite inequitable funding cuts and lack of resources.

Our communities are worth the investment. Community arts organizations are essential. The Cultural Fund is essential. Thank you for your time and service!

Jessica Craft, Chief Executive Officer + Founder, RocktotheFuture.org

While writing my letter to City Council to support Art in City Hall, I learned of the planned increase of $14M for Police. Given the recent tear gassing in my neighborhood, forcibly dispersing protestors expressing themselves, it’s clear the Resolution is prioritizing oppression, not empowerment. -Diedra Krieger

My name is Diedra Krieger and it’s a privilege to add my voice against Resolution #200307.

Since 1981 Art in City Hall (AiCH) has brought art exhibitions to the hallways of City Hall. Each juried exhibition typically includes 30-60 local artists, a size unheard of in most exhibition spaces. Over 100,000 folks visit each year. The Green Exhibition in City Hall in 2008 was also my first acceptance into a juried art show. In it, my experiment with installation art, a display case filled with a flower bed made of 2000 empty water bottles, had an impact on thousands of visitors. As a result, I was invited to join the Art in City Hall Committee. It was always exciting to work with Tu Huynh and the committee on exhibition planning in conjunction with citywide events. The decision to eliminate Art in City Hall is heartbreaking.

The mayor’s budget completely cuts funding for the Percent for Art Program, the city’s custodian of its public sculptures, like the ClothesPin, that make up our city’s identity and place making. I was deeply moved by the testimony on May 27th about the outcomes of art programs funded by the Cultural Fund, which is also completely cut. UCAL in my West Philly neighborhood is one of these programs. UCAL provides art classes in under resourced schools where art has been cut from the curriculum. 450 public school children receive Community Arts Programs free of charge from UCAL. Please honor this round of funding promised through the Cultural Fund to allow these grassroots art organizations to provide their much needed programs.

While writing my letter to City Council to support Art in City Hall, I learned of the planned increase of $14M for Police. Given the recent tear gassing in my neighborhood, forcibly dispersing protestors expressing themselves, it’s clear the Resolution is prioritizing oppression, not empowerment. OACCE and the Cultural Fund, like education, housing and health care, are essential for a healthy city and necessary to the well-being of our citizens; the arts inspire, educate, reduce violence, increase empathy, bring attention to societal and cultural issues, and celebrate diversity. The arts in Philadelphia do all of this while providing income for artists, driving business and retail, and literally saving the lives of children who need a creative outlet. Please reinstate funding for OACCE and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Diedra Krieger, Artist

We have allowed the criminal justice system to suppress and displace our civic and community institutions. It is time to undo this shift… -Elizabeth Grimaldi

Thank you Council President Clarke and members of Philadelphia City Council. My name is Liz Grimaldi. I am here to offer testimony in consideration of ordinance no. 200287 and resolution no. 200307, specifically against the closure of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, the defunding of the African American Museum, and the elimination of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, along with the hundreds of neighborhood organizations that it sustains.

Our budget is a roadmap of our priorities as people and as a city. Mayor Kenney’s proposed budget does not describe the city I wish to live in. Not only is it inequitable, especially for children and older adults, but it undercuts the resources and creative thinking we need to overcome this crisis before us.

I moved to Philadelphia from Hong Kong in 1999 and I’ve come to love this city as my home. I have been executive director of three cultural organizations in neighborhoods across Philadelphia: in Chinatown North, at The Village in North Philadelphia, and currently in Bella Vista where I am the director of Fleisher Art Memorial, a community anchor bringing access to art to over 20,000 people each year.

I can tell you about Fleisher and its history as the oldest community art organization in the country, but many of you already know our work. Councilmember Gym knows well our contributions to public school education. Councilmember Oh visited last fall to honor our advisory committee of immigrant business owners and residents, and Councilmember Squilla even serves on our board as an enthusiastic and attentive member of nearly six years. After 17 years, two kids, and a few grey hairs, I am honored to consider you partners in a realizing a shared vision for our city. But when I was new to Philadelphia, it was the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy that invited me to the table at City Hall to learn about our city’s issues, and it is this office that helps bring the voices of countless citizens and grassroots organizations across the city to find creative solutions to our most pressing challenges.

I could tell you about how the arts contribute to recovery and public confidence from national case studies, and I’m counting on my colleagues to tell you about the impact of the arts on jobs and the economy. But, knowing how deeply you care about Philly, perhaps it’s better I speak from the heart, and share with you what keeps me up at night, concerns and solutions I believe matter to you.

First, what can we do to keep children engaged in learning?

Last week, the Department of Human Services called us to ask our help with the 3,000 children in 150 summer programs in rec centers across the city. Right now, our teaching artists are creating 240 fun recorded lessons. We are distributing 4,000 care kits of art supplies and learning materials, through food distribution sites, with our partners SEAMAAC, Juntos, and Sunrise. Through art, we are helping children to be resilient, create joy, and to stay engaged in learning.

Second, there is much pain and loss, especially in immigrant neighborhoods cut off from healthcare, technology, or relief funds, and where coronavirus has been devastating to families. How can we, through art, help people heal?

Each year, we host Dia de los Muertos to honor and celebrate the Mexican community of residents and business owners in South Philadelphia. This fall, Dia de los Muertos will be different and more important than ever. It will be a somber time to mourn those we’ve lost and to help people and our city heal.

Like Fleisher, artists and organizations in every district are fighting, despite little or no resources, to help the people of Philadelphia to recover. Now is the time for the city to double down on artists and teachers, not strip them of funds and discredit their value. Now is the time to invest in children, in our elders, in members of our community who have been hit hardest and who are hurting the most. Now is not the time to disinvite creative thinkers and pull the rug out from under hundreds of art groups that bring vibrancy and hope to our citizens every day. And now is certainly not the time to increase funding to broken systems that oppress people.

We have allowed the criminal justice system to suppress and displace our civic and community institutions. It is time to undo this shift, to refocus public tax dollars on neighborhood anchors that build trust and that are the real foundation of community safety and resilience: parks, education, fair housing, libraries, and our people’s art and culture.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Grimaldi, Executive Director, Fleisher Art Memorial

The facts speak for themselves – in 2018, the money allocated to the OACCE generated over 37 thousand jobs, 930 million dollars for household incomes, and 157 million dollars in Tax Revenue. -Brent Wahl

Dear Council Members,

My name is Brent Wahl. I am a visual artist and faculty member of the Weitzman School of Design at Penn and I am the recipient of a public art commission for the Philadelphia Rail Park.

Philadelphia became my home in 2007, specifically because of the cultural atmosphere and opportunities that the city provides. Aside from the exceptional talent pool, it is the institutions and grassroots organizations, that are the backbone of Philadelphia’s cultural prominence in the United States. Everyone in this community is guided and assisted by, the crucial, Office of the Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy.

The facts speak for themselves – in 2018, the money allocated to the OACCE generated over 37 thousand jobs, 930 million dollars for household incomes, and 157 million dollars in Tax Revenue. These incredible numbers should give you pause because they produce value.

Since the budget cut was proposed, the world has been uprooted for a second time, and if there is one thing our city needs right now, it is wisdom in leadership. I am happy to see that increased funding for the police is being reconsidered – the police are not what will bring us back together, but do you know what does empower communities and equity in urban environments? Tending to the art in and for public space and providing programming that is equitable to all.

Not only do agencies, institutions, and individuals need the OACCE for sustainability – so does the public. The public art program, as we know, is the oldest in the country and notable throughout the world. There are over 1,000 works of art under the care of the OACCE. What this means for the residents and visitors of Philadelphia is that the care and conservation of this work will be tended to—so that this art can stay in the public sphere—so that this art can educate—so it can continue to bring communities together—so it can provide joy—and so it can nurture economic development. The city cannot continue to benefit from these resources—these assets—without the office or the hard work of the staff at the Office of the Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy.

These are extremely complex times, but I urge you to fully flush out the ramifications of what is being proposed by this cut. I urge you, at a minimum, to retain the OACCE and to reinstate and align their funding cuts to that of other departments. Elimination of the OACCE will hurt this city, and it will affect the experience of the city’s citizens and visitors alike – this is not a viable or wise option.
Thank you to all of the district council members for your time.

Brent Wahl, visual artist, Percent For Art artist, Pew Fellow, Senior Lecturer at the Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

Today 71% of the museum’s audience is African American. 25% of our visitors are senior citizens. More than 60% of our audience is low income. No other museum in Philadelphia can claim the same broad outreach and deep impact. -Patricia Wilson Aden

Hello. My name is Patricia Wilson Aden and I am the President & CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The African American Museum occupies a unique space in Philadelphia’s cultural landscape by virtue of its mission focusing on African American art, history, and culture. Dedicated to bringing diverse communities together in appreciation of the Black experience, the museum attracts over 60,000 visitors a year. Each year the museum delivers enriching educational programming to nearly 20,000 students, many who attend Title 1 schools and who benefit from inspiring lessons reflecting their own culture. For these reasons and more, I urge you to reconsider the proposed elimination of the African American Museum’s annual funding.

Illuminating the historic legacies and contemporary experiences of Black people is central to our mission. Through our compelling exhibits and thought-provoking programs, we strive to raise consciousness and inspire informed activism by people of all races.

Today 71% of the museum’s audience is African American. 25% of our visitors are senior citizens. More than 60% of our audience is low income. No other museum in Philadelphia can claim the same broad outreach and deep impact.

Over the past several years the African American Museum has successfully grown its budget by diversifying its revenue sources. Today, the City’s annual allocation helps cover personnel costs that are not usually funded through corporate sponsorships and foundation grants.

Elimination of the African American Museum’s $231,00 allocation flies in the face of the clarion call for racial equity that is resounding throughout our city. We believe that our dedication to educational excellence and dynamic programming equip us to help address the corrosive racial injustices that continue to scar our city. The City’s financial support coupled with our inspiring programming will help ensure that the African American Museum rebounds from the COVID 19 crisis and contributes to the recovery of the communities we serve.

Patricia Wilson Aden, President & CEO, African American Museum in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a vibrant city teeming with culture that has been driving our identity for hundreds of years. The art created in Philadelphia reaches well beyond its borders and has touched the world helping drive our other industries through attention and attraction to our area. -Alvin Clay

I am Alvin Clay, Executive Director of iradiophilly. I am testifying on Bill 200287, specifically the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. We started a petition to “Save the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy” in response to Mayor Kenney’s proposed revised budget. To date there have been 17,191 supporters. Here is the petition:

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a revised budget for fiscal year 2021 in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on May 1, 2020. Businesses have been closed and workers have been off the job for weeks, reducing the city’s tax revenue significantly. The Office of the Department of Finance projects that without any changes the city would have a $649 million deficit next year. The city cannot legally operate with a deficit. We understand that hard decisions needed to be made and that cut backs and program budget reductions were inevitable. However, to completely eliminate an office that supports a vital industry in the city of Philadelphia, especially one that has been hit very hard during this crisis, is short sighted and should be reversed.

In the new budget, the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy was budgeted $0 dollars, down from approximately $4.4 million, effectively closing the office. Most of that budgeted money goes directly to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, which gives grants to hundreds of non-profits in the city.

The presentation of the budget by the Mayor is only the first step. It still must be approved and voted on by City Council before July 1.

According to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the arts and cultural sector generates $4.1 billion in economic impactannually and supports 55,000 jobs. That creates $1.3 billion in household income and $224.3 million in state and local taxes.* The creative economy includes but is not limited to artists, musicians, painters, sculptors, dancers, actors, filmmakers, graphic designers, venues, theaters, museums, galleries, bartenders, waiters, chefs, box office workers, bouncers, sound engineers, tech crews, art/dance/recording studios, after school programs and all employed by those entities, as well as support industries such as accountants, lawyers, hotels, ride share drivers, parking, public relations, marketing, and media. On the other side there are the fans, patrons, concert goers, theater attendees, and more who support the arts and make the purchases.

Most of this industry has been shut down during this crisis and needs support now more than ever to rebound during the economic recovery.

The Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy’s mission is to close the gap in access to quality cultural experiences and creative expression through the support and promotion of arts, culture and the creative industries; to connect Philadelphians to enriching, arts-infused experiences; to link local artists and cultural organizations to resources and opportunities; and to preserve the City’s public art assets.

The OACCE is also responsible for the Music Industry Task Force, the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, Art in City Hall, all of Philadelphia’s public art, and funding the Philadelphia Cultural Fund which gives grants to numerous Philadelphia arts and culture non-profits.

Philadelphia is a vibrant city teeming with culture that has been driving our identity for hundreds of years. The art created in Philadelphia reaches well beyond its borders and has touched the world helping drive our other industries through attention and attraction to our area. As we look to rebound and recover from this crisis, there are certainly sectors that are essential to our health and safety and must be prioritized. However, unless we take care to ensure our cultural health is also revived, we risk losing our spirit.

Philadelphia’s creative economy deserves proper representation in City Hall. Understandably, it is likely not possible for the OACCE to be budgeted at the same level as the original budget, however, the industry’s economic impact alone justifies that the office’s budget be more than zero. We are simply asking that the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy not be eliminated.

Alvin Clay, Executive Director, iradiophilly

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