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The Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s Barbara Silzle on the proposed $1.3M Illuminate the Arts initiative

Barbara Silzle, Executive Director of The Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF), provides context about the management of the proposed $1.3M Illuminate the Arts initiative, as well as a transcript of her testimony at City Council on March 18, 2021, in which she advocates for reinstating PCF's budget in FY22.

Detail of City Hall in Philadephia.
Detail of cupola on the Philadelphia City Hall, 4 September 2007, courtesy Nfutvol, Cropped for Artblog (

“The Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) learned of the $1.3 million Illuminating the Arts Grants the way most did – by reading about them, first via the announcement on City Council’s website and then in the press. While surprised that PCF would not have a role in this initiative to provide emergency funds to artists and small arts organizations/businesses, the funds are desperately needed. I am hopeful that by taking this action, the City recognizes that the arts are critical to its recovery and invests more heavily in The Philadelphia Cultural Fund going forward. On March 18, 2021, I testified to City Council in support of final passage of bill #210160 so these much-needed funds would infuse the sector. This (below) is my testimony. If Philly is going to emerge from COVID-19, the arts, and the artists, must be here. And PCF must be here for the arts.”
Barbara J. Silzle, Executive Director, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund

Testimony of Barbara Silzle, Executive Director, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, before City Council on Mar. 18, 2021

Good afternoon. I’m Barbara Silzle, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. Thank you for this opportunity to speak in support of bill #210160 and this infusion of funds to Philadelphia’s arts sector which continues to be devastated by COVID-19. And many thanks to councilmembers for recognizing the urgency of this moment.

It’s encouraging to see these emergency funds coming to Philadelphia’s artists and arts organizations – it’s critical as the city recovers.

It’s so very important that the city’s support of the arts continue beyond this moment, and be reflected in the Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s FY22 allocation and beyond.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, on behalf of the city, has been partnering with and providing funding to the city’s arts and culture nonprofits for over 25 years. We meaningfully involve the arts community in our work, from the composition of our board of directors to the 100 + grant review panelists who conduct site visits and carefully assess the applications.

In a few weeks we’ll be giving grants totaling $914,000 to 205 small arts organizations. That’s down $2 million from last year, pre-pandemic and the subsequent reduction in our allocation. Over 100 organizations will not receive a PCF grant this year, and those small organizations that will, will receive 45% less.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund has a long history of, and is committed to, removing barriers to funding, especially for those small community-based arts organizations that are traditionally considered ineligible for foundation support. As evidence of that, this year a grant is going to an organization with an annual operating budget of $650. That’s small. And it’s 1 of 3 organizations with budgets below $1,000. And 88 grantees have budgets below $50,000.

That’s the sweet spot of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund – one that we’ve been nurturing on behalf of the city for many years.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund stands with the city in its commitment to the arts – now and into the future.

Thank you all for your time, and service to Philadelphia.