Vote tomorrow for the arts

The arts need support from civic leaders who understand their importance to the city's health today and in the future. By voting tomorrow, May 16, you will be casting your vote as a citizen who is an artist, maker, culture worker, lover of the arts and person who understands that the arts are vital to our lives. Your vote counts, and your support of the arts matters. Whatever the outcome, Artblog will be here to advocate for the arts and artists, makers and cultural workers, as we have for the last 20 years and will do for the next 20.

A color photo shows Philadelphia City Hall at night, brightly lit, and there is writing superimposed and logos of Artblog and Artists for DemocracyWe are at the end of a very tight Philadelphia mayoral election. Every vote matters, and the cultural community has the opportunity to truly impact the outcome. Our numbers are large, we are passionate about the arts, and we VOTE.

Through our project, Artists for Democracy, we know you are engaged with the race. We asked for your engagement in this election, and you stepped up, giving us great questions for the Mayoral Candidates, which we passed on to them in early April.

Here’s the news. All but two of the candidates ignored our repeated requests for their responses to your questions. That is right, your questions were ignored by seven candidates, including four former City Council members. We are saddened by this outcome, and see the non-responses as a continuation of the sad status quo of Philadelphia’s civic leadership of the arts. We reported to you previously on the responses by the two candidates who submitted their answers. And you will see the names of those who ignored your questions and did not respond at all.

Plainly put, Philadelphia’s civic leaders ignore the arts. They will say they love the arts. They love the murals, therefore they support the arts. The candidates said basically that in two Mayoral Forums focused on the arts. But in spite of data from the GPCA and elsewhere, which proves the economic power of the arts in Philadelphia, our civic leaders consider the arts optional extras, not valued assets that are unique and in need of nurturing and protecting. Recent years have seen the City budget repeatedly cut the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, entirely or in part, and decimate the budget of The Philadelphia Cultural Fund. Prior administrations have likewise shown such disrespect.

It is magical thinking for civic leaders to kick the arts to the sidelines, as an afterthought, as something to ignore. After all, “the arts” are made up of many humans who love this city. Artists, makers and cultural workers pay taxes, pay rent, buy food and supplies, work in this economy, send their children to the Philadelphia schools. Disrespecting “the arts” is disrespecting thousands of people, like you, like us, who vote and have a stake in the city’s future.

It matters if you vote, so be sure to vote in the primary tomorrow, May 16. Pay attention to the results. And above all, stay engaged in the Philadelphia civic space, which needs to become a better space for the arts. Artists for Democracy will be here after the election, to keep you engaged. We believe that together, an engaged arts community is a constituency that cannot be ignored. We believe that together we will challenge City leaders to recognize, respect and properly fund the arts community here, with new initiatives that employ artists in city positions; well-funded neighborhood arts programs that serve the community; and full robust funding for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, which supports hundreds of arts organizations in the City.

Regardless of the outcome of the election on May 16, let’s keep the pressure on those who make the decisions. Let’s hold the next Mayor to their promise to support and make things better for the arts. Vote so the arts are not overlooked; not ignored; not the first item to be cut and the last to be restored to the city’s budget. More than ever, as we regroup and rebuild after the pandemic, the arts community is needed. Art can heal; art can bring people together for good. Together, we –- artists, makers, cultural workers –- make Philadelphia a better place to live.
–A message from your friends at Artblog