Thursday, April 22, 2010

Council Testimony on the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy

Yesterday I had the opportunity to testify before the Philadelphia City Council about the 2011 proposed budget for the Office of Arts, Culture and the Create Economy. This was actually the first time the Office has been invited to present its own testimony to City Council. In past years (before the Office was shut and then reopened) it was included as part of the testimony of Commerce/City Representative, the department within which the Office was housed. While testimony is not necessarily the most fun part of doing one's job, it is a very important part of the process, and in the case of our work here, a great opportunity to tell the story of what the Office has accomplished this past year. We were grateful to have this opportunity to speak directly to Council and answer their questions. As the testimony is a public record, and may be of interest to the public, I thought it might be helpful to share some highlights here, focusing on the 2010 accomplishments and 2011 plans.


April 21, 2010

Good afternoon President Verna and members of City Council, I am Gary Steuer and I am the Chief Cultural Officer and Director of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. I am here today to present testimony on the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy’s proposed Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2011. I am also joined by Deputy Cultural Officer, Moira Baylson.

I am delighted to be here today on this very special occasion, as it marks the first time in City history that the City’s Arts Office is providing official budget testimony before City Council. I am honored to have the opportunity to report on the Office’s accomplishments over the past year, and to explain how our Office plans to use and leverage City funds in Fiscal Year 2011.

The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy adopted its own budget last year, in Fiscal 2010, after consolidating programs and services from multiple departments.

The Mission of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is to improve access to the arts for both residents and visitors; expand arts education for young people; oversee all the City’s arts programs; support the growth and development of the City’s arts, culture, and creative economy sector, by promoting public and private investment in the creative economy sector; coordinate with relevant City agencies to unify the City’s arts efforts; and serve as a liaison between the City’s many cultural institutions. The Office’s focus extends beyond the city’s nonprofit arts sector, to its individual artists, design industries, music clubs and other entertainment ventures, all of which help make Philadelphia a vibrant and thriving place to live and work.

FY10 Accomplishments
Re-established in October 2008, the Office has successfully consolidated the Public Art Program, Art in City Hall, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and cultural development and creative economy efforts into one office. We are very near to completing an office renovation in Room 116 in City Hall, where all seven staff members will relocate. Housed in this space will include our administrative offices, as well as The Art Gallery in City Hall, a public space that will serve both as an exhibition space and a space to highlight arts and culture events in Philadelphia – a true extension of what is happening in the City. Approximately $30,000 of private funding was raised for the renovations in this space from the generosity of PNC Bank, an individual donation, and InterfaceFlors.  Every effort was made to make the space as environmentally friendly as possible, in keeping with the goals of Greenworks Philadelphia.

In Fiscal Year 2010, with leadership from the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, a diverse group of cultural, creative business and philanthropic leaders, we engaged in a Strategic Planning process for the Office. The Strategic Plan includes strategies for communications, funding, administration, public art and programs. We expect to share the final plan with the Mayor and City Council in June of 2010.

Of the Office’s 2010 budget of roughly $3.9 million, 87% of the funding went out in the form of grants to the cultural community. The Office’s modest administrative costs, approximately a half million dollars, is mostly spent on personnel. Very few of the programs and initiatives operating out of the Office are funded with General Fund dollars. The Office has and is committed to, leveraging the City’s investment in the arts with other public and private sources.

In Fiscal Year 2010, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund will distribute $3.05 million to 238 Philadelphia cultural organizations. Additionally, the Fund, in partnership with the Office, created a new grant program in 2010 called the Youth Enrichment Program. The program will distribute $350,000 in grants to existing cultural fund recipients who have exemplary youth arts programs.

We also just recently announced a new partnership with Ovation, a premier arts and entertainment television station that will yield $500,000 in media sponsorship opportunities for Philadelphia cultural organizations.

The Office was involved with two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Initiatives in Fiscal Year 2010. With the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, we jointly applied for and received $250,000 in NEA Recovery funding for the retention of jobs in the Arts. We distributed grants of $15,000 and $25,000 to ten diverse Philadelphia arts organizations.

Through a partnership with the Office of Housing and Community Development and the Department of Commerce, we created a $500,000 grant program for the creative sector from the City’s $14 million allocation of CDBG Recovery funds. In March, Creative Industry Workforce Grants ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 were awarded to eight creative businesses for the construction or renovation of affordable artist workspaces, performance spaces and creative multi-tenant spaces. These grants for capital improvements will stimulate temporary construction jobs. Projects were selected based on their ability to serve low and moderate-income neighborhoods and to create permanent jobs. This exciting new program is already serving as a national model for the use of CDBG funds for the arts and creative sectors.

With a collection of over 1,000 pieces, the Public Art Program commissions new works of permanent public art through the City’s Percent for Art Ordinance (established in 1959), and oversees the preservation and maintenance of the City's public art collection.  Currently there are eight Percent for Art Projects in various stages of development. These include site-specific paintings for the Philadelphia Youth Study Center in West Philadelphia and hand-carved polished granite seating elements for the Venice Island Recreation Center in Manayunk. Just completed and to be dedicated tomorrow (4/22), is the restoration, stabilization and regilding of the 120-year-old Fairmount Park landmark Joan of Arc statue at 25th Street and Kelly Drive.  This project was funded by City capital dollars and a grant from the French Heritage Society. Recommendations from the recently-completed study, "Philadelphia Public Art: The Full Spectrum" include collaboratively promoting the City’s Public Art Program with other related public and private organizations in Philadelphia, in order to maximize impact and leverage limited resources. In response, the Office in partnership with Mural Arts will soon be offering new public trolley tours that include both Murals and the City’s Public Art collection.

Another major accomplishment of the Office was identifying a permanent home for Red Groom’s Philadelphia Cornucopia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Planned as a temporary piece inspired by the City’s tri-centennial, this large-scale “sculpto-pictorama” was commissioned by the Institute for Contemporary Art in 1982, and was exhibited in several other locations around the city before it became part of the Civic Center Museum’s collection. The City became the custodian of this monumental artwork and has been storing the piece since the Museum’s closing in the 1990s. An agreement has been reached with PAFA, where it will undergo restoration and will ultimately be exhibited once more.

Since 1992, Art In City Hall has presented exhibitions that showcase contemporary artwork by professional and emerging Philadelphia visual artists.Encompassing a variety of mediums, techniques, and subjects, this program strives to link visual artists with the larger community by providing the public with a greater knowledge and appreciation of their artistic achievements. “Emerging” artists include community-based art from Philadelphia’s public schools, community nonprofits, and other city agencies, including an annual exhibition highlighting art from City of Philadelphia employees and family members.

Art in City Hall has approximately eight shows a year and features many partnerships. For example, last year, Fairmount Park and Moore College of Art and Design teamed up to present a juried exhibition inspired by five historic homes in Fairmount Park. We also collaborated with the Health Federation of Philadelphia for a student poster contest in celebration of National Health Center Week. Through May 21, in celebration of National Developmental Disabilities Month, an exhibition by The Arc of Philadelphia/Philadelphia Developmental Disabilities Corps features artists with disabilities. The Art in City Hall program is supported by an independent Art Advisory Council made up of arts professionals and private citizens. Support for the entire exhibitions budget for Art in City Hall is made of private donations.

FY11 Initiatives
We anticipate an official opening of the Art Gallery in City Hall in late spring, to be accompanied by an announcement of the six planned exhibitions for the new space. We will also be working on undertaking a branding and marketing initiative of the Office and its programs, including consolidating existing websites into one official website that can better connect the City programs and services to the cultural community and the public.

This summer the Office will release a report—funded by the William Penn Foundation—on the health and vitality of the Creative Economy with a new tool called the Creative Vitality Index (CVI) The CVI is a framework for conceptualizing the elements of the City’s creative economy and is an advanced tool for tracking change within the creative sector. The findings in this index will help guide the development of new programs and enhance current programs both within the Office and throughout the city, which serve and add capacity to the creative sector.

We also plan to launch an annual version of the Creative Industry Workforce Grant program (previously funded through the Recovery CDBG), as part of the City’s Consolidated Plan and will provide the details of this program with our partners, the Office of Housing and Community Development and the Department of Commerce at the Consolidated Plan hearing.

This summer, the Art in City Hall Program, with the Mural Arts Program, will bring art by professional self-taught artists from SCI Graterford, the Philadelphia Prison System and ex-offenders to City Hall. Also planned for 2011 is a School District Student Exhibition, collaboration with Fresh Artists, a nonprofit working to raise funds for school arts supplies.

A Percent for Art project incorporating artist-designed streetscapes will occur on the Delaware Waterfront, between 2nd Street and the new Race Street Pier Park, enhancing access and visibility to the riverfront. Additionally, Engine 38, a new fire station planned for the Tacony neighborhood’s Disston Park and the Philadelphia Water Department’s planned 61st Street Maintenance facility will both feature “green artwork,” and themes of environmental sustainability and ecological restoration, furthering our efforts to becoming the “greenest city in America.” With private funding from the William Penn Foundation, we will also launch a Temporary Public Art Program, which will bring public art to Philadelphia’s underserved neighborhoods.

FY11 Budget Details and Explanation 
[Note: Aside from some technical budget adjustments, which were explained in this area of the testimony, all major funding categories within the proposed 2011 Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy budget remain level, including the $3.2 million for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. The official testimony also included as attachments a detailed list of Percent for Art projects, Art in City Hall exhibitions and Philadelphia Cultural Fund 2010 grantees]

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