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South Philly arts institutions among grant recipients

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund was established in 1991 to support and enhance the cultural life and vitality of the city of Philadelphia and its residents.

Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens on South Street was among the recipients of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s grantees. (Grace Maiorano/SPR)

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, an organization that provides operating support to Philadelphia-based arts and cultural organizations, has announced that a number of South Philly-based institutions have been named recipients of its 2020 Art & Culture Grants. Among them are Theatre Exile, which received $11,898; BalletX, which received $12,015; and the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, which received $12,239. The funding comes at a time when many arts and cultural centers in Philadelphia are struggling financially due to the impact of the coronavirus. Many have been forced to cancel programming. According to a press release, 45 percent of grantees have budgets of less than $150,000. Of those grantees, most have few, if any, paid staff, which speaks to both the community commitment to the arts and the impact of the funding. This year’s grantee list is the largest in its 29-year history and represents every City Council district, with the grants bringing to light the diversity of the city’s arts and culture scene.

“In many cases, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund is the lifeblood behind the work of so many of our city’s creative residents and the organizations and people they serve,” said Philadelphia Cultural Fund Executive Director Barbara J. Silzle. “Our grants are responsible for maintaining and growing the arts in Philadelphia and bringing the arts to Philadelphians throughout the city.”

The grants total $2,928,500 and will provide 349 organizations across the city with operating funds. Resourced through the city budget, the Cultural Fund supports the largest and broadest community of arts and cultural organizations in Philadelphia.

The 349 grants resulted from a peer review process, featuring review panels of more than 115 volunteers spanning the local arts and culture space, including artists, administrators and educators. The panels evaluated and scored grant applications and conducted site visits, with community impact serving as the most heavily weighted evaluation element. Applicants are encouraged to receive their panel’s anonymous feedback from Cultural Fund staff to strengthen their own organizations and their future grant applications.

“Our Art & Culture Grants accomplish more than providing necessary funds to organizations; they are about illustrating the expanse of artforms and practices that distinguish Philadelphia as a place of vibrant and unique diversity,” noted Silzle. “Art and culture can and should be a part of everyone’s lives.”

In addition to the grants, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund named Germantown’s Colored Girls Museum recipient of the 2020 Cohen Award. The non-cash award recognizes an arts and culture organization that has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to social and economic justice through its mission, programming, art-related work product or services offered. The Colored Girls Museum is also one of this year’s 27 first-time Art & Culture Grant recipients.

“The Colored Girls Museum is honored to be the recipient of this year’s Cohen Award,” said Executive Director and Founder Vashti DuBois. “We are not just a museum but a movement, as the first institution of its kind to celebrate the ordinary, extraordinary colored girl. This recognition highlights not only our museum but Philadelphia as well by celebrating the achievements of black women and girls.”

Several other South Philly institutions also received grant money in addition to the ones mentioned above. They include Mighty Writers ($11,791), the Nichole Canuso Dance Company ($10,708), the Da Vinci Art Alliance ($8,401), the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition ($8,143), Inis Nua Theatre Company ($7,684) and Raw Street Productions ($2,861).

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund was established in 1991 to support and enhance the cultural life and vitality of the city of Philadelphia and its residents. The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, through the combined efforts of City Council and the mayor, promotes arts and culture as engines of social, educational and economic development and has played a key stabilizing role for numerous organizations by providing much-needed general operating funding. More information about the fund can be found at philaculturalfund.org.

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