Don’t go changing to try and please me.

Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program is really cool, but it’s only a small part of the many arts organizations who contribute to the life of this city.

Philadelphia Arts Advocacy Day probably sounds like something involving tall skinny women wearing all black and chunky jewelry sipping chardonnay and complaining about the callouses they have on their check-writing hand. And who’s to say it isn’t? Any tall skinny woman who wants to sip chardonnay and complain about arts funding is a friend of mine, as long as she keeps donating to the arts organization of her choice.

But seriously, folks. The Philadelphia Cultural Fund is likely to be reduced for fiscal year 2016. Last year arts advocates convinced Mayor Nutter and City Council to approve an increase in the funding, to $3.14 million. This year, we’re only asking that the budget not be reduced. We’re not asking for an increase (though that would be really nice too). We’re just asking that it not be cut (to the 1.84 million that Mayor Nutter has proposed).

In order to have cool things that make a place livable, such as summer camps, street fairs, orchestras, nifty little painting and writing classes, and endless productions of Shakespeare to make us all feel smart, you have to have cultural funding in your city budget. If you want to be a great city, you have to have great art, and that means great money. We’re not even asking for more money, we’re asking just to keep the number the same.

The NCAR Arts Vibrancy Report is Southern Methodist University’s index of supply and demand for cities’ arts, culture, and how their governments spends money on them. It’s a way of quantifying a major contributor to a city’s livability (aside from jobs, climate, pollution, transit, and so on).  While Philadelphia’s Avenue of The Arts may seem like a vast buffet of entertainment and provocation, our city didn’t even make the top ten. For cities with populations over one million, Philadelphia came in 13th, right under Denver. 

A bearded hipster-lookin' man with some plush creatures that look really cool.

You guys, please, please, don’t let Denver be cooler than us. Please.

 That’s right. Philadelphia was outranked for vibrancy by DENVER, COLORADO. This aggression will not stand, man. 

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has created a guide of simple ways that you can communicate to Mayor Nutter and City Council that the Philadelphia Cultural Fund is important to you, and that you don’t want it reduced. I read the useful and helpful pre-written letter provided, and re-edited it for my own (nefarious?) purposes to send to my council person, Bobby Henon.

The letter I sent is below.

I highly recommend that if you

a) live in Philadelphia, or its surrounding counties (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery, yes, this affects you too)

and

b) like things other than sports sometimes,

that you click, tweet, write, make noise, whatever. Make that happen. I mean it. Here’s the guide. It’s not hard. Easier than Candy Crush.

Thank you.

Dear Councilman Henon,

Thank you for all the hard work that you’re doing for Tacony and Mayfair. I moved to Tacony when I married my husband, and in the past eight years I’ve seen a lot of positive change. For example, the Tacony Storefront Improvement Program was long overdue and is a great asset to our neighborhood. Here is another way that life in our district can be improved, that’s also very important to me.

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s budget allocation is at risk. As a writer, artist and arts supporter, I’m writing to urge you to save the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) and keep the budget allocation at $3.14 million for the fiscal year 2016.

As you already know, last year Council appropriated an additional $1.3M for PCF, bringing its allocation up to $3.14M. This additional funding allowed PCF to dole out larger grants and reinstate the Youth Arts Enrichment grants. This grant provides project support for arts-education programs serving K-12 students in the Philadelphia School District.

Funded projects directly address the priorities of reducing youth violence, reducing truancy and drop-out rates, and increasing the percentage of School District graduation rates and graduates going on to college.

They give kids something positive and productive to do. This is something that our district desperately needs. We have tons of young people wandering the neighborhood, and no opportunities available to them beyond sports. For kids who aren’y interested in or good at sports, there needs to be meaningful activity. Furthermore, participation in arts programs helps increase emotional intelligence, making people less likely to engage in violent or destructive activity.

There are many people in Tacony and Mayfair who are just plain bored, and live to complain about renters or people who are different, and watch television. Events such as the Mayfair farmers’ market and street fairs give residents the opportunity to interact. It’s great that this is happening, but we need more. The Devon Theatre has been sitting idle for years. It’s a tragic joke that the past artistic directors abandoned it. However, it would make an excellent space for Theatre Philadelphia companies to give performances. People in our district need intellectual and emotional stimulation that art and culture provides, in order to lessen violence, drug use and crime. The arts also enhance local businesses; people who attend arts events are more likely to spend money near by, such as for dining and parking. The Philadelphia Cultural Fund allows for better opportunities not only in District 6, but throughout the region.

Mayor Nutter has only appropriated only $1.84 million for the PCF in his FY2016 budget. Please encourage Council to act and ensure that PCF is flat funded for Fiscal year 2016.

Please allocate $1.3M for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Thank you again for your hard work, your time, and your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Lindsay Harris-Friel

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About manifenestration

Lindsay is a playwright, arts advocate, and a candidate in Temple University's MFA program in Playwriting. She lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA, with her husband, three cats and two dogs. Someday, she hopes to not have to vacuum.

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