Foundations, RAD funding give Pittsburgh arts an edge on other metro areas
February 27, 2016 1:12 AM
Layers of fog pass over the Pittsburgh skyline.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Correction: The total tickets sold by Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams and local arts and cultural organizations was originally presented as revenue from ticket sales.
The southwestern Pennsylvania arts and cultural community is healthy in revenue and spending in most comparisons over time and with national trends, with a notable downturn in individual giving being propped up by infusions of funding from foundations, corporations and the Allegheny Regional Asset District.
Those findings and many more were presented to arts leaders Friday in two reports, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s 11-city study “Culture Across Communities” and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s “2016 Culture Counts,” the first such survey by the local group since 2010.
“The good news is, I don’t think the economic downturn hurt us too badly,” said Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
Overall, from 2009-12, the 175 organizations in the Philadelphia “snapshot” study earned more than $497 million in income and spent more than $418 million.
Pittsburgh ranks No. 2 among the 11 metro areas in per capita funding from government and foundation sources, with RAD funds accounting for 71 percent of all public support for arts and culture in Allegheny County. The other metro areas include the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Twin Cities and Washington, D.C.
At the same time, there was a 20.5 percent decline in individual giving compared with a 9.7 percent decline nationally.
“I think there is the feeling among people in this area that other entities — foundations, in particular, because we have such strong foundation support — are going to take care of the arts,” Mr. Swain said. “We have a great system called the Regional Asset District, too, but we can’t always count on those things. Priorities shift, and individuals are very important to the future of the arts.”
He said that the Pittsburgh Foundation’s holding another Day of Giving in May following the success of the Arts Council’s similar fundraiser in 2014 is a step in the right direction.
The Philadelphia and Pittsburgh arts organizations that convened at the Downtown home of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company have a congenial relationship as both struggle with ways to counteract the collapse in statewide arts funding and lasting effects of the 2008 recession.
In presenting his group’s findings Friday, John McInerney, vice president of research and communications for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, noted that attendance for performing arts and subscriptions is up here vs. the national trend “but probably the biggest number that drove revenue down was ticket revenue,” he said.
Free admissions and relatively low ticket prices were among the factors. Of nearly 25 million annual, overall attendees to arts and cultural institutions and events large and small, 75 percent attend for free. The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council report noted the 75 percent figure was “evidence of our sector’s commitments to public value and participation.”
In 2015, the arts attracted more than 39,000 volunteers and generated more than 12,700 jobs in the nine-county region, with most part-time or contractors.
As a further example of how many people are served by the arts, the Pittsburgh report noted that in paid overall attendance in 2014, the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins sold more than 3.4 million tickets, and the region’s more than 1,000 arts and culture organizations earned more than 5 million.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960.
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