38 Pittsburgh cultural organizations granted big bucks by Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies dropped tens of thousands of dollars for unrestricted use on 38 organizations in the Pittsburgh arts community Thursday.

Along with the big bucks, the charitable foundation also offered management training and other operational aid.

Although Bloomberg declined to say how much they spent here in Pittsburgh, as they have in other cities throughout the United States, several local theaters said they received 10 percent of their annual operating costs, spread over two years.

For example, among the grantees, City Theatre’s annual operating budget is approximately $2.75 million, Bricolage is between $600,000-$800,000 and Quantum Theatre is about $800,000.

The African American Cultural Center at the August Wilson Center received a grant of $250,000 for unrestricted general operating funds and management training over two years.

“This generous support from Bloomberg Philanthropies will further the mission of the African American Cultural Center — to own and operate the August Wilson Center, a home for the arts, storytelling, learning and exchange around the African American experience and the rich culture of the African Diaspora, guided by the enduring truths and essential values evident in the work of August Wilson,” Janis Burley Wilson, president and CEO of the AWC, said in a statement.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has this year chosen seven cities — Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh — with the mission “to strengthen the organizational capacity and programming of small and midsize cultural organizations.” The overall multiyear initiative will spend $43 million to provide unrestricted support as well as arts management training in areas that include fundraising, strategic planning, marketing and board development.

James McNeel, managing director of City Theatre, joined a chorus saying how rare it is in today’s philanthropic world to receive general operating support that is not targeted to a certain area or project.

“Unrestricted funding like this is incredibly useful as it allows us some breathing room in our annual budget and directly impacts all aspects of our mission-driven programming,” he said.

The only requirements are to participate in arts consultancy training programs, provided in addition to the funding through the Arts Innovation and Management (AIM) program.

Theaters such as Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company and Bricolage Productions said in statements that the arts management training is as welcome as the funding, to further their unique missions in the community.

The training programs are at the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, led by Michael Kaiser, former head of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and “one of the most respected arts managers in the country,” Mr. McNeel said.

“Additionally, we are expected to secure 20 percent in matching funds, achieve 100 percent board give-or-get fundraising — which we already do — and maintain our DataArts information as current,” Mr. McNeel said.

Janera Solomon, head of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty, said, “It is nice to see a widening circle of national recognition. The timing is perfect as we are about to launch our 10th anniversary season of KST Presents. At this milestone, Bloomberg support will help us tell our story, celebrate our history and chart a course for the years to come.”

The AIM program is part of Mike Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, an effort to help cities across the United States generate innovation, the Bloomberg Philanthropies statement said.

Jackie Baker, managing director of Bricolage, the Downtown company known for its large-scale immersive projects, says the gift is “huge.”

“Besides individual benefit, it’s huge for Pittsburgh,” she said. “It means Bloomberg is in our town and sends signals that we are a serious city that invests in our art and brought national funders to Pittsburgh.”

PITTSBURGH GRANTEES:

  • Afro-American Music Institute
  • Arcade Comedy Theater
  • Artists Image Resource
  • Assemble
  • Attack Theatre
  • August Wilson African American Cultural Center
  • Bach Choir of Pittsburgh
  • Bricolage
  • Chatham Baroque
  • City of Asylum
  • City Theatre Company
  • Contemporary Craft
  • Dreams of Hope
  • Hill Dance Academy Theatre
  • Kelly Strayhorn Theater
  • Manchester Craftsmens Guild
  • New Hazlett Center for the Performing Arts
  • Off the Wall Productions
  • Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures
  • Pittsburgh Center For Creative Reuse
  • Pittsburgh Festival Opera
  • Pittsburgh Glass Center
  • Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
  • Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
  • Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company
  • Pittsburgh School for the Choral Arts
  • Pittsburgh Youth Chorus
  • Quantum Theatre
  • River City Brass Band
  • Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation
  • Silver Eye Center for Photography
  • SLB Radio Productions
  • Squonk Opera
  • Steeltown Entertainment Project
  • Sweetwater Center for the Arts
  • The Mattress Factory
  • The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh
  • Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.

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