Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Announces Increased Investment in BIPOC and Rural Communities to Support Creative Sector

Karl Blischke, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA), announced the agency’s implementation of a funding strategy that addresses long-standing, historical inequities faced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and rural communities in accessing support for critical community services and development efforts. This strategy applies to the PCA’s general operating support funding stream, known as Arts Organizations and Arts Programs (AOAP), which last year supported more than 300 arts organizations statewide and will result in increases for 73 percent of organizations in this funding category.

This strategy represents a departure from a historic formula that gave higher grants to organizations based on the size of their budgets. Through conversations with other arts funders and organizations throughout the creative sector, the PCA came to understand that this approach to grant making provided the highest grants to organizations with the most funding capacity while not adequately investing in smaller organizations, including those in BIPOC and rural communities, where the opportunity and need for community development is great.

“This is an important step in the PCA’s commitment to supporting the critical health of our communities through the arts, and to ensuring that our investments accurately reflect the demographics and geography of the entire commonwealth,” said PCA Chair Jeffrey Parks.

The PCA’s new strategy utilizes two funding tiers within AOAP—rural and BIPOC organizations, and non-rural/non-BIPOC organizations. For Fiscal Year 2020-2021, BIPOC and rural grantees will each receive a total of $26,000, and non-BIPOC/non-rural grantees will each receive a total of $13,000. While BIPOC and rural organizations will see increases in their grant amounts through this strategy, so too will 171 AOAP grantees in the latter funding tier, whose historical, annual funding levels were below $13,000.

In its adoption of this approach, the PCA Council also adopted formal definitions for rural and BIPOC-led organizations.

For rural organizations, the PCA is utilizing the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s county-based definition, which includes 48 of the commonwealth’s 67 counties.

For BIPOC organizations, the PCA is utilizing 6 criteria, including: specific community served/impact on the community; mission/vision/founder; majority of artists/art presented, produced or exhibited; location in an area dominated by a specific culture, race, ethnicity; staff composition; and board composition; as well as an organization’s self-identification as BIPOC-led/centered.

This funding strategy is the result of more than ten years of research and conversation involving national arts service organizations, BIPOC and rural organizations, and the PCA’s analysis of its historical funding practices. Additionally, this funding approach aligns with the PCA’s strategic goal to promote equitable access for all Pennsylvanians to participate fully in a creative life and in the diverse forms of arts and culture in the commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is a state agency under the Office of the Governor. Governed by a council of 15 citizen members appointed by the governor, and four legislative members, the mission of the PCA is to strengthen the cultural, educational, and economic vitality of Pennsylvania’s communities through the arts. By leveraging the immense potential of Pennsylvania’s arts and cultural sector, the PCA supports jobs, builds community, motivates learning, promotes the commonwealth nationally and internationally, and sparks innovation.