Lee said the resources the office still has are being focused on helping artists and arts organizations navigate public and private funding sources.
“There’s a diversity of resources available to artists. It was definitely true at the beginning of COVID, unique funds were created,” she said. “We hope to be the one-stop-shop for all of those resources available to artists and arts organizations, regardless if they are resources offered by the city.”
Early in the pandemic, the OACCE, the Cultural Fund and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance managed an emergency fund for the arts sector, raised mostly from private sources. The COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL Fund distributed $4 million.
This week, the William Penn and Andrew Mellon foundations announced another arts assistance fund, which will distribute $8 million. Thirty-seven arts organizations will immediately receive grants between $50,000 and $400,000, ranging from the Kimmel Center to the African American Museum to the Philadelphia Folklore Project.
The Cultural Alliance’s interim CEO, Priscilla Luce, praised the private sector for stepping up with emergency funding at a time when the arts sector is hurting, but she said culture cannot survive on philanthropy alone.
“We believe the sector is going to need some form of public relief — either through federal, state or local funding — if the sector is going to make it out the other side of this,” said Luce.
Many sectors of the economy are making cases that they should receive public emergency funding, including live-events workers and gym owners. Luce said the arts sector is particularly vital because it generates an estimated $4 billion of economic activity each year, and because arts programs are directly tied to social services.
“It’s not just economics,” she said. “Incarcerated populations, violence prevention, arts education, all of these programs are at risk going forward. We are part of the ecosystem that keeps this a lively place to be, and an important place to live and to be effective.”
As soon as Lee’s newly rehired staff come on board at the Office of Arts and Culture, she wants to be the city’s hub for the public to find cultural activities. The office will revive its cultural calendar — an online resource to connect arts organizations with audiences that was discontinued at the start of the pandemic — by making it more robust and user-friendly.
Lee also wants to use the city’s public-access TV channel to broadcast more of the city’s cultural assets.
The move to the Community and Culture Division of the Managing Director’s Office offers the OACCE some advantages. That division is also where the Free Library, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and Mural Arts Philadelphia report. Thus the move could facilitate partnerships to create and promote cultural programming collaboratively.