Meet the Winners of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage's 2015 Grants

It's been a bad few weeks for Philadelphia's brand. Let's set it up for you.

Two Canadian professors, David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller, created a hitchhiking robot, known as hitchBOT, as an "artwork and social robotics experiment." The creators left the robot and a sign "San Francisco or Bust" near a highway in Salem, Massachusetts on July 17, hoping the kindness of strangers would see it safely to the West Coast. The robot had already successfully hitchhiked its way across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, its East Coast summer sojourn didn't last very long. The poor thing was found dismembered on the steps of the Philadelphia art museum, spurring a lot of hand-wringing in the city, including one article titled "Don't You Dare Blame Philadelphia For hitchBOT's Death."

We're certainly not pointing fingers here, but I think we can all agree that some good news out of Philly is nonetheless in order. And today, it comes to us courtesy of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, which, on an annual basis, provides funding to Pew Fellows, projects, and Advancement Grants. Pew just announced the winners of 2015's grant cycle, with total giving eclipsing $9.6 million. Here are some of the winners.

Twelve Pew Fellows will receive awards of $75,000 each. This year's class includes playwrights, poets, visual artists, filmmakers, and choreographers. One winner is Rea Tajiri, a filmmaker whose work "straddles the boundary between documentary and art film, and employs an innovative, personal approach to storytelling."

Pew also awarded 34 project grants—awarded in amounts up to $300,000 each, plus an additional percentage for general operating costs—to events, exhibitions, and performances. Pew seemed especially keen on cross-cultural projects that bring international artists to the Philadelphia community, world-premiere commissions and performances, and historical interpretation projects that shed light on the region's history. Twelve first-time project grant recipients include composer Lembit Beecher, Fund for the Water Works, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Lastly, Pew awarded three Advancement Grants, multiyear investments of up to $500,000 designed to "support bold initiatives" in the region. One such winner is the Curtis Institute of Music, which is committed to the the goal of implementing a new curriculum that provides graduates with the entrepreneurial and business skills necessary to pursue careers as 21st-century classical musicians.

Click here for IP analysis involving philanthropic giving in the City of Brotherly Love.

Oh, and one last thing. The hitchBOT story ends on a positive note. On August 1, he (she?) tweeted, "My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade. Thanks friends."