What's the Latest With Pew’s Local Arts Support in Philadelphia?

 The Philadelphia Museum of art was among the grant winners this summer. Photo:  Olivier Le Queinec /shutterstock

 The Philadelphia Museum of art was among the grant winners this summer. Photo: Olivier Le Queinec/shutterstock

For the past few years, we have covered the local grants to Philadelphia groups in the summer from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Back in 2014, there were 12 new Pew Fellowships of $60,000 each, 35 project grants in amounts up to $300,000, and two advancement grants of $500,000 each. In 2015, 12 fellows received $75,000 each, and the foundation gave 34 project grants up to $300,000 each, and three advancement grants for multi-year investments up to $500,000.

Then last year, funding topped $10 million with 53 local artists and art groups receiving Pew’s support.


So when the 2017 award announcement came out from Pew, we wanted to take a closer look at how this prominent funder’s local support is changing.

The amounts and number of grants hasn’t changed all that much. For 2017, the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage gave a total of $10.3 million to arts and cultural organizations in the Philadelphia area. This amount is up slightly from previous years, but not by much. This year, the funder awarded 39 project grants of up to $300,000, 12 fellowships of $75,000 each, and two advancement grants. As you can see, all of these figures are on par with the previous three years.

But what’s more interesting than the numbers are the types of arts groups that are now getting Pew’s support in Philadelphia. Here are a few themes that have emerged as growing priorities.

Race and Diversity in the Arts

Race-related tensions are high in Philadelphia, as they are in so many other places around the country. Funding focused on racial equity is especially timely and popular among foundations, and Pew is no exception. To address this through art, Pew is supporting projects that address race and present diverse cultures in approachable and creative ways.

For example, one new Pew grantee is the Temple Contemporary, in support of an artist that addresses how race is represented in culture by using toy dolls. Another diversity-focused grant is going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to showcase the work of an Israeli filmmaker and installation artist. At an increasing rate, Pew’s fellowships to individual artists are also focusing on people of color through music, theater, dance, film, poetry, sound design, and other forms of art. For example, one new fellowship went to Moon Molson, a filmmaker who portrays the lives of people of color and the beauty of street language.   

Evolving Styles of Arts Learning

It’s a plain and simple fact that students today don’t learn the same way as students in past generations. Although these Pew grants go toward the arts, not general education, Pew is still acknowledging this fact in its local arts grantmaking.

One of the newest advancement grants proves this point well. Settlement Music School received Pew’s support to develop new curricula, teaching strategies, and ways to communicate with students in a way to engage them in music education and foster a lifelong love of music.  

First-Time Grantees with Untold Stories

This year, Pew awarded grants to 10 first-time recipients, indicating that it’s on the lookout for new talent and not sticking to tried-and-true arts approaches in Philadelphia. The first-time grantees included organizations like Partners for Sacred Places, Intercultural Journeys, and Thomas Jefferson University.  

Not only is Pew looking for new talent, but also new voices that aren’t being heard in the community. A good example is Pew’s recent support for a Lebanese artist who is sharing the stories of Syrian refugees. The more remote, oppressed and obscure the better, as far as capturing the attention of inclusion-minded funders like Pew.

A complete list of new Pew Center for Arts and Heritage grantees in the Philadelphia area can be viewed here.