Olive Mosier, William Penn Foundation

TITLE: Director, Arts Funding

FUNDING AREAS: Arts and culture, arts education, and creating public arts spaces

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Mosier is the resident art buff at Philadelphia's William Penn Foundation.

PROFILE: Olive Mosier manages the William Penn Foundation's cultural grantmaking and administers its "strategies for effective funding as well as managing her own portfolio of grants" in the area.

In the view of Mosier's initiative, Philadelphia needs the arts to ensure that it remains distinct as a cultural community. Arts programs cannot always afford to take the risks needed to stay relevant without adequate funding. They also need money to "understand audience preferences, identify potential audiences, and test new marketing and programming." Mosier provides the means to do these things.

A Philly.com article from late 2012 showcased $3.2 million worth of arts grants from the foundation during that year. It supported a "modern arts home on the Delaware waterfront," the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Another article from Philly.com details how Mosier invested $6 million in Philadelphia's arts community. Recent big grant winners include The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, receiving a $2.5 million grant; Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, which received $500,000, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, which received $300,000 and Theatre Exile Company, which received $300,300.

In an interview with Barry of Barry's Blog, Mosier said the following of the foundation's art initiative:

We believe that pursuing a capitalization strategy will be our priority for the next several years. Building well-capitalized organizations is a multi-year approach that falls well outside a foundation's normal three- to five-year outlook. We expect to continue learning when and how to make effective capitalization grants for the foreseeable future.

Mosier also likes to fund groups that can keep promises, later sharing with Barry that the "first lens through which we look at any organization is the quality of its work in meeting its mission."

Under Mosier's beat, the William Penn Foundation looks like a good bet for more established, tried-and-true Philadelphia arts initiatives and for those that appeal to autumnal, loose-walleted out-of-towners. The "challenge with funding smaller groups," she explains, "is the IRS public support test, which often limits the size of a grant the foundation can make directly to the organization." So if you want support for your new performance piece where you pour a can of SpaghettiOs on yourself and recite nihilistic poetry, you may need to look elsewhere.

Mosier does, however, support "consulting services and other help to small groups," which helps the more outsider-oriented artists indirectly. She's the founder of the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project (CDP), a "management tool designed to strengthen arts and cultural organizations," helping them control their financing and keep their performance in check by comparing it against that of competing organizations.

Additionally, CDP provides an accounting help desk for non-profit professionals in the arts. It's a free service; the stipulation is that the information you contribute to it becomes publicly available online, where other organizations similar to yours can see it. Seems like a fair trade.


Mosier received a bachelor's degree in art history at Howard University and then a master's degree in arts management at American University in Washington, D.C.; she finished her thesis on art sales in 1984. After graduation, she climbed the ranks at two D.C.-based advocacy organizations. Mosier moved from there into the government sector under the Clinton Administration, serving as director of the Office of Policy, Research, & Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts. She moved from the White House to the local government in Philly and currently works for Mayor Nutter at the city's Cultural Advisory Council.