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Endowments awards major funding to support region’s arts organizations impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

PITTSBURGH, Pa., Nov. 18, 2020 – The Heinz Endowments has announced $5.75 million in funding to support local arts and cultural programs, many of which are intended to assist in mitigating the severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the region’s creative sector. The slate of grants includes $4,134,000 in general operating support, as well as funding for innovative at-home learning programs and organizations that have shown particular creativity in facing the pandemic’s challenges.  

The pandemic has placed unprecedented hardships on the Pittsburgh region’s creative sector, forcing organizations to cancel performances and annual fundraising events or recast them into digital formats, furlough staff, and prepare for the possibility of long-term adjustments that will likely linger until a COVD-19 vaccine is widely available. 

A Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council analysis of the regional arts sector released earlier this year found that the most urgent COVID-19-related need as identified by arts organizations was unrestricted general operating assistance. The same report revealed that approximately 84 percent of organizations had to cancel performances, classes and exhibitions, and nearly 68 percent had to temporarily close their facilities due to COVID-19. 

“Our region’s vibrant arts sector has been impacted by the pandemic in ways that have brought it under extraordinary stress,” said Endowments President Grant Oliphant. “But for many, this has also inspired new and innovative ways of operating, connecting with art patrons, and presenting their art. This slate of grants recognizes both a critical need for operating support and the inventive ways in which arts organizations have faced these challenges.”

The $5.75 million will be divided among 37 organizations, in amounts ranging from $20,000 to $1 million each. Twenty-seven organizations are receiving grants in which 100 percent of the amount is designated for general operating support. 

“The Heinz Endowments recognizes that in this unparalleled time in our region’s creative sector, the primary need for many arts organizations is the relief that funding for general operations can bring,” said Endowments Vice President of Creativity Janet Sarbaugh. “Our hope is that these grants help bring continuity and stability to these organizations as they make the ongoing shifts necessary to soldier through these challenging times, and allow them to concentrate on creating and sharing their art.”

A number of grants are directed to arts organizations that have made especially effective adjustments since the onset of COVID-19, serving as inspiration to other creative entities about what is possible in the current arts climate. 

Among those is the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Receiving $270,000 in funds for general operations from the Endowments during this grant cycle, the Kelly Strayhorn shifted from its usual spring “Full Bloom” fundraiser to a new virtual event planned by a seven-member arts organization collective. “Hotline Ring,” a seven-hour, mid-summer digital production, divided proceeds between the Kelly Strayhorn and other organizations in the collective. 

“It was so much more than a fundraiser,” said Kelly Strayhorn Executive Director Joseph Hall, who began his tenure last winter days before the pandemic was officially announced. “We created it collectively, and in doing so revealed the process about how the Kelly Strayhorn will face the future. The experience tells us that a collective effort - where all have a voice - is how we will get to a place of innovation where all are served.” 

Other organizations receiving grants that have shown particular adaptability include City Theatre, whose well-received “Drive-In Arts Festival” in September at Hazelwood Green featured 12 nights of outdoor music, theater, comedy and dance; City of Asylum, which created “The Show Must Go On(line),” a virtual shared arts programming channel that has featured content from a broad array of regional artists and organizations; and Alumni Theater Company, which has filmed fully produced performances for digital release to ticketholders at specific scheduled dates and times, helping recreate the communal experience of live performance. 

Fifteen of the Endowments’ 37 arts-related grants center on the arts education sector, which has been challenged with adapting to at-home learning platforms since the onset of the pandemic. 

“Our arts education grantees have faced the challenges of COVID-19 head-on, creating high-quality, accessible remote learning content that has proven to be popular with arts education professionals, parents, schools, and students alike,” said Mac Howison, the Endowments’ Program Officer of Creative Learning. 

Carnegie Institute, receiving $325,000 in funds in this grant cycle, has been particularly astute in embracing technology through its Arts Education Collaborative. The Collaborative joined forces with Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time and The Legacy Arts Project on the Creative Learning Rapid Response program, which to date has produced a series of over 55 arts-related educational videos, publicized through the hashtag “#ArtsLearningAtHome.”

Available to all at no cost, the Creative Learning Rapid Response video series provided funding to teaching artists, who were compensated for their video contributions, and has been widely embraced by schools, teachers, parents and students.

Creativity grants have been awarded to the following organizations 
ACH Clear Pathways - $100,000 
Afro-American Music Institute - $50,000 
Alumni Theater Company - $100,000
August Wilson African American Cultural Center - $800,000
Artists Image Resource - $40,000
Bach Choir of Pittsburgh - $20,000
Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation/BOOM Concepts - $75,000
Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation/Level Up - $50,000 
Bricolage Production Company - $50,000    
Calliope House Inc. - $20,000
Carnegie Institute/Arts Education Collaborative - $325,000
Carnegie Mellon University - $38,000
Chamber Music Pittsburgh - $20,000    
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh - $200,000
City of Asylum - $60,000 
City Theatre Company - $95,000 
Community Theater Project Corporation/Kelly Strayhorn Theater - $270,000 
Film Pittsburgh - $40,000
Focus on Renewal Sto-Rox Neighborhood Renewal Corporation - $50,000
The Hawkins Project - $50,000 
Hill Dance Academy Theatre - $75,000
Historical Society of Pittsburgh - $300,000
The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh - $25,000
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre - $210,000 
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust - $775,000
Pittsburgh Entertainment Project - $50,000
The Pittsburgh Foundation/Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh - $1,000,000
The Pittsburgh Foundation/Spotlight PA - $100,000
Pittsburgh Opera - $209,000
Pittsburgh Youth Chorus - $30,000
Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra Association - $20,000
Prime Stage - $40,000 
Public Source - $300,000
River City Brass Band - $70,000
SLB Radio Productions - $50,000 
Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras - $20,000 
Union Project - $30,000


For information contact: 
Scott Roller
The Heinz Endowments
412- 338-2619 /