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Pittsburgh's Cultural Treasures initiative enters second phase

Pittsburgh, Pa, August 18, 2022 – Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures, a shared initiative of The Heinz Endowments, the Ford Foundation and the POISE Foundation, has begun a $3.2 million second phase that will be administered by the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise (PACE) over three years. 

Designed to support the advancement of Black-led cultural groups in Western Pennsylvania, the initiative, representing total investments of $10 million, was launched last year and focuses on expanding the organizational capacity of these groups in the Pittsburgh region’s arts and culture sector to ensure a more sustainable future.

Based in Pittsburgh, PACE supports communities that have been marginalized by helping to strengthen small and mid-sized community-based nonprofits. During this second phase of the Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures initiative (PCTI), PACE will oversee a program that includes grants and coaching and training for up to 30 local organizations. PACE also will provide a series of learning opportunities that members of the broader community will be able to participate in as well.

“In Phase II, we are deliberately seeking to work with organizations that have not been traditionally funded by philanthropies and are looking to increase their organizational capacity,” said Heinz Endowments Arts & Culture Program Officer Shaunda McDill. “This is another step in the initiative’s ultimate goal of strengthening the region’s already historic and remarkable Black arts community by providing support that will have a lasting impact and help Black-led cultural organizations thrive.”

In 2020, the Ford Foundation created its America’s Cultural Treasures initiative in response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need to support underfunded arts organizations led by people of color. As an affiliate of this initiative, PCTI is jointly funded by Ford and the Endowments. The Pittsburgh-based POISE Foundation, America’s oldest Black community foundation, houses the PCTI funds and serves as a partner in its design and management.

At the end of last year, the Endowments awarded a total of $5.4 million to 16 Black-led organizations through the Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures initiative. The amounts of the grants ranged from $150,000 to $1 million, and the organizations were selected based on their leadership in producing work that centers and seeks to advance the people and culture of Black communities in the region.

For the initiative’s second phase, PACE will oversee a capacity-building program for a new group of cultural organizations, expected to total 30 members over three years. Once accepted into the program, each of the participants will receive a one-time unrestricted grant of $10,000 and will join two-year or three-year cohorts for organizational development, networking and mentorship. The organizations may receive additional funding to support critical mission-related work determined during the process.

 “We are thrilled with this opportunity to not only provide these groups with unrestricted financial support, which is always important, but also to help them grow in the ways they deem necessary to secure their future,” Ms. McDill said.

About 160 Black-led cultural organizations from Western Pennsylvania will be invited to information sessions, workshops and other convenings that begin next month to learn about Phase II programming, network with other cultural organizations in the field, and contribute recommendations for initiative components such as workshops and celebratory events, Ms. McDill said. After this initial series of convenings, set to conclude in October, groups from across the region will be invited to apply to participate in the second phase of Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures, with the understanding that a commitment to the overall program is as important as the funding opportunity.

In general, Phase II seeks to select organizations with deep connections to the communities they serve, Ms. McDill explained. “The groups also must demonstrate effective leadership, a motivation for change, realistic and achievable expectations, organizational continuity and flexibility, and objectives that align with PCTI goals,” she said.

The PCTI foundation partners plan to design the application process to provide insight about the organizations’ motivations and the commitment of their leadership, which along with other eligibility criteria, will help determine both the selection of participants and cohort placement.

The specifics of the capacity-building opportunities still have to be determined, in part because input from prospective and participating organizations will be used to shape the program components. Depending on the feedback from organizations, the programming also could include some individual-focused activities such as wellness workshops. 

While all participating groups will be able to take advantage of any of the programs, each also will join “light” or “deep dive” cohorts. According to PACE Executive Director Lucille Dabney, one main difference between the two cohorts will be that those in the “light” group will identify one or two areas of organizational need or improvement that, with an appropriate level of support above the initial $10,000 grants, can be addressed within a limited amount of time and lead to measurable organizational change and growth in a short period.

Organizations in the deep-dive section will be expected to produce a two- to three-year strategic plan created in collaboration with a consultant, she said. Participants in this group also will receive additional funding to implement high-priority areas of their strategic plans, which could lead to multi-year and broader capacity-building support in the future as a result of the comprehensive organizational strategic planning process.

The amount of additional support for organizations in Phase II beyond the $10,000 in unrestricted funds will vary according to each group’s needs, Ms. McDill said. But the grants intended for capacity-building efforts will range from $10,000 to $60,000. A panel curated by PACE that will include artists, local foundation representatives, groups that are members of the Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures and community residents will select the organizations for the program.

“The Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures initiative is a great start to rectifying historic and inequitable funding and other support to arts and cultural organizations that primarily serve the African American community as evidenced in PACE’s Nonprofit Effectiveness Study,” Ms. Dabney said. “We are delighted to partner with The Heinz Endowments and the POISE Foundation to support our region’s cultural treasures.”

The first two information sessions about Phase II of the Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures initiative will be offered virtually from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 21 and from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 26. Organizations interested in registering for the program should email


ADDENDUM (Aug. 30, 2022):

The Sept. 21 and Sept. 26 Phase II information sessions have been named “A Call to Community.”

For further information, contact:
Carmen Lee