Pretty Young Ladies Make a Pretty Big Difference

Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:51 PM Written by

PYL Dance Team


We wanted to share with you news on how the Father Ryan Arts Center has become a focal point for community expression, support and healing.

During the past year, we've been hosting two youth dance teams – Pretty Young Ladies and Dancing Soldiers 412 – led by dedicated volunteer artists and parents. They've been rehearsing and performing at the Father Ryan Arts Center, throughout the area and even in Atlanta and Chicago. The two teams are engaging at-risk youth with compelling activities that promote teamwork and personal development. We've seen remarkable parent engagement in these two talented teams. The teams' successes have attracted other groups, building a dance community for youth centered at the Father Ryan Arts Center.

This week, we were moved when the teams' engagement reached a new level. Pretty Young Ladies' leadership had a personal connection with Kelvin Lovelace, the 14-year-old who was shot and killed on May 17 in East Hills. The dance teams responded to this tragedy by putting together - in just three days - a benefit performance to help the Lovelace family with funeral expenses. The Justice for Kelvin Lovelace Benefit was held last night at Ryan Arts and raised $1,100 for the family.

WPXI covered the performance, which can be viewed, here.

We've been focused on making sure the Father Ryan Arts Center serves the needs of the entire community so we're pleased that Ryan Arts could plan a catalytic role in a time of crisis. We're gratified to see the arts begin to play a larger role in this community.

All the best,

Greg Quinlan
Executive Director
Focus on Renewal
701 Chartiers Avenue
McKees Rocks, PA 15136
(412) 331-1685 Ext. 306
(412) 771-2943 Fax
(412) 600-5606 Cell


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Last week, I visited Kopp Glass in Swissvale, a company that has been in operation and humbly booming for more than one hundred years. Originally known as the Pittsburgh Lamp, Brass, and Glass Company, these days Kopp is to aviation glass what Heinz is to ketchup. Not nearly as visible as its ketchup counterpart, Kopp is tucked away about a mile from Rankin’s Carrie Furnaces on a short stretch of historic brick boulevard, cropped short by the emergence of the busway and modern developments.

Kopp Glass building edited-1The entire Kopp plant and especially the main building is a beauty, earning credentials as a national historic site, with a fresh paint job and an American flag big enough to wrap around a city bus. The year “1899” prominently figures into the façade of the main building, asserting its history.

Standing in front of the building, I spun around to look up the hill toward Columbia Avenue.  I imagined my French ancestors working at this glass factory all day and then walking up that hill to their house on Columbia Ave. My great grandpa and his older brother Joe were both skilled glassblowers from near Lyon, France. By 1900 both of them decided that it was time to get out of France and go someplace nice- like Pittsburgh.

Back then there were glass factories in Long Island, Eastern and Western PA, Ohio. Once my ancestors got to Pittsburgh, they found themselves working for the up and coming Nicholas Kopp. Nicholas Kopp was a glassblower who accidentally discovered red selenium glass, the first type of glass that could emit a high quality red light. Another Pittsburgh claim! The discovery turned out to be his serendipity and started the company on a path to more scientific processes and more lucrative business partnerships. The need for glass and the kind of glassware that would be in demand was about to change dramatically with the growing popularity of electric light and America’s industrialization. So, my artistic ancestors started making less decorative and more scientific glass.

At Kopp Glass, I met the Vice President of Sales and Marketing who was as generous and accommodating as could be, offering an overview of the company and showed me some of their wares. Kopp makes some amazing glass like prismatic lenses, night vision filters, colored glass, railroad lights, air field landing lights, EMI resistant glass for aircraft that deflects lightning (which I believe is Asgardian tech), and they still make hand blown glass.

Our conversation switched to a banker box containing notebooks, photos, and documents linked to my ancestors. Anecdotal pieces of my family history were verified and holes in stories began to fill in as I looked at the contents of the box. The most remarkable items were the handwritten notebooks filled with skilled glass blowers’ recipes for different colors of glass. Those 100 year old notebooks contained homespun instructions and measurements passed on in a mix of French, German, and English jargon from even older sources. 

Kopp Glass photo - people edited-1

Kopp himself had spent time recording glass recipes dictated to him by an old, blind master glass artist in Germany. Turns out my cousin Constant came home from WWI and figured out how to translate the collected recipes into the correct chemical names and measurements. He also created a code system so the old timers could follow the batch instructions. That was all so long ago I wasn’t expecting to feel close to it, but it felt very familiar when the handwriting in the notebooks looked just like my Great Uncle John’s.

My great grandpa’s older brother Joe married Nicholas Kopp’s sister, Adele Kopp, which made him a shareholder, raising his status in the company. Meanwhile, my great grandpa, Pete, married my French peasant great grandmother and had a lower position in the company. Apparently, the class division caused a rift between the brothers and my great grandpa forever carried around the bitterness of being on the losing side of sibling rivalry. Such an artist! Great Grandpa Pete’s older brother’s descendants, my cousins I suppose, still have shares in the company. (Note to self: Marry the boss’ sister.)   

Kopp Glass globes edited-1

I feel like a lucky time traveler to have visited Kopp, learning more about my family’s history with the company. We also talked ideas of how Kopp might be able to support or even collaborate with today's Pittsburgh Arts Non-Profit scene and I connected them with a conservator who can help them find a better place to store their historical documents - other than a banker box.

My job is to promote Pittsburgh’s arts scene and to highlight opportunities for the arts. So maybe it is fitting that my own family ended up here because of opportunities for artists 100 years ago. To complete the loop I want to point out that Kopp is hiring in almost every department right now. They just hired a glass Phd actually. You can learn all about current opportunities at Kopp on their website, here.        



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Taco Salad and Democracy in Harrisburg

Monday, 11 May 2015 02:33 PM Written by

State Capitol with people walking

Tuesday is taco salad day at the Pennsylvania State Capitol cafeteria. I hear they're really tasty. Maybe I'll get a chance to try one tomorrow (May 12) when staff from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (including me) lead a SWPA delegation to Harrisburg for the annual Arts & Culture Legislative Visits Day. We'll be joining nearly 100 arts & culture advocates from across the Commonwealth, as well as advocates representing interest areas from firearms rights to ALS treatment to environmental regulations - lots of politically active groups turn out when the PA General Assembly is in session, and Tuesday is one of those days.

Yes, democracy in action, a chance to interact directly with our elected representatives. But I suspect some of us may be drawn there, at least in part, by the taco salads.

But, we'll have to see about cramming in tomorrow's lunch, because our schedule's looking pretty full. After all, for the arts & culture, it's an exciting time in Harrisburg, with a new Governor, many new elected representatives and committee chairs, budget debates, and a range of hot-button issues affecting the nonprofit arts industry, for example: 1) the prospect of lifting tax exemptions from admissions to museums and historic sites to generate new tax revenues, and 2) Senate Bill 4, on who is to decide the tax-exempt status of non-profit organizations - the judicial or legislative branch?

Our delegation will be meeting with these legislators and/or their staffs this year:
Sen. Jay Costa, District 43
Sen. Wayne Fontana, District 42
Sen. Matt Smith, District 37
Sen. Randy Vulakovich, District 38
Rep. Paul Costa, District 34
Rep. Dan Deasy, District 27
Rep. Dan Frankel, District 23
Rep. Mark Mustio, District 44
Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, District 20
Rep. Jake Wheatley, District 19

Now, actually finding the offices in time for the appointments can be a challenge. On the Senate side, there's actually an elevator. For the rest of it, we're schlepping.

Once there, these meetings are often about relationship-building. The elected officials like to hear about the activities of arts & culture organizations in their districts and how they are serving the public. GPAC will have information on hand about grants to each district from Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the PA Museums and Historical Commissions, counts of creative industry businesses by district, and reports on the economic impacts of the arts & culture in the SW PA region. We always try to include at least one constituent from the official's district who can share their personal stories of the arts in their community.

But make no mistake, there are "asks" to be made and objectives to be achieved during these visits – it's not just about the taco salads. This year we will seek commitments, for example, to:

  • Increase Pennsylvania Council on the Arts per capita funding from its current ranking of 26th nationwide to $1.66 per capita
  • Re-establish the Governor's School for the Arts
  • Increase the cap on the PA Film Production Tax Credit Program

One new "ask" stems from GPAC and statewide partners such as the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Citizens for the Arts in PA to develop aspirational policy goals based, in part, on review of other states' policy innovations. This new ask is "to pass legislation that provides tax incentives and technical assistant to create arts & culture districts in PA."

Our rationale: "Cultural districts are a proven success in drawing residents and visitors, creating a destination that supports local businesses and attracts residents. They build upon existing infrastructure, such as historic building and performing arts venues, around which new investment occurs. Cultural district designations and tax credits create a tipping point for the redevelopment of population centers as focal points for community engagement."

Rep. Dan Deasy will likely be putting forth legislation about cultural districts in this session, so we particularly look forward to meeting with him. GPAC will keep in touch about the results of these meetings and will share opportunities for you to get involved going forward.

David B. Pankratz is the Research & Policy Director at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council





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Unsung - Chamber Music Ed

Following Matt Lehrman’s packed AudiencesEverywhere presentation last month at the Senator John Heinz History Center, the arts-centric audience was given the opportunity to hear from local arts groups about ways they are involving the community in what they do. The goal of the day was to get arts non-profits thinking in new ways about audience engagement - critical to the success of arts non-profits, anywhere.

Led by Brett Crawford of the Arts Management & Technology Laboratory at CMU, the panel consisted of janera solomon, Executive Director at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater; Kristen Linfante, Executive Director of Chamber Music Pittsburgh; Lucy Stewart, Associate Curator of Education at the Carnegie Museum of Art; and Erin R. Perry, CEO/Executive Director of the Legacy Arts Project.

janera soloman started things off with a discussion on how the Kelly Strayhorn develops its season of theater, dance, and jazz performances. “How can we connect audiences with each other and what we’re interested in?” she asked. “We start with the assumption that no one cares.”

One of the Kelly Strayhorn team’s strategies is to present performances they find interesting -- these may have small audience interest but would be a remarkable experience for those that did attend. And, hopefully, these events would be a stepping stone to building future audiences.

Chamber Music Pittsburgh’s Linfante segued into the need to develop audiences for the future. The group was facing a problem confronting other classical music organizations -- classical music was for the elderly and the elite. In fact, a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the results of a survey conducted by the Pittsburgh Symphony. It wasn’t good -- potential audience members responded in the negative with remarks like “old” and “boring.”

As a result, Linfante and her team is hoping to move away from those assumptions.  They have changed the name of the organization from the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society to Chamber Music Pittsburgh and are beginning to do things differently

“We want to make the community feel they belong,” she noted. To that end, the organization began an annual Just Summer Series with performances at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, the Pittsburgh Performs series with all-Pittsburgh musicians, and concerts in non-concert venues like bars, restaurants, and rooftops.

“Who is programming and exhibitions for?” asked Lucy Stewart from the Carnegie Museum of Art. “How do we make art relevant?”  To answer her question, she talked about the Braddock Art Lending Library project. The Art Lending Collection, which opened in 2013 as part of the Carnegie International, allows anyone in Allegheny County with a library card to check out works of art, just as someone would check out a book. In addition, two patrons of the library were hired to provide information to visitors about the art.

She also mentioned the “Culture Club: Old Masters, New Music” event in which local composers were asked to select works of art from the 16th Century and write music to be performed at the museum.

Erin R. Perry of the Legacy Arts Project emphasized her organization’s connection to the community: “We are the community we’re developing programming for,” she said.  As a community arts organization, they are concerned about social justice and making a connection with the community.

Another means of connection used by the Legacy Arts Project is the use of “transformance,” a way by which an audience is not just spectators at the event but part of the experience.

She also mentioned the spotlighting of important community individuals in the Project’s newsletter as well as a listing of other events happening in the area. “It’s like the ripples in a pond after throwing a stone,” she said.

Image: Kristen Linfante, Chamber Music Pittsburgh's Executive Director, courtesy of Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council


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Questions for Ana Alba of Alba Conservation

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 10:44 AM Written by

Annamember edited-1Who are you? Some kind of a conservator or something?
Who am I? I'm still working on that one. I consider it a work in progress. Maybe a similar question would be "How did you get into conservation?"

Go on.
I got an undergraduate degree in Art History and wanted to try for something a little more hands on. After fulfilling pretty intensive prerequisites, I was accepted into the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Dept. Following graduation, I was an intern and then contractor at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and then was awarded a fellowship in the conservation of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington D.C. I grew up in Export though my family moved away when I was in the third grade. I came to know and love Pittsburgh revisiting the city later in life.

Go Export! You recently moved here from New York? I hear that the arts are kind of a big deal there. By comparison what strengths or weaknesses have you noticed in Pittsburgh's arts community?
Yes- I just moved here from NYC. There are lots of differences in the two scenes and I find Pittsburgh's art scene to be refreshing, compared to the stiffness of the NY gallery scene. The New York art scene, though exciting, fits the stereotype so well. Plus, many people's experiences of NY's art scene is through their camera lenses. I love that the Pittsburgh art scene represents a wider variety of people and the events are open and welcoming. The art is more accessible and there are more ways to interact with the artists involved and understand how it relates to Pittsburgh as a city.

Go Pittsburgh! Maybe this is too elementary but for the enlightenment of all readers can you explain what a conservator does?
Many people don't know what a conservator does and how it differs from art restoration. Conservators are generally graduates of a recognized Conservation MA or MS program where we are trained in the preservation, conservation, and maintenance of artwork. Conservators adhere to a code of ethics that stresses minimal intervention, reversibility and documentation. Aside from the actual restoration process, we are trained in the science of the materials, analysis, and prevention of further deterioration. Restoration is the act of aesthetically returning a piece back to its assumed original state. I'm trying to educate people on that difference with my own work and outreach.

Cool. We need conservators. Can you tell me about one of your favorite conservation projects?
One of my favorite previous treatments, which combined both research and hands on treatment, involved removing 15 year old ketchup from the surface of a Frank Stella painting while at the National Gallery of Art. Ketchup got on the artwork when two children were playing in the gallery with ketchup packets. The ketchup was analyzed to determine insoluble components that might remain on the surface. What remained of the ketchup was removed, and the surface was retouched, as the acidic nature of the ketchup had affected the surface quality and appearance of the painting. I even called Heinz to ask what could have been in the ketchup but got no response.

That makes sense because Heinz' ketchup recipe is a guarded Pittsburgh secret. That's why Heinz ketchup is the best of all ketchups. What are you working on now?
My work now is mostly focused on building connections and education. Pittsburgh is a small city in that you can meet a few people and have connections to most anyone in the art scene. The more information I can share about conservation, the larger the field can grow and people can become more active in preserving their art and cultural heritage. I have started to make client connections but that takes time. I will be exhibiting at the upcoming Preservation Fair at the end of the Month. I encourage anyone who has a work of art or photograph to come and meet their local conservators.

Pittsburgh is obsessed with its own history. We really do love our past but ironically preservation has not been a consistent priority throughout our renaissances - we've parted with a long list of beautiful architecture, a historic jazz district, public art, and various other panels of our cultural quilt. What should we as proud Pittsburghers be focused on preserving now before it is too late?
Conservation education ties into people's understanding of preserving history on a grander scale. I can't speak about the architecture here, because I've only been here a few months and haven't seen the changes that other long-time residents have. But, I do feel the key to preservation is education. Once people know what is possible, they're willing to fight and preserve what's left, especially if they want the city to retain its character during periods of growth and change. I hope it does.

Me too. So, I'd like to ask you about the conservation of digital art. How is that going to work? Some really smart guy at Google coined the term "Digital Dark Age". Is there a movement in the conservator community to address that concern, like a Digital Monk preserving monastic code? Someone tell the Google guy I coined "Digital Monk".
Digital conservation is totally a big thing. There exist specialists that deal with generational loss and file corruption. Museums with collections of digital and electronic media are forming initiatives and special conservation labs to address their particular needs. Museums are also taking the lead in interviewing living artists to determine how to best preserve their media. So much of the conservation process involves archiving the needs and expectations of the artist and determining how to appropriately exhibit pieces into the future. There is a whole MA program at the Tisch school of art at NYU in moving image archiving and preservation that deal more specifically with this.

This is really interesting and I could keep asking you questions. But we only have so much time and I don't want you to bill me. So what are you looking for as an arts professional in Pittsburgh and how can GPAC help?
Since I am on a mission of education, I am looking for ways to interact with the public. I'm also looking for ways in which the art scene overlaps. Since everyone is connected somehow, it's nice to discover upcoming events that force mixing and mingling. I am also looking for ways to meet more artists. It's very helpful to see them at work and learn about their materials and techniques because it informs my work and how I would approach treatment. The artist's intent is all important when knowing what to preserve or if a work should be preserved. On many occasions, conservators have worked with artists to inform them about what they're using and how to better use the materials they have, without influencing the vision or final outcome.

How can people get in touch with you if they want to hire you or invite you to something?
Contact me through Alba Art Conservation's website or come meet me in person at the upcoming Preservation Fair happening on March 28, 2015 at Carnegie Music Hall. Details on the Preservation Fair can be found here


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Advocating for Arts & Culture - D.C. style

Monday, 23 March 2015 11:14 AM Written by

State Capitol rotunda detail-1 edited-1

You may remember a time in the early 90s when the National Endowment for the Arts was the object of great political controversy for having supported (however indirectly) contemporary art works deemed obscene or sacrilegious by some vocal, political activists. Some objections were over content, others rejected the very idea that funding the arts and culture, however minimal the dollars spent at the federal level compared to the private sector, was something the federal government should do.

Since that time, the NEA has generated less controversy and less "bad" news. There are good reasons for this. The NEA, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, has made certain that ordinary Americans are more integral to its decision-making about grant-making. The agency has also broadened its focus to serve an even more diverse range of constituencies. There's the Our Town initiative which uses the arts in "creative placemaking" programs to revitalize urban, rural, and suburban communities. Another publicly popular initiative is Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the NEA, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and 2,000+ museums across America to offer free admission to the nation's active-duty military personnel and their families.

So, with such good will already generated by these and other programs, why is the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, on March 23-24 leading the SWPA delegation to National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, an annual gathering of several hundred arts & culture advocates from around the country? Well, it's not only to hear Norman Lear, the legendary TV producer, who will deliver the 28th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on the Arts & Public Policy at the Kennedy Center.

No, we go primarily because it's a special opportunity to demonstrate to our elected officials how the arts & culture can continue to serve a range of public purposes if there is support and funds for the NEA, the arts education programs of the U.S. Department of Education, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We'll also talk about how preserving charitable giving to the arts, tax fairness for artists and writers, and protection of Internet neutrality are essential for a vibrant American culture.

Our delegation, using a mix of the latest research on the public benefits of the arts and our own stories, will share our messages with the offices of Representatives Mike Doyle, Keith Rothfus, Tim Murphy, and Mike Kelly, and Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.

Another upside to the trip? We get the chance to meet with our PA colleagues from Citizens for the Arts in PA and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance to discuss PA arts policy issues, such as the potential implications of Governor Wolf's budget proposal for the arts and culture.

An integral part of our delegation is 13 students in the Master of Arts Management program at Carnegie Mellon University. Arts Advocacy Day is a chance to show these future arts administrators how becoming an advocate will be an essential part of their job descriptions going forward.

You can download your own Congressional Arts Handbook, here and read up on the latest facts, figures, and federal issues in the arts.


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Not Just Another Inconvenient Truth

Thursday, 19 March 2015 10:19 AM Written by


audienceeverywhere banner

Matt Lehrman wants you to be extraordinary.

Lehrman brought his Audiences Everywheretm workshop to the Senator John Heinz Regional History Center last week, to a full house. Sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and Patron Manager, in attendance were artistic directors, marketers, and curators from non-profits that included museums, theater companies, and music organizations from the Pittsburgh area.

At the start of his presentation, Lehrman said he didn’t expect the things he would be talking about to work in every city.

But referring to a recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts on arts participation of adults in America, he reported that this activity had fallen from 39% in 1982 to 33.3% in 2012. And Lehrman was less than reassuring in letting us know this drop had occurred in cities across the country. In addition, using household data (1.2 million households during a 5-year timeframe) from Phoenix, Arizona (where he is Interim Managing Director of the Arizona Theatre Company), Lehrman presented data showing the rate of return visits by individuals to theaters and museums: 80% of the households had just one visit to an arts group during that period. The numbers for the Pittsburgh area are not much different – about 75%.

So how do non-profits relying on audiences visitors get people to attend and -- more importantly -- come back? “Our enemy is empty seats,” he said. “An empty seat never recommended anything to anyone.”

Lehrman suggested many ways to build an audience including changing an organization’s PUSH paradigm from MISSION, CURATION, MARKETING, AUDIENCE INTEREST to a PULL paradigm made up of MISSION, AUDIENCE INTEREST, CURATION, ENGAGE. Because, he said, an audience comes to an event for their values, not yours.  This change would take into account what an audience might be interested in before an artistic director or curator developed a theater season or a museum exhibit. Otherwise, he emphasized, you’re just selling a product:  “More marketing has started from the need to sell rather than the need to buy,” he noted.

The workshop ended with Lehrman asking the attendees to name their “extraordinary” -- what are they doing that is inspiring or relevant?  The need now is to get people out of the house to participate in extraordinary experiences.

As an example of bringing together the arts and a community, he told us about the Opera Memphis Sears Crosstown Building project. Once a thriving shopping area, the building was closed in 1993. However, Opera Memphis commissioned composers to write short operas about the people who worked, shopped, or lived near the building. 

Why is being extraordinary so important in the arts today?  According to Lehrman, “The arts and cultural sector is on thin ice.”  It’s our own inconvenient truth.


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The Cost of Art?

Thursday, 26 February 2015 12:06 PM Written by

Did you ever wonder what is the real cost of presenting superior art?

Great art requires great artists, working hard to make a living, as well as organizations to present it. In the world of music, the costs include the musicians themselves but also the performance space, the organization’s staff, and all of its daily operating expenses. So what is the real cost of presenting a concert?

The Pittsburgh Music Alliance is a collaboration of five organizations in town: The Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, Chamber Music Pittsburgh, Chatham Baroque, The Pittsburgh Camerata, and Renaissance & Baroque. These organizations work together on a variety of efforts, helping one another in building the rich offerings of musical performance in Pittsburgh. Recently we looked at the real cost of presenting great art, and the members did an exercise looking at the cost per attendee. That cost ranges from $58 to $83 dollars per person. Yet the ticket prices are much lower than that, perhaps one half of the actual cost and often even less. The standard ticket prices range up to $46, a little more than half of the performance’s actual cost of $83, and student ticket prices can be as low as $12.


On the one hand, we want to bring audiences the finest works and musicians, and those goals have significant costs. On the other hand, we want to make sure that your ticket prices are low enough to accommodate all who might want to see the show. So there is a certain “art” to bring the art to audiences. In the process, arts organizations depend on a variety of revenue in order to cover the difference between ticket price and actual cost. This is part of the math of running a nonprofit organization.

The difference comes in philanthropic support, in the form of grants, volunteerism, and individual giving. For us to present programs with the excellence you want to experience - without the fundraising and behind the scenes efforts of volunteers - your ticket might cost far more. However, because of the generous support of so many, prices for PMA organizations have been stable and affordable.

Now for the best part: You can always help. Probably the easiest way to help is to spread the word about performances. Each new ticket sold helps to bring down the per-ticket cost. The more, the merrier! Second, please do keep this in mind as you approach your charitable giving. Often people become more and more committed to the success of an organization, and they show that increasing support through charitable gifts. Those gifts help to keep ticket prices lower, which might help us to reach new audiences…which might ultimately produce another committed patron in time.

For all that you do to support music, thank you. 

Photo: Mickey Miller


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Culture Count 2015

Thursday, 19 February 2015 08:58 AM Written by

 first-numbers 1 edited-1There are 350 arts & culture organizations in Allegheny County, and 143 more in the surrounding counties of Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland.  Well, at least there were in 2010 when the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) did its first "Culture Count." 

With Culture Count 2015, GPAC wants to learn how many cultural organizations are here now, and how they are similar and different they are five years later.  Plus, as a reflection of GPAC's goal to serve individual artists more effectively, we want to learn how many working artists there are in SWPA and some key facts about them. 

GPAC’s partner in this project is the Cultural Data Project (CDP), a Philadelphia-based national organization that gathers, tracks, and analyzes data on the arts & culture sector for use by funders, policy-makers, researchers, and cultural institutions.     

As in 2010, the project defines arts & culture quite broadly.  The Performing Arts category includes theater and dance companies of all kinds, and music ensembles ranging from bands, jazz ensembles, and choirs, to orchestras, opera companies, and concert presenters.  Another group comprises visual art museums, media centers, and galleries, science and nature museums and sites, and history archives and libraries.  Finally, we’ll be counting community-based arts and arts educations programs. 

In addition to counting such institutions in our region by category, we’ll learn about variations and similarities in their budget sizes, financial structure, geographic locales and distribution, years founded, numbers of employees, paid and unpaid attendance figures, and whether institutions are led by or serve specific cultural traditions, disabilities, or orientations.  With artists we’ll learn, in part, their artistic discipline, whether they’re full time or part time, and how long they’ve been a working artist in SW PA.  

So what to do with all this information?  Having complete, up-to-date information means GPAC will be able to respond to data requests of all kinds from artists and the arts & culture organizations it serves, from business and economic development partners, and from elected officials at the local, regional, and statewide level.  To make the data user-friendly, GPAC will work with CDP to create a variety of maps, data visualizations, and customized district-level reports.  In the longer-term, Culture Count 2015 data can also provide a reliable, comprehensive foundation for further research on the arts & culture sector in SW PA.    

Are you an individual artist or someone affiliated with an area arts & culture organization?  If so, please go this link ( and take 5 minutes to fill out the Culture Count 2015 questionnaire.   Thanks!

Just curious about Culture Count 2015 or related research projects of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, please contact David B. Pankratz, Research & Policy Director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412.391.2060, x232


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Singing a Song for the Unsung Majority

Friday, 06 February 2015 01:47 PM Written by

Large arts organizations bestride the cultural landscape in Allegheny County like the Colossus at Rhodes. But there are many smaller groups -- theater, music, dance -- that are an essential component of the arts scene in our area.

The Unsung Majority,” a report released in October of last year, was designed to start a conversation about how these arts groups, with budgets under $1.5 million, work -- and work together.  Some of the topics covered by the report included the financial strength of an organization, the talent pool available to a group, and whether or not an organization is part of a community of like-minded creative people.

“The report,” said David Pankratz, Research & Policy Director at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, “represents a recognition of the majority of arts and cultural organizations in Pittsburgh.”

The Consortium of Small Arts Funders, made up of GPAC, the Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the McCune Foundation, and the Allegheny Regional Asset District, recognized there was little information available on grant making and other ways to support these local arts groups.

According to Pankratz, the report would provide information on these small and mid-size groups -- their character, challenges, and strengths.  “It was a good opportunity to take a look that hadn’t been done before,” he said.

GPAC was involved in every step of the process of developing the report including defining how the research would be conducted, data collection, and reviewing drafts.  In addition, GPAC unveiled “The Unsung Majority” at a one-day public event held at the Hill House Kaufmann Center on October 28th that included a series of panels and break-out sessions covering every phase of the report.

According to Pankratz the public release was an opportunity to say: “Okay, here’s where we are” and the panels gave people in the arts community a chance to reflect on what was in the report and the work that still needs to be done.

Not surprisingly, one of the key findings of the report concerned the difficulties that smaller and mid-sized arts organizations have in successfully marketing a new work -- not only the knowledge needed to produce such a campaign but also the costs involved. To address this need, Matt Lehrman of Audiences Avenue will be coming to the Senator John Heinz History Center on March 10th to help the Pittsburgh arts and culture community learn more about the tools and strategies that can help them to reach larger audiences. Information on this event can be found, here

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