The governor’s office announced Tuesday that pandemic relief grants totaling $20 million have been approved for 164 museums and cultural groups across the commonwealth, including 44 in Philadelphia.
The grants, made through the COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program, are sprinkled across 36 counties, and are intended to offset revenue losses attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Philadelphia, they range from a high of $500,000 — for the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and other cultural heavyweights — to $25,000 for smaller organizations like the Brandywine Workshop, Smith Memorial Playground, Theatre Exile, and the American Swedish Historical Museum.
Gov. Tom Wolf said that the pandemic “severely inhibited” the ability of cultural organizations “to fulfill their cultural mission.” The funding, he said, "will be used to offset the impact the pandemic had on these organizations and will help them move forward in their recovery efforts as they begin to welcome visitors back in their doors.”
At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, president and chief executive David Brigham said the grant of $482,000 to PAFA amounts to “a breath of fresh air.”
“We expect about a million dollar loss in earned income this year,” he said. “This makes a big difference.”
Gail Harrity, president and chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, noted that the grants are being made to many different institutions, all blindsided by lost revenue from the COVID-19 shutdown. At the Art Museum, the $500,000 award “will cover the substantial COVID-19-related costs we have incurred in reopening our museum," she said.
At the Kimmel Center, a spokesperson said the center’s $500,000 would be used for everything from keeping the main Kimmel complex, the Academy of Music, and Merriam Theater “safe and secure” to continued development of COVID-19 countermeasures to protect audiences, artists, and staff upon reopening.
Scott Stephenson, head of the Museum of the American Revolution, said that museum’s grant of $366,732 will bring the museum “very close" to matching its loss of earned income this year.
“That’s incredible,” Stephenson said.
Mann Center president and CEO Catherine M. Cahill said her organization’s $500,000 grant represents a “critical” step in reaching the $2 million goal for the Mann’s “resiliency fund” drive. The Mann normally covers nearly three-quarters of its budget with earned revenue like ticket sales and rentals, but was not able to open to the public this summer.
At the Fabric Workshop and Museum, on Arch Street, executive director Christina Vassallo said the grant of $26,014 is a “welcome relief” and will go a long way toward covering a projected 7% in lost revenue this year.
Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown said she was happy to receive $32,993, although she said it doesn’t go very far. “It’s about two weeks of payroll and electric, gas, and phone,” she said. “You take it and think, ‘OK, that’s another two weeks.'"
The National Constitution Center will receive $476,559, which executive vice president and COO Vince Stango said would be used to bolster educational efforts.
“The COVID-19 grant program is a much needed lifeline for so many institutions across the state who have struggled through the pandemic,” said Patricia Wellenbach, president and CEO of the Please Touch Museum. “The positive impact of the $250,000 for PTM is that it gives us additional resources to support the Museum as we prepare to open in 2021.”
Sara Jane Elk, president and chief executive at Eastern State Penitentiary, said that her organization gets about 80% of its income from gate receipts — a large chunk coming from tourists. The state grant of $313,181 will “basically help out with general operating support,” she said.
Elk said it was her belief, one shared by many in the region’s $4 billion-plus cultural sector, that another round of funding will be necessary as recession and pandemic continue to engulf the area.
“There are so many needy cultural institutions,” she said.