Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment — which granted the right to vote to half the country’s population. To mark the milestone, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is planning a celebration that will emphasize how women claimed space in the art world and include 50 to 60 works of art by women.
Normally at this time, museum employees at PAFA would be in constant contact with their colleagues at the National Endowment for the Arts about the grant proposal for the celebration, asking questions and working out answers to write an application that would give the project the best chance of succeeding in a competitive process.
But these aren’t normal times. Employees of the endowment are furloughed because of the partial federal government shutdown, now in its 31st day.
“NEA is a foundation that helps us bring art to the public,” said Brooke Davis Anderson, museum director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. “If we can’t apply for grants because their staff can’t work, that puts some of our public programs at risk in the future.”
That includes the 19th Amendment celebration, scheduled for the summer of 2020.
“Even though it sounds like it’s far away, it’s actually not,” Anderson said.
PAFA has until next month to apply for the Art Works federal grant. Meanwhile, "we don’t have the full resources available to us to write the best of grants that we can,” Anderson said.
Depending on the length of the shutdown, the government could push back the grant application deadline, which could push back distribution of the grants. As of now, November is the earliest that grant applicants would hear back about the success of their proposals.
PAFA needs to know by the end of the year whether it will get the funds — in the high five figures, she said — it needs for the celebration. The grant would represent about a quarter of the cost. If the project isn’t funded six months before it is scheduled, it’s questionable whether it can happen, Anderson said.
She said she hopes the shutdown ends soon, so she and her colleagues have time to gain support from the federal agency for the exhibition.
The endowment supports PAFA exhibitions, educational programs, and publications. When a museum project has the support of the federal agency, "it elevates the stature and interest in the project immediately,” Anderson said. "It alerts everybody to the importance of the project.”
While PAFA waits with the rest of the country to hear when the shutdown will end, the academy’s museum is open free to furloughed federal workers and their families. The hope, Anderson said, is that federal workers unable to work can come and be inspired.