Pulse: Chatter: Arts: The Lame Trend

Stingy local corporations stiffing the arts

Several weeks ago, when the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance released a voluminous report on the area’s cultural organizations, it found paltry financial support for such groups from local government. No surprise there: When the city’s teenage denizens are offing each other at an alarming rate, supporting modern dance might slide down the list of priorities. But the report also included another depressing footnote about Philly’s cultural landscape: Local corporate donations were responsible for just two percent of area arts groups’ total income. The number is disheartening enough on its face — and downright ­demoralizing when compared to past levels of donations. In 1998, for example, local companies were responsible for five percent of arts groups’ total income — at a time when there were significantly fewer arts groups.

There are many possible reasons why our corporate community is slacking off these days: a so-so economy, our status as a branch-­office town, changing giving patterns, a lack of leadership. And some companies are stepping up; Advanta, for one, recently started a grant program for smaller local arts and culture groups. But there’s little doubt where such cultural parsimony could lead: to a city that is less able to attract and retain a quality workforce. How’s that for an effective business model?

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