While the state budget that Gov. Tom Corbett signed yesterday signals tough times for schools, among other important constituencies, the arts escaped relatively unscathed.
The new budget allocated $9.14 million to the Pennsylvania on the Arts, almost all of that dedicated to funding grants for arts groups and individual artists.
While that represents a 1 percent cut from last year's PCA allocation -- already down 40 percent after three years of tight budgets -- it's a far cry from the nearly 75 percent cut in the budget proposed last month by the majority-Republican state House.
In a June 30 press release, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council went so far as to call the final budget "arts-friendly." GPAC had spent the couple of weeks since that House budget was announced encouraging citizens to write their elected officals to restore the funding.
GPAC feels the cries were heard. Meanwhile, it couldn't have hurt that the arts have a big advocate in the governor's mansion: less the governor himself than First Lady Susan Corbett, whose husband had appointed her PCA board chair.
Gov. Corbett's own budget proposal, in fact, had included $9.2 million for the PCA.
The Corbetts hail from Shaler. Among other arts connections, Susan Corbett is former head of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, which stages the Drue Heinz Lecture Series. She's served on the PCA board since 2002, when she was a Mark Schweiker appointee (and she was re-appointed by Ed Rendell.)
After the Republican-majority House cut PCA funding, Susan Corbett actually joined Democratic legislators in publicly calling for its restoration. And arts advocates like GPAC chief Mitch Swain, for instance, typically mention her when discussing prospects for state arts funding.
Frankly, it also couldn't have hurt that restoring PCA funding wasn't that hard to do fiscally: That $9.14 million represents about .03 percent of the $27.15 billion budget, or 3 cents for every hundred budget dollars.
As to the importance of PCA funding, in the fiscal year just ended, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, the PCA "made 1,322 grants to 596 arts organizations and supported 726 arts projects statewide." A great many Pittsburgh arts groups get at least some PCA funding.
GPAC is encouraging everyone to call their state legislators and thank them for funding the PCA at the current level. Find your legislator here.