The Pittsburgh Foundation

Pittsburgh’s Advancing Black Arts initiative receives $2 million grant from MacKenzie Scott

June 15, 2021... The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh initiative – a joint program of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments – will receive $2 million in the latest round of grants by novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The funding was announced today in her blog post.

In a joint statement, Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation and Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments, said: “This is terrific news and is a wonderful recognition of the canon of Black cultural creativity in Pittsburgh.

“In uplifting this program that for more than a decade has supported artists rooted in the Black experience, this generous grant underscores an invaluable part of Pittsburgh’s rich cultural heritage. We are grateful to MacKenzie Scott for her award that celebrates the organizations and individuals who have received funding from our program, and who continue to contribute to artistic excellence in our community.

“We are extremely proud of the success of our joint Advancing Black Arts initiative, and deeply thankful for this support.”

Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh is among 286 organizations receiving a total of $2.74 billion in grants from Ms. Scott. In announcing the funding, she said that she and her husband chose high-impact organizations in areas and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked.

In her blog post, Ms. Scott stated: “Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health, so we evaluated smaller arts organizations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook.”

The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program is managed and led by Shaunda McDill, Program Officer, Arts and Culture at the Endowments, and Celeste Smith, Senior Program Officer, Arts and Culture at The Pittsburgh Foundation.

“We are grateful for this generous support, and deeply appreciative for the acknowledgement of the critical creative through line that binds artists, entrepreneurs, families and communities in this work,” the two women said in a joint statement.

“The rich contributions that Pittsburgh’s Black creatives have made to our city’s culture have always reflected the expressions, talents and imaginations of people from the African Diaspora,” said Ms. McDill and Ms. Smith. “You will find it emanating from our art, our food, and our attitude. The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program is where access and opportunity connect with Pittsburgh artists who are thriving in their creative process, both as a means and as a way of life.”

The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh initiative was launched in 2010 and since then has awarded 356 grants totaling $6.1 million to support Black artists, increase the sustainability of cultural organizations that focus on Black arts, expand community awareness and support efforts to close the racial divide within the larger arts sector.

Grants from the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program may support individual artists, organizations and performance venues in the southwest Pennsylvania region, as well as national entities that help connect Pittsburgh-based artists with Black artists and arts programming around the United States.

In recent years, grants have ranged from $35,000 in operating support to The Hill Dance Academy Theatre to $15,000 grants for individual Black artists including Mikael Owunna, Alisha Wormsley, and Akmed Khalifa. Overall, Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh aims to elevate regionally based Black artists, their artwork and the overall creative field.

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