Public safety and education may have been the big topics in the mayoral primary, but many still consider arts and culture an important component in the city's growth. Under the John Street administration, however, the arts community has had no relevance. The two candidates for mayor have given indications that could soon change.
In 2004, Street's proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year cut $4 million of funding for arts and culture and eliminated Carol Lawrence's position as the deputy city representative of Arts and Culture. With Street finally on his way out, art-starved residents are looking forward to new ideas and a dialogue on the subject from Republican Al Taubenberger and Democrat Michael Nutter. That dialogue began last week at the dedication of the new Miguel Angel Corzo Creative Economy Center at the University of the Arts. Corzo, the university president who is heading off next month for The Colburn School in Los Angeles, leaves behind a legacy of securing $50 million from Campbell Soup heiress Dorrance "Dodo" Hamilton, thus increasing the school's overall endowment to $75 million.
Corzo said in a recent interview that the business community must become more involved with the arts community and that art is just as important to economic growth as other industries. He said he sees this city as a cultural treasure, yet more can be done.
Taubenberger said that if elected, he would resurrect the defunct city Office of Arts and Culture, hire a staff and promote the arts. "Art generates more revenue than sports," said Taubenberger who, for additional arts funding, has proposed taking 5 percent from other city departments' budgets.
Before he won the Democratic primary earlier this month, Nutter issued a three-page position paper on the arts. Nutter also will reopen the Arts and Culture Office and calls for increasing city funding to the Cultural Fund by $1 million in his first year with a goal of raising the operating budget to at least $6 million by the end of his first term [News, "The Bottom Line: Arts and Culture," Doron Taussig, April 19, 2007].
While the arts have clearly been de-emphasized during the past seven and a half years, it's unlikely that the city's cultural renaissance, started in the administrations preceding Street, has been undone.
When Ed Rendell took office as mayor in 1992, the city was at a critically low point. With a bond rating that had sunk to junk status and no way to pay its bills, the last thing anyone was thinking about was arts and culture. But once Rendell balanced the budget, negotiated city workers' salaries and pulled the city from its financial nightmare, he began to promote the city and, specifically, its arts community.
He developed Avenue of the Arts, started the "Make it a Night" campaign to attract visitors to Center City on Wednesday evenings and began a restaurant resurgence that attracted locals, suburbanites and tourists alike.
The night that Corzo was honored, economics professor Richard Florida [Cover Story, "I Can Fix Your City," Daniel Brook, Sept. 12, 2002] gave a lecture at UArts. He stressed that attracting creative people to live and work in cities is the solution to boosting an economically solid infrastructure. Corzo agrees with Florida, and gave examples of how Chicago has benefited from its Magnificent Mile, a strip that includes fine restaurants and cultural attractions for visitors. Corzo sees Broad and Market as an area that can be similarly utilized.
Oliver St. Clair Franklin, president and CEO of Interna-tional House Philadelphia and Honorary British Consul, said that the next mayor must use a bully pulpit to rally support for the arts. Franklin has firsthand knowledge of how the system should work; he was the first deputy of Arts and Culture under former Mayor Wilson Goode.
Franklin recommends that the new mayor lean heavily on City Council for funding for art support since, he noted, "They control the purse strings."
Of Goode's mayoral campaign, Franklin said, "In 1983, during the election year, we created Artists for Goode. We had a 13-point plan for the arts that included a film office. The next mayor must not only support the arts but must attend cultural events and have a strong presence."
When he served in City Council, Nutter was seen at various arts events and was on board for the renovation of the Mann Music Center. He supports getting more money for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadel-phia Cultural Fund and has called for increased support of public-school arts programs.
Taubenberger agrees with that concept in that keeping kids busy with after-school programs can reduce the crime rate. "Keep them off the streets," he said, "and out of trouble."