Kulu Mele

The Kulu Mele African American Dance Ensemble Inc. will receive a grant for $50,000. — Tribune file photo

NEW YORK — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and William Penn Foundation on Wednesday announced $8 million in emergency funding to 37 Philadelphia cultural organizations reeling from COVID-19.

The grantees include African-American organizations such as the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Black Lily Inc./BlackStar Film Festival and Kulu Mele African American Dance Ensemble Inc., and a who’s who of other major organizations such as the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country, arts institutions are particularly vulnerable to extraordinary financial fallout and face potentially permanent closures as a result, the organization said in a statement.

The emergency grants from Mellon and William Penn in combination, ranging from $50,000 to $400,000, will support organizations at the heart of the Philadelphia arts ecosystem with 12 months of immediate funding as they adapt to unprecedented obstacles posed by this worldwide health crisis, the statement said.

Philadelphia has an internationally admired heritage of arts and culture. Both Mellon and William Penn have long supported arts and culture organizations in the city. The William Penn Foundation is the largest funder of the sector and the Mellon Foundation is the second-largest funder of Philadelphia arts. Both organizations are often closely aligned in their support for the arts.

As a companion to grants recently made by the William Penn Foundation, the Mellon Foundation committed $4 million in matching funds to those grants. This joint funding infusion marks the first time the two foundations have collaborated and comes at a time when new COVID-19 restrictions have been placed on Philadelphia museums, requiring them to close until Jan. 1.

“Nearly nine months into the pandemic, arts and culture organizations in this great city of Philadelphia, and around the country, are still grappling with extreme financial challenges,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation. “We hope these grants not only help these organizations navigate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but also galvanize other funders to support the visionary artists and cultural leaders who are helping to illuminate our path forward from this prolonged global emergency.”

“We are thrilled that Mellon Foundation, a national funder, has recognized the strength of the Philadelphia arts sector as they match our relief support for arts and culture grantees,” said Dr. Janet Haas, board chair of the William Penn Foundation.

“Since the early months of the pandemic, we have witnessed the ways organizations have continued to serve their communities and adapt programming to the realities brought on by COVID-19. This group of organizations joins many that continue to serve the city and their communities in important ways,” she said.

The grant recipients represent the diversity of arts organizations in the city, including large anchor institutions such as the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Orchestra, city-serving organizations including FringeArts and PHILADANCO!, and community-serving organizations like Asian Arts Initiative and Taller Puertoriqueño.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities and is guided by the belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. Through grantmaking, the Foundation seeks to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In 2020, the Penn Foundation will provide more than $117 million in grants in the region.

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