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  • Writer's pictureBuildaBridge Int'l

Fund Philadelphia Arts

On Wed, May 11, the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance organized a rally to support funding for Philadelphia's arts and cultural sector. The city is withholding millions of dollars of funding for arts non-profits. The results could alter the social and cultural fabric of Philadelphia drastically. BuildaBridge's executive director delivered the closing remarks.

Hello, I’m Ami Yares and for the last five years, I have had the privilege to be a part of BuildaBridge International.

First and foremost, I don’t think I’d be standing up here today if it were not for the city’s investment in BuildaBridge. The Illuminate the Arts Grant brought forward by Council members Katherine Gilmore and Isaiah Thomas helped save BuildaBridge and in the same breath, we need to also thank the Philadelphia Cultural Fund for the many years of extraordinary support.

On behalf of BuildaBridge and the over 300 people’s lives we touched last year, we thank you.

For almost two years, I watched BuildaBridge waver, wobble and nearly collapse. COVID shut down our in-person programming, shut down opportunities for person to person connections and shut down any hope for some serious face to face meetings with our supporters.

Being the small and nimble non-profit organization that we are, we demonstrated the same resilience and agency that our BuildaBridge community members embody and we moved forward with grace and poise to provide trauma-informed, strength-based and hope-infused art-making --- but not without a price.

Similar to so many problems that we face today, our love, passion and devotion to the arts and what they can do for Philadelphia cannot rely on goodwill alone. We can only run on a shoestring budget for so long. We can only improvise for so long and we surely cannot “phone in” our mission to transform lives through art-making. The non-profit arts sector needs a healthy support network in which to be and do.

The Illuminate the Arts grant came on the heels of giving nearly everything we had to support COVID front line workers who needed arts-based self-care strategies, our newest community members who left their homes because of war, political strife and their families’ safety; as well as sex-trafficking survivors and of course, the Philadelphia youth that we’re chartered to serve.

The city invested in us and humbly, I can say that we did not disappoint.

The ROI from the Illuminate the Arts grant and PCF are nearly immeasurable. Ripples from the safe creative and imaginative space that BuildaBridge creates in every program is a hard trail to chase, but it’s very real.

Thank you for believing in our work and the work of other incredible arts organizations touched by the grant.

BuildaBridge and the arts-based non-profit sector do not deal in dollars and cents, we deal in the lives of people who participate in the arts as a lifeline; as a means to engage the creative self and see their surroundings not as what they are, but what they could be. We believe in process over product and extol the virtue of art-making over virtuosity.

The arts are for everyone.

Imagination and creativity are indispensable to our lives and for whatever reason, the steady flow of the arts we receive as children dwindles as we age. We need to keep the intrinsic and therapeutic value of art-making alive and thriving in every Philadelphian. It’s what makes us most human.

Money, social status, neighborhood, gender identity, race and ableness should not be factors to access the arts. If we want to see a safer, more loving and cohesive Philadelphia; the arts are the thread, the glue, the life force that will help see policy and program through to the equitable Philadelphia that we need.

We cannot do this alone.

Imagine the world as it could be with the funding that matched the passion of the non-profit arts-sector.

It's simple. Fund Philadelphia Arts.

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