Mayor Peduto: Pittsburgh Center for the Arts must be restructured
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media, which announced Monday it would close its main building at year’s end, must be completely restructured to secure sustainable funding for future operations.
Peduto, who briefed reporters Tuesday during an unrelated event in Garfield, said the city has worked for years with the organization to try to keep it afloat.
He said Monday’s announcement came as a surprise.
“They’ve been struggling for two years now,” the mayor said. “I did think, though, that we would be able to work with them on an extended lease that would give them a couple of years to restructure. I expect that it will come back in some form in the future.”
Christine Holtz, president of PCAM’s board of directors, announced the closure in a letter to members and supporters citing “crushing expenditures” needed for operations, maintenance and repairs. She announced the closing of the Regent Square Theater and programming at the Harris Theater in Downtown and that operations at its offices in the Marshall Mansion in Pittsburgh’s East End would cease by year’s end. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust owns the Harris Theater.
Hannah Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, wrote in an email that most employees have been laid off. She declined to give an exact number of layoffs.
“The majority of employees have been impacted, including those associated with Marshall building programs, the cinema program and other personnel commensurate with the elimination of those programs,” she said.
The organization is in line for a $230,000 award in 2020 from Allegheny Regional Asset District, according to Shannon Musgrave, RAD’s communications director, but Peduto said one-time funding won’t help.
“We’ve tried one-time revenue sources in the past,” Peduto said. “It hasn’t worked. What’s needed is a complete restructuring.”
The city owns the center’s headquarters at the Marshall Mansion, a former private home at the corner of Fifth and Shady avenues. Peduto said the city has provided the center with two options. The center can pay for building maintenance in return for discounted rent, or pay market-rate rent and the city would handle maintenance. The building has been the home of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts since 1945.
“Either one of those options is on the table, and I think that as other organizations look at that space and that mission, they may be able to make the numbers work,” he said. “It is our property. So is the zoo, so is the aviary, so is Phipps, but when any of those organizations would come under financial distress, it’s up to their board to be able to rectify that situation.”
The center’s closing came as a shock to local artists.
”Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is such a valuable asset for the city,” said Jo-Anne Bates of Point Breeze, whom the center named an artist of the year in 2017. “This is a huge loss for Pittsburgh.”