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Arts groups appeal to RAD for more funds

| Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

Representatives of 14 artistic and cultural groups took turns Monday night asking Allegheny Regional Asset District board members for more money or smaller grant cuts next year.

Arts groups ranging from the small New Horizon Theater in East Liberty to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra asked the board to find just a little bit more money as RAD completes a $4 million proposed 2005 budget for funding cultural groups.

The public hearing gave community members a chance to comment on the board's proposed spending plan before it makes final decisions on Nov. 29.

Larry Tamburri, president of the Pittsburgh Symphony, asked the board to reconsider a proposed cut to $900,000 for 2005 from the $1 million the symphony received this year. Tamburri said he knows the 2004 funding was a one-year special allocation but said the symphony is paying back the region with more performances at schools and in the community.

"We understand that public support comes with an obligation to give back, and we take that commitment very seriously," Tamburri said.

He asked RAD board members to put the symphony's funding on a guaranteed contract basis to give it greater stability.

Charlie Humphrey, head of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, asked board members to reconsider their preliminary decision to give no money to the troubled Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

The center temporarily closed in the summer, saddled with more than $1 million in debt, but Filmmakers recently took over management.

Humphrey asked the board to restore the center's funding to the 2004 level of $90,000.

Board members were lukewarm about the request, questioning whether Pittsburgh Filmmakers is taking on more than it can handle.

But board members seemed more amenable to a request to cancel a proposed $10,000 cut for the Mattress Factory art museum on the North Side after an accounting question was cleared up.

Board President Dan Griffin said he expects changes to the preliminary $74 million budget before the final 2005 document is approved.

"I'm not prepared to say what will change, but I think something will change," he said.

The district collects an additional 1 percent sales in Allegheny County, with half going to local government and the other half to civic groups and cultural assets.

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