Philly Proposed Budget Cuts Funding for African American Museum

At the beginning of May, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny introduced a revised 2021 city budget. The new budget included major cuts the city deemed necessary because of the decline in tax revenue after the coronavirus outbreak. One institution that will feel the impact of these cuts is the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The African American Museum currently receives $230,000 from the city each year. This money comes to the museum through the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, which would be completely eliminated under the revised budget. The office administers the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, a pool of money which supported 349 organizations in the city last year. The African American Museum’s funding is included in this and will be ended with the elimination of the office.

This city funding accounts for eighteen percent of the museum’s administrative budget. The museum’s president and CEO Patricia Wilson Aden told Hyperallergic that the institution had purposely reduced its dependence on public funding within recent years in order to strengthen its ongoing sustainability. However, “the bedrock of our administrative funding will be cut by a considerable amount,” Aden said.

Philadelphia’s African American Museum was the first municipally funded black museum in the country. The museum was founded in the 1970s after the city’s Black community fought to have the institution built. While the museum had faced financial difficulty in the past, recent leadership has been successful in diversifying funding sources and stabilizing the organization.

Patricia Wilson Aden believes the museum will continue to operate despite this funding cut. However, they worry about the damage to the cultural life of people of color within Philadelphia. The city’s African American community has faced a disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, and museum leadership believe cultural institutions will play an important role in helping the Black community recover. “The Black and brown communities have always looked to arts and culture to uplift during times of hardship. We want to make sure that our resources are not so depleted that we won’t be able to assist in that recovery,” Aden said.