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Here’s what the president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has learned in her first year

Maud Lyon. February 18, 2016 Category: FeaturedMediumPeople
Maud Lyon has been in Philly for one year, and in that year, she’s realized some things about how our arts and culture community compares to others across the country.

In an interview with Generocity last February, the then-new president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance said, “The problems that Philadelphia is facing are the same problems that you’re seeing all around the country.” The Detroit expat was referring to problems of funding and building audiences, which are understood to be mainstays of such a community, but also “creating ways for arts and culture to both be sustainable as well as also be able to adapt to changing tastes and desires and needs.”

She was idealistic about Philadelphia’s role in solving those problems, too: “If we can crack that nut here, it’s going to have national significance,” she said.

Has she found those initial assumptions of challenges to be accurate?

“I’ve found that to be absolutely true, that the challenges that we’re facing here in Philadelphia are not unique to us,” she said last week.

GPCA has been continually focused on three main issues during her time leading it, Lyon said:

  1. Individual giving to arts and culture — “Individuals have always been the majority of support for arts and culture” when considering ticket sales, memberships, gifts and more, she said. GPCA has been examining how it can encourage patrons to give more.
  2. Education — Especially “the importance of arts and culture as a vehicle for learning, especially for the kids who are the most challenged, and the importance of connecting the cultural assets of our community to the educational system.” The nonprofit has been reaching out to educators and those involved in education in general to determine where and how it can help make those connections.
  3. Diversity, equity and inclusion — These are national issues that arts and culture deal with, too. “We need to be a reflection of those communities [we’re in],” she said.

Lyon said that one of GPCA’s biggest accomplishments over the past year was its “Culture Across Communities” report, a glossy, 88-page document (also available online) developed with the help of Data Arts. The report compares 11 arts and culture communities in metro areas across the country — encompassing over 5,500 organizations. It was the GPCA’s first attempt at analyzing communities in cities other than its own.

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Other major accomplishments, according to Lyon, were GPCA’s participation in Philly Tech Week with its Techniculture event; an internship program for rising seniors; and its role in ensuring the preservation of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund at $3.14 million.

There are changes to come in the arts and culture sector, which is why GPCA is hosting an event called Rehearsing the Future next week. The event will present “four different scenarios of what the future of arts and culture could look like here in Greater Philadelphia based on major trends that are happening in America and the world,” she said. Attendees will be asked to imagine what would happen to their organization, art form or career if each of the scenarios came true.

“The whole point of it is to get people thinking about beyond the immediate next year and thinking in terms of 10, 20 years down the road,” she said. “What’s the star we need to steer to?”

By the way — don’t tell Detroit, but in the past year, Lyon has come to the conclusion that our arts and culture scene is … well, better.

“What I’ve learned is that Philadelphia is a lot more sophisticated than Detroit,” she said. “It not only has more museums, more music ensembles, way more theaters, more dances, but it also has a depth of knowledge in each of those areas, and the kind of creativity and innovation that people are doing is really cutting-edge and wonderful.”

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