To assist independent artists in the Pittsburgh area, the Howard Heinz and Vera I. Heinz Endowments, collectively known as the Heinz Endowments, have launched a program to provide a total of $150,000 in 2002 to local artists who collaborate on projects with nonprofit arts groups, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Ever since the National Endowment for the Arts stopped providing grants to individual artists in 1995 after some members of Congress criticized the organization for funding work they deemed inappropriate, funding opportunities for independent artists, especially those in the beginning stages of their careers, have been hard to come by. The Creative Heights program will award grants ranging in size from $10,000 to $40,000 to area artists; two-thirds of each award will go to the artist and the remaining amount to the arts organization. The program will focus on lesser-known artists and encourage arts groups to present new material.
According to a database compiled by arts service organization ProArts, about 5,600 artists live in the metropolitan Pittsburgh area. Few receive funding from local foundations, however, which typically fund pass-through groups such as ProArts and Artists and Cities , a nonprofit organization that offers low-rent apartments and studios to artists.
"We asked ourselves, what is at the core of the arts ecosystem? The artist. We wouldn't have a cultural life without them. But we had no system in place to support them," said Janet Sarbaugh, arts program officer at the Endowments. She noted that through the Creative Heights program, "the artist gets a physical place to work, gets access to the resources of an institution, and gets public exposure they might not otherwise get."