A RAD-ical Funding Model


Like its counterparts nationwide, the Pittsburgh arts community was battered by the recession. But RAD threw it a lifeline.

While local foundation grants, generous sources of funding for many arts groups, are returning to pre-recession levels, cuts to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts budget have been severe. Current funding is 47 percent below its level in 2009, holding steady at $8.17 million 2012 and 2013. Those losses from other sources have been offset in part by an innovative county program, the creation of a Regional Asset District (RAD). In 1994, Allegheny County residents approved a 1 percent tax on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax. RAD receives one half of the proceeds, distributing unrestricted operating grants to libraries, parks, zoos, sports facilities, museums and arts organizations and, this year, transit.

“During the recession, local RAD funding remained relatively stable, with cutbacks of only 5 or 10 percent,” says Mitch Swain of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. This year, the program will award $89 million, and has been a rough model for new programs in Cleveland, Ohio, and Portland, Ore.