Tassy, how long have you been the PPA Program Coordinator for the Pocono Arts Council?
I was hired in April 2003 to coordinate the PA Partners in the Arts (PPA) program on behalf of the Pocono Arts Council. The PPA program works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and is a state regranting initiative. PoconoArts is one of 13 regional partners serving throughout the Commonwealth. PoconoArts serves NEPA and includes five counties: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Wayne.
What is the history of the program, and why was it started?
Before the PPA program existed, the PCA recognized that state money was being infused into the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg, supporting several really large cultural institutions. But the rural regions and their citizens were underserved. The partnership strategy to develop a regranting program involving regional, local decision making gave rise to the PPA.
In 1997, PCA invited the Pocono Arts Council as one of the four original regional partners to help pilot the regranting initiative. Since the 1997 pilot program, the PA Partner Program was expanded from four rural community partners to 13 cultural service organizations administering the PPA program throughout the state. Now, grants are made in all 67 counties via Project Stream and Program Stream grants.
Can you tell me more about those grants?
Project Stream grants are small grants available to individual artists (18+) or not-for-profit organizations conducting projects and events that involve a community-art component. These groups do not need to have a 501(c)3 status. (Arts and human service agencies, schools, units of municipal government, clubs, and other non-profits are eligible.)
Project Stream grants are available annually, with open applications taken online in June for future events that will take place between September 1 and August 31 of the following year. Program Stream grants are available to 501(c)3 groups, schools, and units of government who have been very successful in Project Stream and have a cultural program with a fiscal size under $200,000.
Participation in Program Stream is by invitation. Program Stream participants are not eligible for Project Stream grants. Organizations of a fiscal size over $200,000 apply directly through the PCA to other funding programs.
What is a favorite part of your job?
I enjoy learning more about the communities in NEPA and the people I meet along the way. I love working with individual artists and nonprofit organizations throughout our service area and being part of the process that creates access to community arts programming.
I work with applicants and grantees who are developing events and programming that bring an array of cultural arts experiences into these rural counties. It’s exciting to see what a well-run non-profit can do with a little bit of money.
What types of grant proposals are funded?
The projects that are funded cover different kinds of arts experiences including, high quality headline artists brought into the area to perform, a variety of festivals, free summer concerts in parks, story-telling, film, original plays, community theater workshops and productions, community choruses, bands and orchestras, public art installations, murals, exhibitions and artists’ lectures, dance groups, arts workshops and arts education experiences in camps, and learning opportunities in underserved communities, to name a few. The common element of all funded projects is that communities are provided with public access to the programming.
How are grant applications evaluated?
The quality of the art and the access to the art are key to successful grant projects. Applications are evaluated on three established criteria: quality of the art, quality of access, and a management score. I convene panel review boards comprised of citizens in northeast PA who volunteer their time, understand their communities, and have a particular area of expertise. The reviewing panelists themselves reach a consensus to score the merits of the application, and the merit scores determine the funding levels. A funding formula uses those scores to determine equitable funding.
The regional allocation to the area is based primarily on population figures, this year, that number is $46,867 (roughly a nickel a citizen.) But at the end of the day, the merit of the project and the application has to stand on its own.
What personal satisfaction do you derive from your work?
I encounter wonderful volunteers at PoconoArts and in the community arts organizations that apply for grants. We all work to bring our communities together through a wide array of cultural experiences. Our mission is to improve access to the arts for artists and the community that will experience their art. Because of the PPA program, the Pocono Arts Council is able to reach a larger geographic region beyond Monroe County.
We are here to be a community resource for artists and art lovers. We serve the mission statement and our members, community partners, citizens of NEPA, and all the many visitors who walk through our door. In the 15 years I have been the PPA Program Coordinator, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of organizations and artists.
I also appreciate working alongside the 13 regional partners throughout the state that administer the PPA programs in their locales, as well as PCA staff.
We can’t talk about public support and funding for the arts without talking about advocacy. The money that funds these grants comes from the state legislature. This is state tax money coming back to the citizens.
What we need to know is that the creative economy in PA is a huge economic driver. The nickel a citizen that is represented in these grant awards helps drive the local economy. People get out and connect in their towns or they explore NEPA. People hire a sitter, organizations buy supplies from a local business to support a project, they participate in their communities, they volunteer, they buy a meal out with friends, or shop nearby at a venue before an event.
The grant award helps to seed the community and get people in motion. It comes back to benefit the local citizens, and local businesses. The budget for the grants themselves comes through the general legislature and the NEA. These grants may be small in size, but they have a big impact.
Thank your local state legislators for their ongoing support! Supporting Local Arts is not a partisan issue, it is a quality of life issue.
Do you have any hobbies you’d like to share?
My hobbies include community theater, singing, and volunteering with a local hospice. Truth be told, I am currently obsessed with paper crafts… and buttercream, and I am coming into gingerbread season.