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Birmingham Arts Partnership Visits Pittsburgh

Representatives from the Birmingham Arts Partnership from Birmingham, England are visiting Pittsburgh this week to take a look at how the steel city positions the arts to benefit the community.

Anna Williams, finance director for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, told Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer why the group chose Pittsburgh as one stop on their trip across America.

“I think Pittsburgh has many similarities to Birmingham,” Williams said. The two cities, despite being an ocean away, are comparable in size, both have an industrial past and both now have most of their economy in universities and the medical industry.

Where the cities differ, and what Williams is taking a close look at, is how arts organizations in each city remain funded. Pittsburgh arts groups receive funding primarily through private individuals and philanthropic means, Williams said, while the arts in Birmingham are subsidized by the government.

This has provided a financial problem for groups such as the Royal Ballet as the English government has begun to reduce funding for the arts, Williams said. With government money drying up, Williams hopes to find alternative funding solutions to help keep Birmingham arts alive and well.

Beyond funding, the Birmingham Arts Partnership is looking to create an organization similar to the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, which advocates and promotes the various kinds of artists in the city. However, Williams also said that the group wanted to learn not just from the large and established arts organizations, which are similar to the ones in Birmingham, but also the smaller and more grassroots organizations.

“The arts create a sense of place, they create a sense of identity, I think they help create a sense of aspiration, and I think they create enjoyment and we would have a very poor and sad world without the arts,” Williams said.

The Birmingham Arts Partnership will be leaving Saturday morning and headed to Baltimore. The group will also visit Boston and New York

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