Wednesday, February 22, 2017

City of Asylum NEH Grant in Jeopardy



I have been attending City of Asylum events for at least five years - jazz concerts, avant garde music events. garden tours, poetry readings and more. They are truly a remarkable Pittsburgh orbanization that needs our support. Today, I got an email from co-founder  Henry Reese, telling me about their Natioanl Endowment for the Humanities grant and how it's now in jeopardy. Please read below and help out any way you can:

"When we applied for the NEH grant last spring, we stated 3 goals for City of Asylum literary programming. "

To create an appreciation of other cultures.

To develop empathy for diversity in our own community.  In the words of one audience member, to create “a vision of a possible future.”

To build a community in which creative free expression is a core value, defended as a basic human right, and celebrated and exercised as a necessity in a democratic society.

At the time these goals hardly seemed controversial.  But how the world has changed!  These goals are now under attack.  City of Asylum and our programming represent values abhorred by what the 1991 Charter of Cities of Asylum called “intolerant minds.”

NEH grants are to fund existing programs, mainly at colleges, libraries, museums, and other institutions.  Only 36 awards were made in the entire U.S.  So we were elated, when we got the great news that we had been selected by the National Endowment of the Humanities for one of its first-ever “Humanities Access” challenge grants….and at the top $100,000 award level!  

Until now, our programs took place in our home, on streets, and in the Alphabet City Tent.   But the selection of City of Asylum by the NEH was a recognition that our programs were comparable in quality and impact to the programs of big institutions.

There is only one problem.

Last month The Hill, citing unnamed sources from inside the Trump transition team, reported that the Trump administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Since the initial reports, the news is, if anything, even worse. The New York Times reported on February 18 that an internal memo was circulated within the Office of Management and Budget confirming the cuts.

Although we are supposed to have two years to raise the $100,000 to meet the challenge—half by April 20 this year and half next year—I was advised that we would be wise to raise all the $100,000 by April 20 this year. The NEH now has the funds, and if we meet the challenge we will receive the match.

Even if the NEH survives, funding cuts may be so severe that they will not be able to meet their commitments after 2017.

If we raise $100,000 in funds dedicated to meeting the NEH challenge, we will be sure of getting the additional $100,000 match.  After April 20, our grant is at risk.

We need your help. There are very few funders for literary programming and almost none for international authors like we present. For City of Asylum to receive recognition and funds like this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

You can make a gift by calling 412-226-9737, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

P.S. We have successfully launched City of Asylum @ Alphabet City.  The challenge now is to keep it alive with our programs—the purpose for which we built it.

P.P.S. Most of the NEH awards are big institutions, who can easily raise $100,000.   For a small grassroots organization like City of Asylum, this is a very hard challenge.  Your help is really important.

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