Office of Public Art (OPA) in Pittsburgh was one of 47 statewide grantees for Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers. PHC created the program to provide rapid relief to cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds supported arts organizations, museums, historical societies, and libraries as they began to shift their events and activities to online platforms.
OPA engages with Pittsburgh-area artists in shaping the public realm and encouraging community-led change. Prior to the pandemic, all of their programming was in-person, which included walking tours, artist workshops, artist talks, and collaborating with other organizations.
To foster connections and fill the void created by social distancing measures, OPA looked to social media for inspiration. After Dinner Conversations, supported by PHC’s Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers, connected residents from the Pittsburgh region to local and national dialogues about the role of cultural producers during the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
The program involved a series of Instagram Live streams presented between July and October. Each session invited a cultural producer from Pittsburgh to engage in a half-hour long conversation with a peer of their choosing. Participants included:
- Sheila Cuellar-Shaffer and Madeline Gent
- Kilolo Luckett and Jessica Lynne
- D.S. Kinsel and Vatic Kuumba
- Njaimeh Njie and Hourglass
- Bekezela Mguni and Mi'Jan Celie Tho-Biaz
The result was meaningful, relevant dialogue touching upon creative inspiration, working during the pandemic, and the impact that their relationship to one another has had on their work and lives.
"This project increased OPA’s Instagram audience engagement, not only during the live sessions, but also in the post-session viewership,” said Rachel Klipa, Program Manager at OPA. “The Pop-Up grant assisted OPA with experimenting and developing a new online program during the pandemic and we are now considering incorporating After Dinner Conversations into our regular public programming.”
At a time of social distancing, dynamic and engaging virtual programming and events by cultural organizations like OPA bring Pennsylvanians together to celebrate heritage and identity, build community and joy, create new virtual platforms, leverage assets like nature and place, and document our human stories.
Learn more about OPA and how you can support their work at: opapgh.org.
The Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers program is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, individual donors to PHC, and an anonymous donor who offered additional funds for Philadelphia-based projects serving artists and small arts organizations.