Reflections on a Visit to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Posted on February 9, 2016

I was part of a group who had the opportunity recently to visit Pittsburgh and spend a day with some of the senior executive from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust was created 30 years ago to help revitalize downtown Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was in the process of losing half its population and shuttering a number of arts and cultural venues. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, initiated under the leadership of the Heinz family, was created to stimulate the cultural and economic revitalization of downtown Pittsburgh. Using the arts and culture as the catalyst, the Trust has done a very impressive job of reviving the arts and culture in the downtown and also creating a vibrant and animated 14 block Cultural District.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has generated revenue from commercial real estate development and parking, as well as receiving the generous support from Pittsburgh’s philanthropic Foundations, to support the renovations, construction and operations of Pittsburgh’s downtown performing arts venues, numerous galleries, historic building restoration and open spaces development.

Today the Trust continues to be a major catalyst along with the ballet, galleries, opera, symphony, festivals and public theatre for attracting two million visitors annually to the Cultural District. There is significant cooperation and collaboration among the Trust and the resident companies in a number of operational areas that have led to greater efficiencies in overall operations. You can read about these details in their annual reports to the community.

What is the learning for the Edmonton Galleria Foundation? Although we have used the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as a model for the creation of the Edmonton Cultural Trust – and there are many things that we can learn from Pittsburgh and adapt to Edmonton – we will need to build our Cultural Trust taking into account our needs and uniqueness.

Some notable differences are the role of private foundations with the differences between American and Canadian charitable law. As well, while Pittsburgh’s downtown was almost derelict when the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust began, in Edmonton we are joining an already established and vigorous collection of arts organizations like the Citadel, Winspear, Art Gallery of Alberta, Stanley Milner Library and soon the Royal Alberta Museum.

Using the resources generated from the Edmonton Galleria for the Cultural Trust, we have an opportunity in the future to help grow the arts and culture in Edmonton and support the evolution of a “destination” Arts District in Edmonton’s downtown.

Terry Keyko, Executive Director, Edmonton Galleria Foundation