The 25th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust comes at an auspicious moment.
With deficits on the ledger and budget cuts in the air, arts and culture too often become easy marks when elected officials sit down to reduce spending. But the Downtown Cultural District, as developed over the last quarter-century by the Cultural Trust, should give those who control public pursestrings pause about the notion that arts are a frill.
In the Golden Triangle, the Trust's tireless effort to build a robust arts district was responsible for one of Pittsburgh's historic transformations: turning a seedy "adults-only" neighborhood known for crime and dilapidation into a magnet for diners, music and theater lovers and eventually residents, hotel guests and businesses.
In short, the lesson taught by philanthropist H.J. "Jack" Heinz, Trust presidents Carol Brown and Kevin McMahon and their many allies over the years was that the arts sell. And in Pittsburgh's case, they sold a region on a vibrant Downtown neighborhood that became an anchor and a catalyst for more good development across town.
After 25 years of success, the Cultural Trust is something for Pittsburghers to appreciate -- and an artful lesson for public officials, too.