Who We Are // Erie Arts & Culture

Erie Arts & Culture is a 501(c) 3 charitable organization located in Erie, PA. Founded under the legal name, The Arts Council of Erie in 1960, Erie Arts & Culture is the oldest arts council in Pennsylvania. Charter members include the Erie Civic Ballet (now Lake Erie Ballet), the Art Center (now the Erie Art Museum), the Erie Philharmonic and the Erie Civic Theater (now the Erie Playhouse).

Today, Erie Arts & Culture represents the collective voice of hundreds of creators, investors and volunteers and is a proud partner to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and an Erie County Lead Asset as recognized by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA).

The services we offer include:

  • Promoting a community-wide vision for arts and culture and strategies to advance it

  • Encouraging collaborations and aligned activities

  • Building public will and participation

  • Mobilizing resources

  • Advancing public policy to increase access to arts and cultural activities

  • Measuring the health and impact of the sector

Erie Arts & Culture is a backbone organization uniting and supporting local arts and culture. We offer services to providers of arts and cultural products and activities, investors and the general public in an effort to sustain a healthy arts and cultural sector in the Erie region.

Our Role, Our Work

Erie Arts & Culture is a community-owned, community-driven organization. As such, our actions reflect the following values:

  • We believe in the intrinsic value of arts and culture. We exist to protect it and grow its impact.
  • We are inclusive of all peoples and believe that diversity represents opportunity.
  • Collaboration is central to our success. The needs and voices of our community, artists, arts and culture organizations and related businesses are represented in and by our work.
  • We must honor and protect our history and inspire creativity and innovation to meet our mission.
  • Erie Arts & Culture is a sound fiduciary agent. We are a conscious steward of the community’s resources as reflected in our transparency and in promotion of best practice in programming and operations.

Erie Arts & Culture’s mission is to strengthen the vibrancy and vitality of the Erie Region. Our goal is to enrich the lives of the people of Erie through the advancement of arts and culture.

2013/14 Annual Report >>

Our Journey

Erie Arts & Culture was founded as the Arts Council of Erie in 1960 and was the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. Charter members included the Erie Civic Ballet, the Art Center, the Erie Philharmonic and the Erie Civic Theater.
The first United Arts Fund Drive in Erie was held in 1967. It was the first to be held in Pennsylvania and only the 16th in the nation. In 2015, Erie County proudly remained one of 48 United Arts Fund communities in the United States.
The Erie Arts Endowment was created in 1982 with a gift from Clarence E. Beyers to support the high quality music performances that he cherished. Additional gifts were received to establish the Virginia VIeser Arts Education Fund, the McBrier Family Fund, and the Lydia McCain Unrestricted Fund which helps to support timely and innovative projects throughout Erie County each year. Today, the Erie Arts Endowment continues to accept gifts from passionate donors and is valued at over $3.8M.
Endowment sub-funds were established for many of the major arts organizations in 1990. Today, Erie Arts Endowment agency sub-funds include the Arts Council of Erie (Erie Arts & Culture), Erie Art Museum and Erie Art Museum Public Art Fund, Erie Playhouse, expERIEnce Children's Museum, and Lake Erie Ballet.
In 1993, the Arts in Education Partnership was established with the PA Council on the Arts focusing on arts integration in the classroom through artist residencies. Today, Erie Arts & Culture places state-approved teaching artists in classrooms and community-based organizations in 11 counties in northwestern PA.
In 1994, a master plan for the restoration and expansion of Erie's historic Warner Theater was completed. This led to the creation of the Warner Preservation Trust.
In 1999, the organization partnered with the PA Council on the Arts to administer the PA Partners in the Arts Grant Program in 6 counties in northwestern PA. Each year, this program offers state funding to small arts projects and programs in Erie, Crawford, Warren, Venango and Mercer Counties.
In 2006, the Arts Council of Erie completed a strategic planning process that led to a name change to ArtsErie in 2008 and a broader geographic mandate for the organization to support to the arts throughout Erie County.
The Arts Council of Erie celebrated 50 years of service in 2010. Together with the Nonprofit Partnership, the organization released CultureSpark, Erie County's 10-Year Cultural Mater Plan.
In 2011, the Arts Council of Erie was named an Erie County Lead Asset by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority. Trustees of the Arts Council of Erie and the Erie Downtown Arts & Culture Coalition formed a joint merger committee to shape a single, integrated backbone organization to better support the sustainability and growth of the local arts and cultural sector.
In November 2013, the Boards of the Arts Council of Erie and the Downtown Arts & Culture Coalition(EDACC) adopted a framework for the integration of the two organizations into one. The Arts Council of Erie remained as the surviving organization but was refocused and rebranded. The members of EDACC, many the founding members of the Arts Council in 1960, returned as partnering organizations and EDACC dissolved.
In March 2014, the Arts Council of Erie began doing business as Erie Arts & Culture. Local partners include the Erie Art Museum, Erie Playhouse, Dafmark Dance Theater, Lake Erie Ballet, Erie County Historical Society, Erie Maritime Museum/US Brig Niagara, Erie Philharmonic and the expERIEnce Children's Museum.

2015 Erie Arts & Culture Board Members

Jim Riley
Board Chair
Market Manager, Cumulus Media
Jim Dible
Vice Chair
Retired CEO of Times Publishing, Retired CEO of ERCGP
Matthew G. Rizzo
Retired Senior Corporate Accountant, Erie Insurance
Bridget Barber
Director of External Affairs, Barber National Institute
Matt Fuchs
Past Chair
Attorney, McDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton
The Hon. Susan Baxter
United States Magistrate Judge
Ann Tredway
President, Hamot Health Foundation
Mary Ellen Dahlkemper
Retired President, Mercyhurst Preparatory School
Susan Dill
Associate Banking Advisor, PNC Wealth Management
Tom Ferraro
Professional Artist and PA State Approved Teaching Artist
Johnny Johnson
Retired Educator and Local Historian
Danny Jones
Director of Student Services, Erie School District
John Kearns
Executive Vice President, Erie Insurance
John Masterson
Resident Director, Merrill Lynch
John Oliver
President, VisitErie
Erik Perrino
Freelance Graphic Designer and Marketing Consultant
Colleen Stumpf
Attorney, Quinn Law Firm
Maryann Yochim-Flaherty
Retired Manager of Government Affairs, National Fuel

Erie Arts & Culture Staff

Amanda Brown Sissem
Executive Director
Holly Nowak
Program Director
Arts in Education
Melinda Meyer
Program Director
Grants, Data and Member Services
Amanda Hurd
Marketing and Development Director
Jessica Flock
Bookkeeper/Program Associate

The mission of Erie Arts & Culture is to strengthen the vibrancy and vitality of the Erie Region and enrich the lives of our people through the advancement of arts and culture.
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