Last week the Pittsburgh Business Times published an article citing that local foundations’ assets have declined by 28% (median). Furthermore, the article suggests that foundations will be increasingly concentrating their efforts on providing funding for immediate needs – “food, shelter, transportation to jobs.”

While I believe that we all recognize that human needs come first in today’s economic downturn, I don’t want to emerge a year or two from now and have the arts and public park resources we currently enjoy in disrepair. After all, some of these institutions and public treasures took years of effort and funding to make possible. We can’t simply take the attitude that our parks, theaters, symphonies, etc., will simply be here for us when the economy bounces back.

Or, better yet, let me approach this topic from a slightly different angle. Recently, Scott Leff, the Bayer Center’s Associate Director, informed me of a dietary movement in the U.S. that recommends human beings significantly reduce their calorie intake (20 – 40% lower than what is typical) in order to live longer. Essentially, if you starve yourself, you may live a few more years.

I don’t know about you, but I like eating the occasional pizza served (hot!) from Aiello’s, followed up with some ice cream from Cold Stone. And you know what? If that shortens my life from 92 to 89, so be it. The point is that eating ice-cream is fun, and other high-calorie sweets are something I enjoy!

The arts, then, aren’t too different from ice cream: they are both things that people enjoy partaking in and add to our experience of being alive. Therefore, it is my hope that in addressing our immediate needs today we don’t lose sight of the many wonderful things the arts and public resources add to our lives.