Kevin McMahon

Pittsburgh law firms unite to fund Downtown arts

In Community by Flaherty & O'Hara

Eighteen Pittsburgh law firms have banded together to contribute funding to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as part of a new initiative to encourage funding for Downtown arts.

The Cultural Trust Legal Society was created by Downtown lawyers Chester Babst and Thomas VanKirk in response to the changing economic environment intensifying the need for arts funding.

“We saw giving going down by just under a million dollars after the downturn, and Chip Babst went into action and said, ‘We can’t let this happen,’” said Cultural Trust President and CEO Kevin McMahon. “He went to work to see if he could put together a group of lawyers to help make up the deficit. This is an example of how an individual can make a real difference in our community.”

Babst, managing shareholder of Babst Calland PC, said he views the Cultural Trust as “a partner for the business community” for improving Downtown’s image and presenting artistic endeavors that help companies attract employees and entertain clients.

The nonprofit was launched in 1984 by the Heinz family charities to transform the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh from an off-putting, red light-riddled existence to a home for the visual and performing arts. Particularly over the past decade, the Cultural Trust has taken over the management of several arts organizations and events, including the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and its current budget is around $51 million, second only to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh among arts and humanities nonprofits. Support comes from government sources such as the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts and several local foundations.