The local arts community is getting a funding boost.
Cambria County commissioners said Wednesday they will restore funding to the Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. The funding had been cut in half last year.
Previous commissioners had committed $10,000 annually. It was cut to $5,000 last year, President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said.
“This year we’re bringing that funding back,” he said. “This is one of the county’s priorities, and we believe it’s important for the quality of life.”
Lengenfelder and fellow Commissioner Tom Chernisky made the announcement, which drew applause from a gathering at the Art Works building on Third Avenue.
The announcement came during a news conference announcing the merger of the Bottle Works and Art Works.
Raising money for both nonprofit organizations has proved problematic, making the merger necessary.
“The bottom line is we have a population that is declining,” said John Yerger, interim president of Bottle Works. “The economic realities are there aren’t the dollars around to support all these entities.
“We’re in a position where a merger would benefit both organizations,” he said.
Bottle Works opened in 1993 as “a center where heritage and tradition can be celebrated,” Executive Director Rosemary Pawlowski said. “As a place where the public can come and watch artists create and teach.”
The buildings, located next to each other, allow artists, photographers and others to sell their work and preserve art history in Johnstown.
Combining resources will strengthen the local arts community, Yerger said.
“The fact is consolidation of both municipalities and nonprofits has to happen for the well-being and benefit of our community long term,” he said.
E. Jeanne Gleason, vice chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, welcomed the news.
“A bigger and stronger organization can do more for all the citizens of the region,” she said. “They have added greatly to the quality of life here.”
Other speakers included Amy Bradley, spokeswoman for Conemaugh Health System; Glenn L. Wilson, president and CEO of AmeriServ Financial Inc.; former Johnstown mayor and Art Works board member Don Zucco; and Gary Martin, representing state Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont.
Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter.com/PatBuchnowskiTD.