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Mayor John F. Street announced Thursday that he was proposing that $60 million in city funds be given out in grants to arts and cultural organizations in Philadelphia.

The announcement came during the annual Arts and Business Council Awards luncheon held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

"It's $60 million," the mayor said. "But if it were $600 million it would not be too much."

Street came under fire in 2004 for eliminating the city's Office of Arts and Culture. In recent years, studies have validated the importance of art opportunities in attracting and retaining residents in the region. Arts organizations have strived to make arts and culture funding a campaign issue in the race to succeed Street. Philadelphia holds its primary election May 15.

Street told about 1,600 business and arts organization leaders at the event that the role of cultural organizations was under-appreciated in the city. The proposal requires approval from City Council.

The announcement came during an awards ceremony punctuated by the Avatar Award for Artistic Excellence, which was given to rhythm and blues songwriting legends Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, originators of what came to be known as the Philadelphia Sound.

Harold Melvin's Blue Notes performed a selection of songs by Gamble and Huff and recording artist Teddy Pendergrass spoke about the inspiration the songwriting duo brought to their music.

The program, which is designed to draw attention to collaborations between arts and business organizations, also featured the second awarding of the G. Fred DiBona Jr. award for individual leadership. It went to Alan and Louise Reed. Alan Reed, retired chairman of the law firm Morgan Lewis, was a major fundraiser for the National Constitution Center, which opened in 2002. Louise Reed is former board chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Ballet and is credited with fundraising to help elevate the dance company.


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