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Over the last 25 years, Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts has grown from a sketch to a mural. Next month, PVLA will mark the milestone with a gala event at the National Constitution Center celebrating its growth and culmination as a major support institution for the arts in Philadelphia. Today, PVLA provides $1 million in pro bono services a year and organizes the efforts of 500 volunteer lawyers, all on a budget of $400,000. It offers numerous education materials for both lawyers and artists, and reaches hundreds of the area’s emerging artists. According to PVLA founder and event chairman Michael Coleman, the organization’s mission after 25 years has remained consistent: to foster an arts community in the city and surrounding area. Two politically connected lawyers will be honored at the event for their key roles in encouraging the growth of the arts in Philadelphia. Leslie Ann Miller, the current Democratic general counsel to the commonwealth, and Paul A. Tufano, a Republican who served as general counsel to the commonwealth under Gov. Tom Ridge, will receive recognition. Beyond their significant political contributions, Miller and Tufano also satisfy a criterion established at PVLA’s founding: a passion for the arts. During his term as general counsel, Tufano secured funding for arts programs in Philadelphia. Currently he serves on the board of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and Moore College of Art and Design. Miller, who was appointed general counsel to the commonwealth by Gov. Ed Rendell, was the first chairwoman of the Kimmel Center and currently co-chairs the Kimmel Center’s board of directors. She also serves on the boards of the Pennsylvania Ballet and WHYY. A group of dreamers created the PVLA, Coleman said, hoping to contribute to a community they all loved. The organization began in one room of a building at the University of the Arts. It had a budget of $5,000 and a handful of volunteers. Considering the success and growth of the PVLA, Coleman said, “it is beyond my wildest dreams.” That success and growth stem from the PVLA’s distinct nature. When he first began the PVLA, Coleman said he wanted to create an organization different from any other. “We didn’t want to overlap [with other pro bono organizations].” The result, he said, was the “only legal support system [for artists]” in Philadelphia. PVLA’s difference, in Coleman’s view, has been its innovative programs. During its first four years of existence, the PVLA began to offer legal tools through education. “We published the first-ever annotated gallery contract,” he said. It showed artists a positive gallery contract, one they could use as a model in the future. It also included annotations, giving explanations for each section, so that artists could understand the legal jargon involved in the contracts they sign. Education, Coleman said, became incorporated into PVLA early on, further extending its mission. The vision of PVLA for its founding members, Coleman said, was twofold. They wanted “to create a stronger community so that the stars of tomorrow … would remain in the area because they were pursuing their craft in a more supportive area.” Consequently, he said, “more beauty and more artistry would be created for the benefit of the community as a whole.” This vision continues with the current members of the PVLA. “The legal support system is still the heart and soul” of the organization, PVLA executive director Andrew Frankel said. With its current resources, PVLA is becoming more proactive. And it is expanding in two related directions, he said. According to Frankel, PVLA is looking to expand its services beyond the Philadelphia metropolitan area. “There is a whole new, younger community … we want to reach out to,” Frankel said. The services PVLA provides should be available to artists in the surrounding locales. Frankel described one future role of PVLA as a “regional service agency.” The second future goal of the PVLA is a means to its first. Frankel said the PVLA wants to expand its educational programs. It wants programs to educate both artists and lawyers in arts law. PVLA not only wants to “help artists with their problems, but [to] help them avoid their problems in the first place,” Frankel said. Currently, PVLA educates individual artists and arts organizations in business and planning through programs that run several times a year, but not on a regular schedule. Frankel said it is the hope of PVLA “to do better” in this area. PVLA also currently offers a graduate course at Drexel University called “Arts Management and the Law.” The program, Frankel said, “is a requirement for the arts management degree.” It acclimates students to legal issues regularly facing artists. In the future, PVLA hopes to begin similar programs at other universities in the area. To lawyers, PVLA offers its own Continuing Legal Education programs. The programs run on a quarterly basis, teaching lawyers the legal problems associated with the arts. The broad vision for the future of PVLA, Frankel said, is education. PVLA views “education as the main tool for becoming a proactive organization.” Through education, Frankel said, PVLA will be able to help more emerging artists. With its anniversary gala about a month a way, PVLA continues to work with the artists and arts organizations of Philadelphia with as much enthusiasm as in 1978. This event may require black ties and mark 25 years, but it still represents a simple attitude: PVLA is “a support structure for artists,” and it will continue to be one.

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