Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (PVLA) is a non-profit legal services organization through which lawyers assist individual low budget artists and inventors, artist collectives, and small budget arts and cultural organizations throughout the Greater Philadelphia region via legal representation, publications, advocacy, education, and counseling.
PVLA is the front line of legal resources for the arts and cultural community in the region. We believe art and culture are the essential pillars in our society, and we seek to use the law to protect creative expression. By bringing together our legal, artistic, and cultural constituencies, we strengthen our community and lead the way in making the Philadelphia area a preeminent center for the arts.
PVLA began its life as an arts-focused committee of the Young Lawyers section of the Philadelphia Bar Association. The focus of the committee was to use the expertise of the legal community to help young artists and arts organizations in the Philadelphia region with their legal and business needs. Unwavering commitment to support and strengthen the arts community, and to do so at the highest level of professionalism and excellence, led this small group of attorneys to found PVLA in October 1978. Since its inception, PVLA’s Board of Directors - made up of civic, arts, and legal community leaders and volunteers - have worked together to shape the organization. Thousands of regional attorneys from small and large firms with expertise in a wide variety of practice areas have volunteered their services to help hundreds of nonprofit groups and thousands of individual artists who could not otherwise afford assistance.
Education was an early focus of PVLA and continued to play an important role. Within its first decade educational programs reaching out to our varied constituencies, became a mainstay of the organization. In 1985, PVLA offered 24 educational programs over a three-month period. Early collaborations with the Wharton school led to the development of a nonprofit leadership and the law curriculum. Shortly after its founding, PVLA launched the first of its series of blockbuster CLE programs for lawyers. The program, "Non Profit Leadership and the Law: an In Depth and Innovative Board and Executive Training Program," was held in the Wilma Theater, and attended by over 350 lawyers and nonprofit leaders.
PVLA’s civic achievements include rallying the community to save Philadelphia's treasured artistic works, such as Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens and Maxfield Parish's mural “The Dream Garden.” PVLA has also frequently come to the aid of treasured Philadelphia arts institutions such as the Philadelphia Ballet, the Philadelphia Theater Company, and the Prince Theater to help resolve their legal issues. High profile victories such as these highlight the countless artists and organizations PVLA has assisted annually with legal and business challenges.
PVLA is proud of its history of civic achievement, education, and service to the arts and cultural community of the region, and continues this tradition to create a more vibrant and thriving creative sector in the Philadelphia area.
Over the past 10 years, PVLA services have had a tremendous effect on the Philadelphia cultural landscape, setting up volunteer legal referrals for more than 200 individual artists, 40 arts organizations (both for-profit and nonprofit), and 10 arts collectives on average per year. Through their volunteer efforts, PVLA attorneys have provided more than 36,000 hours of pro bono legal services to the arts & cultural community, with a value of approximately $13.9 Million.