City of Asylum/Pittsburgh

  • Pittsburgh



40 West North Avenue
United States

About Us

By defending and celebrating creative freedom, City of Asylum builds a thriving community of artists, audiences, and neighbors. We provide long-term sanctuary to endangered literary writers exiled under threat of persecution and a welcoming place for under-represented voices and under-served audiences. We foster social equity and cultural exchange through globally diverse arts and humanities programs and economic development by transforming blighted properties into homes for our programs and energizing public spaces.

We do important work locally, nationally, and globally. Founded in the fall of 2004, we have provided sanctuary to seven exiled writers and hosted visiting artists from over 72 countries. Our international peers now deem us “the model for what a City of Asylum can be…expanding the idea of what is possible.” And our neighbors credit us with breaking down barriers of race, gender, and class on the Northside. In 2015 we became the U.S. hub for the International Cities of Refuge Network, charged with first growing our own exiled writer sanctuary program and then replicating our program across the U.S.

Our projects have won an “Innovative Spaces Award” from the MetLife Foundation, a “Space for Change” award from LINC-Ford Foundation, and creating placemaking awards from ArtPlace America and the NEA’s Our Town program. 

In January 2017, we opened City of Asylum @ Alphabet City, a $10.7 million redevelopment of an abandoned Masonic Building, having raised over $10 million without a public campaign. This is our first permanent home and includes spaces for performances and workshops, a bookstore specializing in translations, a destination quality restaurant, our offices, and 8 income-generating apartments (including 2 affordable). We are now re-developing an abandoned parking garage into a multi-function property. This year we will present over 120 reading, concerts, and films—all free to the public. And we are in the early stage of planning additional capital projects.

We are an energetic, entrepreneurial organization. Alphabet City is part of a planned transition from our founders, who initiated and are committed to helping us build an independent, sustainable organization.

Our annual operating budget is $1.2 million (excluding commercial operations), with a staff of 10.