Early reports show that the Northside’s delegation to the Croatian Embassy in Washington, D.C., was a success.
What’s that, you say? The Northside has diplomatic ties with Croatia?
It does now. Officials from the Northside Leadership Conference and Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation met this morning with the Croatian Ambassador to the United States, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, to discuss their plan to turn the St. Nicholas Church on Route 28 into an immigration museum.
“It was a very positive meeting. It went as well as we could possibly hope for,” said Mark Masterson, executive director of the Northside Community Development Fund, a Leadership Conference subsidiary.
Masterson, alongside the Conference’s Executive Director Mark Fatla and PCHF’s President Bill Vergot, explained to the ambassador their plans to use the vacant church building for a 20,000 square foot museum that would tell the story of all the immigrant groups who settled the city — everyone from Croatians to African-Americans who came up from the South in the early 20th Century to German immigrants who arrived in Pittsburgh early.
“We have stated our intention that we want to help them make a success of this,” said Vice Skracic, deputy chief of mission for the Croatian Embassy.
The Northside delegation hoped to receive advice on fundraising for the museum’s start-up costs, which are estimated at $10 million.
“We committed to trying to open up the embassy, so we can have a reception here where we can bring together not only the Pittsburgh community but also officials from other embassies who have an interest in representing their [immigrant groups] in the museum,” Skracic said.
Skracic and Masterson both agreed this type of event would bring together interested donors from a host of nationality groups.
The Northside partners hope to raise a $5 million endowment for the museum’s operating costs from large donors before asking foundations for start-up capital.
“Many of the embassies have staff that focus on their own ethnic groups here in the States,” Masterson said. “If we can convince ambassadors from other countries that what we are doing with the Croatian ambassador is positive,” then we might get more support from them.
“One of the greatest things about the United States is that you have many groups that have kept their heritage but joined in one nation,” Skracic said. “That church is the oldest [Croatian] one [still standing] in the United States, and because of that, it’s very important to the Croatian-American community and to us.”
Skracic said Ambassador Grabar-Kitarovic will probably come to Pittsburgh in May for the annual meeting of the National Federation of Croatian Americans. Masterson said her trip to the city would help publicize the museum and fund-raising process.