"Arts" is an all-inclusive category encompassing virtually all forms of
creative expression. Among its major disciplines are: music, theatre,
literature, visual art, spoken word, film and video, and, increasingly, the
Countless artists, writers, and performers work in New York City every day.
Together with their audiences (both homegrown and far-flung) they constantly
define and redefine New York City's creative landscape, making it an
unparalleled cultural feast.
The City of New York administers a wide-ranging network of programs and
subsidies to support the City's artists and arts institutions. The
Department of Cultural Affairs estimates that there are more than 1,200
nonprofit arts organizations in the five boroughs. DCA provide partial
support to about five hundred such groups. For FY2000
arts support will exceed $100 million. Including capital expenditures for
future projects, that figure rises to upwards of $300 million.
Rhonda Zangwill is a writer, editor and teacher in New York City. She does
not claim to be a critic, but she knows what she likes. She has been
published in various special interest and trade journals, even some that are
still in existence.
Two great spectator sports in New York, art and politics, are again
embroiled. Hard on the heels of the "Sensation" scuffle at the Brooklyn
Museum, is a controversial new work, "Sanitation," featured in the
just-opened Whitney Biennial.
"Sanitation," by artist Hans Haacke, is a multimedia installation tucked
into a darkened alcove. A dozen large open-lidded trashbins, the heavy-duty
rubberized variety, are lined up in perfect symmetry. Behind them are six
quotes from Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani and other politicos condemning what they view as "objectionable"
art. These statements, which flank three overlapped American flags, are
written in large, Nazi-favored typescript. Should you miss the point,
Haacke has added an aural component -- the ominous sound of jackboots
Haacke conceived this piece in response to the Mayor's efforts to withdraw
City funds from the Brooklyn Museum last Fall. Hizzoner was offended by a
work that depicted an elephant-dung adorned Virgin Mary.
The Mayor also characterized "Sanitation" as offensive. The City will not,
however, take any punitive action. Unlike the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney
is a private institution and receives only a few thousand dollars in city
funds annually for its
But City support is not the only money in this town that talks -- and walks.
No less a pillar of New York philanthropic society than Marylou Whitney is
so angered by "Sanitation" that she has withdrawn her museum patronage.
According to the New York Times, Mrs. Whitney believes that the Haacke work
belittles the Holocaust (a view
shared by the Mayor), politicizes art and violates the principles on which
her late mother-in-law, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded the museum
seventy years ago. She is also angry that the German-born Haacke is
showcased in a museum she said "was founded to help American artists."
In a written statement Maxwell Anderson, director the museum, stood by the
artist: "Mr. Haacke's career over thirty years has consisted of unceasing
assaults on authoritarianism in any form, and of exposing the hidden
vestiges of Nazism in Germany and
Austria. Deeply disturbing though it is to recall the excesses of the Nazis
in order to draw a parallel to contemporary intolerance in the United
States, it is the artist's right to do so, and the Whitney will support his
right to express his opinions in our galleries."
The artist said that he found the Mayor's statement that he was trivializing
the Holocaust to be "quite offensive." He then discussed the Nazi's
successful campaign to remove what they termed "degenerate art" in the
1930's. When asked what he wanted
people to come away with after seeing "Sanitation," he said, " I would like
them to think about the First Amendment."
Rhonda Sounds Off:
Already a millionaire? Or married to one? Sounds like you need a new
challenge! Get ready, it's time for Who Wants to be an Art Critic? Here's
your first question:
What the heck IS art, anyway?
A. I know what I like, and I don't like you
B. Geldings, if possible.
C. Art schmart, I'm just here for the crabcakes
Excellent. You correctly guessed D: Can I resell this on eBay?
You now qualify for the lightning round. Put the following Art Critic perks
in order, from most to least desirable.
A. A seat in the US Senate
B. Free ride on Air Force 2
C. Season tickets to Yankee games
D. Grand Marshall at the annual Yankee parade.
My, you ARE good. You realized that we failed to mention the #1 perk:
Lifetime membership in the City's Special Aesthete Patrol.
Rhonda's Favorite Sites For Beginners:
NYC Department of Cultural Affairs - Official NYC site sings the
Mayor's praises as champion of the arts; details a funding policy clearly
weighted towards the city's largest cultural institutions; and explains
services offered (e.g. Materials for the Arts, and DCA's Artist's
Certification Program). Check out Percent for Art, NYC's program for art in
civic spaces, where you'll find great images of work by Vito Acconci, Mel
Chin, Alice Aycock and many more.
New York State Council on the Arts - Committed to maintaining New York State's culture, NYSCA accomplishes its
goal by making grants to non-profit arts organizations. Like the DCA and
NYFA (see below), NYSCA is very supportive of those programs which marry
technology and the arts, as well as arts-in-education "partnerships". Much
emphasis on multiculturalism, decentralization and special opportunities for
"the underrepresented". Surf this site to find out where NYSCA's dollars are
going and why - as well as how to apply for funding.
New York Foundation for the Arts -
service organization, set up by NYSCA. NYFA supports thousands of artists,
non-profit arts orgs and arts-in-education initiatives throughout New York,
offering fiscal sponsorship, workshops, loans, fellowships, in-school artist
residencies and more. Info-rich site but a bit tedious to navigate. Super
links! See also Artswire, NYFA's brainchild and now the
nation's premier online communications network for the arts.
Center for Arts Information -
Indy non-profit works closely with municipal agencies to administer ambitious $36 million, 5-year program aimed at restoring arts to public schools. Site details the 82
partnerships created since CAE's inception involving public schools and 135
Arts and Business Council - Excellent
resource for arts groups in need of corporate assistance and/or better
business skills. The Arts and Business Council matchmakes between would-be
business volunteers and non-profits in need of Board Members, fundraisers,
et al.. Special feature: A2B (Arts to Business) databank listing services
offered by NYC arts organizations.
Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting
- Targeted at the for-profit
side of the arts biz - also known as the Entertainment Industry. Find out
everything you need to know to shoot a film in NYC from industry regulations
to sunrise/sunset charts to the Teamsters' local address and phone number.
MOFTB motto: "We have a reputation for finding a way to say yes."
New York Landmarks Commission
- Official site of municipal
agency responsible for designating and protecting New York City landmarks.
What is a landmark? How do you demolish one if you own it and the
maintenance is bankrupting you? Can you install air conditioners in a
landmark? Find out here.
Public Art Fund - Presents work of
contemporary artists in NYC public spaces. Browse this site for images and
precis of current projects from the ridiculous - Jones and Ginzel's
Metronome - to the sublime - Ron Baron's magical, minimalist Birds. Special
Initiative: In the Public Realm offering emerging/under-recognized artists
the chance to create a temporary work in a public space. Find out how, when
and where to submit proposals.
Creative Time - Also presents public art but
of hipper, more postmodern variety than PAF's. Past projects include rumors
spread via matchbooks throughout NYC and an exploration of the meaning of
fashion in the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. 42nd Street Art Project,
developed in tandem with the 42nd Street Development Project. A must see.
Dance Theater Workshop (DTW) - Premier fiscal sponsor
and service provider for NYC performing arts groups. Manages the National
Performance Network (NPN) - a coalition of 50 cultural organizers across the
U.S. and sponsors the international Suitcase Fund.
Project Arts - With a $75 million
budget, Project ARTS - the Board of Ed's initiative to restore
"standards-based" arts education to NYC's schools -- wants to be taken
seriously. One thing's for sure, however: the money certainly isn't going to
its website. Worth a visit if only for the questions it raises.