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Demographics
Internet resources for what you need to know on NYC Arts
Five Favorite Sites For Beginners

The Topic
"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 internet.
The Context
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. Cultural Affairs provides 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.

The Reporter
Norma Munn is the chairwoman of the New York City Arts Coalition, a citywide advocacy group. She is also president of the Artists Community Federal Credit Union, and is a former chairwoman of The City Club of New York.
The Archives
See past monthly updates for Arts.

by Norma Munn

Funds for the Arts Go Up, but Remain Unfair

(aug-sep '00) After ten years, most of which were spent fighting Rudy Giuliani's cuts, the cultural groups of the city finally received a real increase in the new budget -- courtesy of the City Council, which again rejected the Mayor's cuts, and then provided an additional $7 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs. The Council also allocated an extra $7.2 million directly to 200 of its favorite cultural groups, which is more money in "add-ons," as they are called, than ever before.

Total city funding for the cultural community is at a record high of over $122 million, more than twice as much as the state provides. This is great news.

There is just one problem. The list of cultural groups receiving funds has barely changed since the end of the Board of Estimate, in 1989. This is startling. Council members and the current Mayor pride themselves on having improved things since they took power. In the cultural community those changes are not as deep nor as substantive as they should or could be.

Can anyone explain why the current budget provides Jazzmobile, a group serving a wide range of the city's neighborhoods for decades, with $64,000, yet Jazz at Lincoln Center gets a total of $701,000? How does one make sense out of the Intrepid, the battleship museum in the Hudson River, receiving $308,000, compared to the West Indian Day Parade, which gets only $29,000, though it is one of the most outstanding and best-attended parades in the city? All of these are worthy groups, but the disparity in funding is not rational.

When elected officials make the decisions about cultural funding on a group-by-group basis, they fund those groups knowledgeable enough to get in touch with them, or the groups whose board members they know, but they don't fund artistic excellence or new trends, except by accident. City Council members fund groups serving their particular districts, but they have limited ways of knowing the quality of what they are supporting. The cultural groups they give money to may be less worthwhile than ones that simply lack the political savvy to woo elected officials.

This process is not some kind of evil conspiracy. It is the way government gives out the goodies when it does not establish a process that first evaluates and then funds, or when some aspect of government is deliberately designed to avoid the evaluation process. That was the Board of Estimate process in a nutshell.

Neither of the two Mayors since the Board of Estimate days has really been inclined to examine the process of cultural funding. Giuliani's $5 million Challenge Initiative, in which the city provides grants to groups but requires matching funds from the private sector, does not qualify as a serious attempt to address the lack of a comprehensive, rational policy and process for funding cultural groups.

So, we remain a city with a lot of money going to the cultural groups via a jerry-rigged system of ad hoc decisions mostly made ten years ago, and adjusted since in small ways by City Council members struggling to make sense of what they inherited. We can do better.

We must look at what other cities and states do, and conduct a methodical assessment of what our cultural community needs.

We must recognize that the arts and culture of New York are critical to the city's economy. There needs to be a debate about economic development IN the arts, not about cultural tourism. The city needs to support the new and expanded role of community-based cultural groups. There needs to be an economic investment model that puts serious money into the arts, instead of the nickel-and-dime approach currently in vogue. That is not a partnership. That is an investment process doomed to keep cultural groups on the dole and barely surviving. And New York, which proclaims itself the cultural capital of the world, must find ways to support those who create the art -- individual artists!


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 - Statewide 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.
  • Local Arts Councils in NYC - Check out theBronx Council on the Arts, Brooklyn Arts Council, Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island, Harlem Arts Council , Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Queens Council on the Arts for the skinny on grassroots initiatives.
  • 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 groups.


Other Recommendations:

  • 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.

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