"Arts" refers to literature, architecture, and the visual arts -
including film and video (when it's art!) as well as the performing arts -
theater, dance, music, performance art, spoken word art.
As the nation's cultural capital, New York City boasts about
850 professional non-profit arts groups, literally tens of thousands of
artists (struggling and otherwise), a booming film and entertainment
industry, and galleries and museums by the score. The arts make up one of
Gotham's most important economic sectors.
The City supports its artists and art institutions in a variety of ways.
First, it supports the artists themselves. New York's Loft Law allows
certified New York City artists to live and work in warehouse buildings in
the Soho/Noho area which would otherwise be off limits as residences. The
City also offers artists subsidized housing in buildings like Westbeth or
Manhattan Plaza. It makes special low-rate health-insurance plans available,
and provides limited individual grants through the Department of Cultural
NYC also funds roughly 500 of the 850 arts-related non-profits, primarily
through the DCA. And the Giuliani Administration has, in theory at least,
made arts education a priority as well, with ProjectARTS which is now
operative in over two-thirds of the city's public schools.
Rarely, however, does City funding suffice. The non-profit arts community
relies heavily on state, federal, corporate funding, grants from private
foundations and admission fees to stay afloat. Achieving solvency, in fact,
means navigating through a complex grantmaking/service-providing/networking
terrain whose features are not at all obvious to the uninitiated.
Kati Kormendi is a freelance writer and actress; the former
Artistic Director of the Magellan Project, a multiarts theater; and the
creator of The Serpent's Eye an online eco-art
gallery. She has written for Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, and Talking
(jan '00) Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled that the Mayor's
efforts to punish the Brooklyn Museum for mounting
exhibit of British shock art, violated the First Amendment. Judge Gershon
ordered the Mayor to resume monthly payments to the Museum, and to halt his
campaign to remove its Board of Directors. Lawyers for the Museum are now
seeking a permanent injunction (Judge Gershon's is temporary) while the
Mayor, who called her ruling "the usual knee-jerk response of some judges,"
is appealing to have it reversed.
Mr. Giuliani now alleges that the Museum conspired with British advertising
mogul Charles Saatchi,
owner of the art on display in "Sensation," and with
Christie's, the auction house which has
sold works for Saatchi in the past, to inflate the value of his collection.
While these allegations seem unsubstantiated, hundreds of emails, memoranda
and financial statements produced in court have raised serious questions
about the probity of the Museum's fundraising methods.
David Barstow laid out some of the details in a 6 December
New York Times
article: Not only did Museum Director Arnold Lehman
deliberately conceal the fact that Saatchi donated $160,000 to help foot the
bill for "Sensation," but he also gave the collector a major role in
determining the exhibition's content, provoking museum staff to worry aloud
that Saatchi was taking over control.
Barstow describes an intricate web of ethically dubious wheeling and
dealing. Lehman binds himself more tightly to Saatchi, enlisting the
collector's aid in soliciting $50,000 from Christie's. Lehman has lunch with
Patricia Hambrecht, president of Christie's America, and suggests that the
Museum needs to "rethink its entire approach to contemporary art," an area
of interest to Christie's. Weeks later, Christie's sells off $ 21,000 of art
from the Museum's collection. Dealers representing artists featured in
"Sensation"come up with more bucks. Rock star David Bowie donates
$75,000. Bowie's for-profit website acquires exclusive
rights to show "Sensation" on the Internet and Bowie himself records the
audiotour. Lehman asks the Third Millenium Foundation, a
Swiss foundation promoting arts education, for $200,000, falsely claiming he
has already secured "several gifts" of up to $350,000. Lehman also presents
the foundation with an "artificial budget" inflating the price tags of the
programs it will fund.
The most conspicuous questions surrounding "Sensation" - whether the Mayor
should withhold funding from a publicly-supported museum just because he
doesn't like the art it chooses to display, whether a man should splatter
white paint on a canvas - are easy. More complex and more nuanced are the
questions now emerging about how art institutions fund, mount and promote
mammoth exhibitions in a climate of limited public support.
L'AFFAIRE MARY BOONE: On December 6, Manhattan art dealer Mary Boone was cleared of a
charge of unlawful distribution of ammunition. Ms. Boone, arrested in
September after displaying handmade guns and a vase filled with live
9-millimeter cartridges that visitors were invited to take home as souvenirs
at her Fifth Avenue gallery, described her subsequent overnight stay at the
Tombs as an "adventure."
"Art is the only thing I believe in and I'm glad to be arrested over it,"
Kati Sounds Off:
There is something entertainingly Tom Wolfean about the goings-on at the
Brooklyn Museum - to say nothing of Mary Boone's recent brush with the law.
And it's easy to point a finger at Arnold Lehman for putting the resources
of a publicly funded institution behind an exhibition that - religious
issues aside - was arguably low on artistic merit, though high on radical
chic. It also appeared to embroil him in questionable financial practices.
The truth is, however, that when public support of the arts is at best
partial, visibility (ergo hype) is at a premium. Further, one finds the
money where one can - be it from Charles Saatchi, Christie's, Phillip
Morris, or Rudolph Giuliani. The Arts today make strange bedfellows.
Kati'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.