"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. 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.
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 Governor's Proposed Cut in the Budget for the Arts
(Jan '01) Arts folks are not happy that in his new budget, Governor George
Pataki has proposed a nine percent cut in funding for the State Council on
the Arts, whose budget is already only $48.4 million.
As recently as mid November, at the annual Governor's Arts Awards, Pataki
offered glowing words of strong support for the arts. Some in the crowd
seemed unaware that the governor's actual record is not quite as supportive
as his public remarks. Including the current budget proposal, his
administration has recommended cuts in three budgets, level funding in two, a
miniscule increase one year and a significant increase in one year. He also
decreased funding mid-year during his second year in office, and vetoed a
legislative increase of four million dollars in 1999. At best, this is a
So, why do arts folks feel they are better off under this administration than
under his Democratic predecessor, former Governor Mario Cuomo? Simple. In
1992, admittedly a difficult budget year, then-Governor Cuomo cut the arts
budget by 41 percent, reducing it from $49 million to $29 million. No other
state agency went through such destruction. And, it was destruction. Given
the delay in passing state budgets, arts groups are often mid-way through
their budget year before they know what the State Council on the Arts will
provide. The delay plays havoc with planning, and costs money as groups
have to borrow money. But, when a cut of this magnitude is absorbed in such
a short time and after a budget year has started, it creates deficits that
cannot be avoided. Cuomo continued the cuts in 1993 with an additional $5
million. After that experience, only complete annihilation would seem worse.
Recovery for the arts started as the legislature forced increases in 1994,
and as Cuomo prepared to run for another term.
None of this excuses the current governor for his recommending such a large
cut, nor are arts groups and their boards planning to quietly accept the
proposed decrease. The reality is that it is the state legislature that
restores and protects the arts year in and year out, and it has done so both
in this administration and in the prior one. That restoration and increase
has traditionally been primarily the responsibility of the Republicans in the
Senate, which is why the potential loss of Senator Roy Goodman in the recent
election was of such great concern to the arts community. His re-election
brought a collective sigh of relief from the arts field.
The Assembly has over the past few years begun to participate more in the
process of providing arts funding, but there too there are changes. The arts
committee was chaired for the last three years by Paul Tokasz of Buffalo, who
recently was promoted to majority leader. The new arts chair is Joseph
Morelle from Rochester, formerly chair of the small business committee.
Given the size of this cut, Assemblyman Morelle is facing a difficult year as
he starts this new chairmanship.
In the midst of the proposed cuts to the State Council on the Arts, Pataki
was busy announcing three large capital gifts to New York City cultural
groups. The Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History is slated
for $13 million, which has some people asking just how much that project
actually cost. The Intrepid Museum is targeted for $7.5 million so it can
"remain one of the New York City's top tourist attractions." (A comment fit
for analysis on The Spin Room!) And, $1 million is going to the Brooklyn
Academy of Music's Local Development Corporation.
Despite these sops, the bottom line is that the arts community is deeply
upset by the proposed cut. The funding level currently equals 1987 in actual
dollars, and the governor proposes reducing it even further. Factoring in
inflation, the arts community is being funded at 1977 levels. This is in a
state where arts are a major export product, a major tourist attraction, a
significant part of the economy, a larger employer than construction, and for
many an important reason for putting up with the otherwise often frustrating
and expensive living conditions of New York City. So, in a year of
unparalleled budget surpluses, why cut the arts.
Norma'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
Third World Newsreel - Great site for searching by
topic for films and video you may recall only vaguely. 30 year collection.
Harvestworks - Established for artists using
electronic technology, but site is easy to use and should pique the curiosity
of anyone interested in the arts. Calendar and good links to lots of other
Meet the Composer - Offers listing of
opportunities competitions for artists, and for the non-composer has a great
series of conversations with composers.
Poets & Writers - A bit focused on the industry, but the
Trivia question alone is worth visiting if you are a reader. Good resource
The Kitchen - This center for video, music,
dance, performance and literature has real info on video. List of those it
has sponsored, presented or worked with reads like a Who's Who of the
video/music/performance combinations we now take for granted.
Theatre Development Fund - Group supports production of
new play and musicals, but best known for the TKTS booth in Times Square.
Advantage of the site, aside from telling you a lot more about theatre and
TDF, is that you can get on their mailing list for discount seating if you
are on the following "students, teachers, union members, retired person,
performing arts professionals, the clergy, and members of the armed forces."