"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.
Rhonda Zangwill is a writer, editor and teacher in New York City.
(july '00)The teary blonde is a familiar image to lovers of modern art. But outside
the Museum of Modern Art these days, Roy Lichtenstein's well-known print,
"Crying Girl" has an added feature, a cartoon bubble that has her saying:
"MoMA's base salary is below poverty level."
The image has been appropriated by the members of the Professional and
Administrative Staff Association, or PASTA. The strike by PASTA workers
against the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMa, is now well into its third month.
The two sides differ on the effect of the strike. Glenn Lowry, the
director of the museum, said that the strike was having "no impact" on
operations and that "attendance was up" since it began. The union says that
is not true, and points to several canceled events, including a major
fundraiser and at least one outdoor "Summergarden" concert.
Both have filed charges of unfair practices with the National Labor
Relations Board. The two sides have not talked face-to-face since April.
Though under the umbrella of the United Auto Workers, PASTA is an unusual
union in several ways. No similar unions even exist at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Whitney. What other union would
mobilize protesters, dress them in evening gowns, and have them approach
guests on the way to the museum for David Rockefeller's birthday party?
PASTA represents bookstore clerks earning $17,000 as well as curators
earning three times that much. Many members have advanced degrees; some have
more than one.
"I have a fabulous boss and a great job. And no one works here to get
rich," explains striker Cristina Grillo, who works in the publications
department. "But how much of your life can you give up?" She is striking
over fears that health benefits will be cut, a charge that Lowry denies.
In addition to health care, other issues in contention include wages, job
security, and what people in the labor field refer to as agency shop.
Starting salaries for PASTA members are the
lowest out of MoMA's six unions. They want five percent a year; the museum
three percent. Workers are also worried about their jobs when the museum
Manhattan site for a major $650 million renovation in two years. Union
members want their jobs guaranteed after the reopening; the museum wants
flexibility pending any reorganization in the new space. Agency shop is
perhaps the most difficult issue. At the moment, membership in PASTA is
voluntary; about two-thirds of those in eligible jobs are
members. Agency shop would compel everyone in a union job to pay union dues.
As it is, the union itself is internally divided. About half
the 250 members are not on strike. Some never went out. Others, especially
in curatorial positions, have returned to their jobs -- allegedly under
Joshua Freeman, a labor historian at Queens College and the author most
recently of "Working Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II," sees
the strike at the Museum of Modern Art as unusual for New York City's
cultural community, and unlikely to influence it.
"However," he says, "this strike is interesting within the larger labor
movement, where you see a renewed interest by professionals in unionization,
like doctors and graduate students. At nonprofit institutions, it less a
money issue, more one of respect."
At MoMA it is both.
"I'm in this for the long haul," says Cristina Grillo on the picket line.
Then she points to a huge inflatable rat - the labor movement's mascot - that
watches over the strikers ever day. In its puffy claws are signs that
read "We Are On An Employee Strike" in English and five other languages.
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.