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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
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 Leaves magazine.
The Archives
See past monthly updates for Arts.

by Kati Kormendi

In the News:

(mar '00)Two darkhorses from Sidney, Australia won the prize in an international competition to create a new TKTS booth for Times Square. Sidney architects John Choi, 28, and Tai Ropiha, 36, designed a bright red grand staircase which will rise from the base of the statue of Father Duffy, for whom the TKTS traffic island is named, to a height of 16 feet. The TKTS logo will be emblazoned in bold black letters about 5 ft. high on the structure's north and south sides. Sales booths will be tucked in beneath the high end of the stairs, and after buying their tickets theatergoers will be able to sit on the steps looking out at the spectacle which is Times Square.

Choi and Ropiha, who visited NYC only once before returning last month to claim $5,000 in prize money, said they based their impressions of Times Square on films, magazines and television coverage of New Year's Eve celebrations. "We were reacting to the visual buzz," said Mr. Roipha, "and tried to create a strong singular image in contrast."

What was the jury looking for? "Something that had cleverness, visual economy and force," explained Jack Goldstein, executive director of the Theater Development Fund which operates TKTS and sponsored the competition. TDF was also looking for more booths as well as better working conditions for the sales staff within (They're even thinking about adding a public toilet). Construction, to begin later this year, is expected to cost around $2 million all to be raised by the Fund.

The competition, the largest ever in NYC history, drew 683 entries from 31 countries: ranging from a booth conceived as twin green crystals to a 3D rendering of Piet Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie." 40 top designs are currently on exhibition at the Van Alen Institute (30 West 22nd Street) while 200 more can be seen at the Urban Center (457 Madison between 50th and 51st). "There wasn't much room for an entirely radical solution," said Raymond Gastil, executive director of the the Van Alen Institute which organized the competition. "But the entries say a lot about the raw energy and talent that's out there."

Even the Coalition for Father Duffy which inundated the Mayor's office with over 7,000 postcards - "This is Duffy Square, it isn't TKTS Square," said the Coaltion head Maj. Gen. Joseph S. Healey. "You can't dump him from center stage and put him in the cheap balcony seats. It isn't fair." -was mollified by Choi and Ropiha's design.

But what about the existing TKTS booth - that wonderful, ramshackle, pipe-and-canvas construction which has come to represent Broadway theater to an entire generation since its inception 26 years ago? David W. Dunlap wrote in the New York Times (7/8/99): "The competition seems to doom one more facet of Broadway's architectural past, which has been chipped away piece by piece in recent years until very little remains of what was once a splendidly pungent esthetic amalgam, made of dozens of incongrous icons layered one on top of the other."

Dunlap went on to point out that the old TKTS booth was the product of that moment in the early 70's when Broadway was desperate for resuscitation and the city nearly broke. Under Mayor Lindsay, the Office of Midtown Planning and Development lent a city-owned trailer to TDF to be used as a booth for selling half-price tickets on the day of a performance.

Bound to a budget of only $ 5,000, architects John Schiff and Robert Mayers came up with the idea of renting pipes by the month from the R. C. Mugler scaffolding company in the Bronx. With these pipes, they extended the structure outwards - then streched translucent plastic through and around the pipes and painted "TKTS" in large Helvetica letters across. To keep the whole thing from blowing away, they lashed it to four rough concrete anchors at each corner.

The TKTS booth was an overnight and abiding success. More than 36.5 million tickets have been sold there since it went up. It won a design award in 1973 from the New York Society of Architects, a Bard Award in 1975 from the City Club for merit in civic architecture and has been called "a classic of early 70's design" and "the beginning of scaffold-like, high-tech, tensilt structures. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has referred to it as one of the "symbols of the renaissance" of New York City. Ron Silver who chaired the NYC 2000 millenium committee called it "Times Square's centerpiece."

But while preservation advocates believe a case could have been made for granting the booth landmark status, it would not have been eligible till turning 30 in 2003. And it probably would not have stood up that long. Even Mr. Schiff admits the booth was always meant to be temporary.

Kati Sounds Off:

There's a lot of talk in this town about "the community" and the arts are by no means exempt. Take the theater. In a recent issue of American Theater magazine, Ben Cameron, executive director of the Theater Communications Group, sang the praises of "community-specific [eg Latino, Asian-American, gay/lesbian] theatres" which, he claims, "speak to a unique need many have for communal celebration, for empowerment, for safe places to come together in an all-too-often hostile world."

Well, maybe. But it's also true that you gotta have a gimmick to get funded and one of the easiest gimmicks to have is community service/specificity. Meanwhile the proliferation of community-specific companies has led to a balkanization of the larger theater community - at least at its not-for-profit edges - as well as to a sort of unquestioning acceptance of the myth of cultural identity: an acceptance which is ultimately impoverishing both intellectually and imaginatively.

This is not to say there aren't scores of wonderful counter-examples - Pan Asian Rep, the Irish Rep, the Negro Ensemble Theater, the Puerto Rican Travelling Theater Company - to name a few. Nor that at one point the flowering of community-specific theaters did not serve a very necessary, corrective function.But as an overall trend, it's gone too far.


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 - 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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