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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

Arts budget

(May '01) To outsiders with an interest in the arts, it may be difficult to reconcile what seems at first like two Rudy Guilianis - the one who appoints a much-derided Decency Commission to assess works of art by some obscure medieval standards; and the one who is proposing that the city spend nearly a billion dollars for major cultural institutions over the next eleven years. But insiders know there is one Rudy.

Cultural groups should not be too hasty in counting that billion dollars in capital projects, and not just because of the shaky economy. The proposals have not been approved as yet. The city has a way of proposing large plans for culture and spending very little. In fiscal year 2000, the plan for libraries and cultural institutions was $369.2 million, but only $30.9 million was actually spent.

And then take a careful look at some of the lesser-known recipients of the mayor's largesse. One of the largest this year - up there in the top 15 with Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and other citywide institutions with significant outreach and budgets in the millions - is the John Noble Collection on Staten Island. It is to receive $250,000, as well as its own new line in the city budget. (For those unfamiliar with this city jargon, that means your group does not have to start from zero each year. New lines are rare.)

It seems the mayor had a town hall meeting at this cultural facility. He clearly preferred the more traditional visual art at the John Noble Collection to that of the Brooklyn Museum, where a single work of art inspired both his ire and the idea of a Decency Commission. It should be stated that the John Noble Collection is a worthy cultural group, and has worked exceptionally hard these past few years to demonstrate that fact.

But while the mayor is offering the John Noble Collection $250,000 -- its entire operating budget! -- he is for the eighth straight year recommending large cuts to the Department of Cultural Affairs, a decrease of some $23.3 million in his budget proposal last month. He explained his recommended cuts by saying the reductions will require cultural organizations to diversify and strengthen their funding streams. In the process of raising additional private funds, he maintained, these organizations will become stronger by becoming more self-reliant.

For some, this is a textbook demonstration of what is wrong with the way arts are funded in New York.

The City Council might pass its own budget as it did two years ago, restoring most of the mayor's proposed cuts in culture. Although a Council budget would in fact be fully legitimate, the mayor refused last time to concede that reality. One of the ploys he used was to devise a month-to-month contracting process for hundreds of cultural groups. They were the lucky ones. Many non-profits saw no contracts processed for several months.

The mayoral mischief with the Decency Commission and with the budget process has cultural groups looking at the next mayoral race very closely, in the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the intense frustration of the past decade.

All four Democratic candidates made strong statements in opposition to the Decency Commission. City Council Speaker Peter Vallone has been steadfast in his resistance to cuts for the cultural community. Public Advocate Mark Green has his staff investigating issues of concern to the culturals, and clearly intends to have a specific set of recommendations soon. No specifics have been seen or heard from Fernando Ferrer or Alan Hevesi. Potential candidate Bloomberg is a large contributor to the arts, but that is not seen as a guarantee of support for public funding.

But all that is in the future. For now, non-profit arts groups are hoping just to get through the next few weeks of budget negotiations between the mayor and the City Council, in the hopes that enough of the cuts will be restored so that they can survive.


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 - 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:

  • New York Women in Film and Television - Insider perspective on how the film industry works in NYC. Interesting series of open meetings about film and tv.
  • 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 sites.
  • 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 page.
  • 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."

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