"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.
(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
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 -
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."