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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

Election Special--The Arts are Apple Pie in New York, But The Candidates Have Been Silent on Specifics

(Oct-Nov '00) In the current election season, three campaigns stand out for their potential to impact on the arts in New York City. Bush/Gore and Clinton/Lazio are obvious, but not to be overlooked is the State Senate campaign on the Upper East Side where long term Senator Roy Goodman is being challenged by a Democrat, Liz Kruger, in her first attempt at public office. So, what are the issues artists and arts groups would like to hear the presidential and senatorial candidates talk about, and what are the candidates talking about?

In the case of Bush/Gore, not much, except violence on TV, in films and video games. A few general remarks from Gore about the importance of the arts on some of his fund raising visits to the city does not constitute an arts policy. The scary part for many liberal Gore supporters in New York, who also see the arts as important, is how close Bush and Gore are on the issue of controlling culture. However, neither of them as President can directly do too much to control the arts. The First Amendment is a pretty impressive barrier -- unless Bush is elected and his Supreme Court appointments undercut recent complex rulings on the First Amendment. In fact, it is possible that the greater risk lies not in the area of First Amendment rulings, but in the growing tendency of the Supreme Court to allow power at a state level to supercede federal controls. That may become a back door for "community standards" to prevail, especially in states whose constitutions do not have protections for free speech similar to the First Amendment.

Visit the web sites of both senatorial candidates and guess what is missing. Nothing about art or culture! So, what should Bush/Gore and Clinton/Lazio talk about if they want the arts vote? Here are a few suggestions.

Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts; how much is appropriate and how should the funds be used? Would they support fellowships for individual artists -- once a significant part of the NEA and now almost extinct? It would also be helpful to hear their positions about the arts endowment's sister agencies, the National Endowment for the Humanities and Museum Services.

Support for Public Television; how much and would they approve conditions about content, geographic distributions, etc.?

What are their views on the issues surrounding the Internet and copyright? It is clear that current copyright law simply does not adequately address this new medium. Both the next president and the junior senator from New York will help shape changes in copyright legislation over the next few years.

Where do these candidates stand on legislative efforts to limit advocacy by non-profits? Sooner or later one of the many legislative efforts by far right Republican House members to hamstring the voices of non-profits will reach the Senate and possibly the President's desk. Non-profit arts groups fear this type of legislation given the regular legislative assaults on the arts.

And, specifically for Ms. Clinton, how can you reconcile your recent recommendations to control advertising for young children with the First Amendment? For Mr. Lazio, exactly what would you do about all the violence you abhor on TV, video and film?

Though neither senatorial candidate's campaign responded to email and phone calls to ascertain their positions on the arts, there are some clues. One should keep in mind that in this city, candidates for public office are generally for the "arts" -- it's like apple pie and motherhood.

Unless Lazio has voted on one of the many convoluted efforts to deny funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, there simply will not be a clear indication of his position from his years as a member of the House of Representatives. Tracking that type of vote is next to impossible, since these were often amendments to amendments, and sometimes voice votes. However, arts advocates do not think of Lazio as someone who poses a threat. The problem is they also don't have any sense of his fighting for the arts. At this point, any statement from his campaign is like to be what we call the "tea and sympathy" response, so it is doubtful that anyone will get a clear sense of his views.

The Clintons are both generally regarded as arts supporters, and compared to Jesse Helms's kind of opposition in Congress, they certainly are. Still, it is troubling to see no reference to arts or culture on the Hillary Clinton web site. Her need for a heavy turnout among city voters, where there are over a hundred thousand artists (mostly registered Democrats and with demographic profiles that scream voter to any pollster) ought to cause someone in that campaign to take ten minutes and correct the oversight. Again, it would probably not be a particularly substantive statement, but even tokenism might be welcomed by some.

Ultimately the race that has potential for a real and immediate impact is none of the above, but the state senate campaign between Goodman and Kruger. Senator Goodman, a liberal Republican often acceptable to moderate Democrats, is chair of the subcommittee that recommends the appropriations for the New York State Council on the Arts. He has pushed successfully for several years for increased funding for that agency. Despite Ms. Kruger's thoughtful position on social issues, and her appreciation for the value of the arts to the city, non-profit arts groups and artists might lose a great deal if Goodman is defeated. Unless, of course, the Democrats take over the State Senate, in which case the arts chairmanship would probably continue in the hands of a city representative.

The likelihood that the Republicans will lose control of the state senate is about on a par with hearing real substance on arts issues from Bush/Gore or Clinton/Lazio. Perhaps we should find a way to have a fight over arts vouchers, or special tax cuts for artists. Or perhaps everyone in New York City and Hollywood, who earns a living in the arts, should close their wallets until these candidates speak to our issues.


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:

  • 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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