"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.
Has New York Become the Art of the Impossible for Young Artists?
(Sept-Oct '00) It is 1990 in a college dorm somewhere in California, and a student about to
graduate proudly declares, I'm an artist, so I'm moving to New York City.
This sounded reasonable then. New York City was the first home to artists in
America, and in the twentieth century it became for artists something closer
to the center of the universe. In 1990, according to the 1990 United States
Census, there were 123,000 artists working and living here.
Fast forward to today. New York City still beckons. But now it is a
different city. Only the na›ve would expect to make a living as an artist;
our college graduate knows she will have to find a day job. She also knows
she is unlikely to find a place in Manhattan.
That still leaves four very lovely boroughs. But an apartment even in the
"outer" boroughs for low-income people is very hard to come by. A move to
Williamsburg three or four years ago was possible. Today, the middle class
has arrived. Another concern for the young artist, approximately two thirds
of whom are women, is that she sees moving to the poorer neighborhoods of
this city as a potentially high-risk choice.
So, the question is: will she wind up coming to the city at all?
The results of the 2000 Census are not in yet, but there is some evidence to
suggest that she will not.
"In the years that I've been here," says Paul Basista, the executive director
of the Graphic Artists Guild, "the core of the New York chapter was
originally Manhattan based. Not now. They're in Hoboken, or Williamsburg, or
Concrete statistical data is difficult to obtain. Artists are not joiners,
and there are few guilds, like the one for graphic artists, to keep track of
But one hint of the degree of change comes from the applications for artists
fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts. From 1992 through
2000, four out of the five boroughs experienced a decrease in the number of
artists applying. Manhattan decreased 31 percent, the Bronx 41 percent,
Queens 15 percent, and Staten Island 42 percent. The only borough to show an
increase was Brooklyn, and it was a tiny two percent, which does nothing to
compensate for the losses in the rest of the city. Since a fellowship is a
steadily desired goal for any artist, a decrease in applicants of this
magnitude is a clear sign that the artists have moved elsewhere.
We are losing the people, in other words, who supply the base for our
Off-Broadway theaters, the downtown visual arts scene, the small dance
venues. We are losing writers, poets, sculptors, musicians, composers,
photographers -- all of whom are also part of the commercial economy, and not
just as waiters. Painters do illustrations for books. Writers write book
jacket blurbs and edit corporate in house newsletters, or spend years at
publishing companies. Photographers and graphic artists are the backbone of
the advertising industry's visual output. Musicians abound in the computer
It is hard to argue for housing for the well educated "volunteer poor," as
one past city administration referred to artists, when such large numbers of
involuntarily poor New Yorkers are homeless or living in sub-standard housing.
But unless the federal, state and city address the housing problems of New
York, we can expect the next decade to show a diminution in the one commodity
without which the arts cannot survive: talented new artists
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
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.