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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

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 leaving."

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 their members.

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 industry.

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 - 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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