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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
Martha Hostetter writes for American Theatre magazine.
The Archives
See past monthly updates for Arts.

by Martha Hostetter

The Arts and Albany

In the new state budget, state lawmakers gave the New York State Council for the Arts the same amount of money as last year -- $44 million to give as grants for artists and institutions. In a total budget of $89.6 billion, this amounts to one half of a tenth of one percent. But everything is relative, and in a year of a severe economic problems and low expectations, this can be greeted as a success.

Before this year, the state arts budget has grown annually since 1997, thanks to the advocacy of the New York City Arts Coalition and other city groups. Each spring, teams head to the state capital for "Arts Day," armed with stories about what's happening in the city's sprawling cultural scene. While most are arts professionals, occasionally an audience member or other non-professional will make the trip. Once, the mother of a young man who had joined TADA„a city group that involves children and teens, many from low-income communities, in musical theater„went to Albany to tell lawmakers how culture had not only made a difference in the life of her son, but in her own life, as well.

It is this kind of personal testimony, says Norma Munn, chairperson of NYC Arts Coalition, that gets the ear of Albany lawmakers. Her organization recruits people to fill buses, arms them with briefing materials, and shapes the teams' overall message. This year's message„about the need for stability in funding„seems to have been heard. Although many argue that power in Albany lies in the hands of the governor, the speaker of the assembly, and the leader of the senate, at least for arts advocates, going directly to individual legislators has produced results. (About 75 percent of the time, Munn estimates, advocates are paired with the legislators who represent their organization's district, and can thus provide specific information tailored to the audience.)

And yet, state budget increases for the arts haven't kept pace with inflation, and there are now many more arts organizations competing for limited funds. As a benchmark for Albany, many arts advocates recall the "glory days" of Nelson Rockefeller, who, in 1960 as governor, created the New York State Council on the Arts before there was even an National Endowment of the Arts, and proceeded to fund culture at levels not seen before or since.

The November Elections

The arts spend most of the time under the political radar, emerging occasionally over a first amendment issue, and then just as quickly dropping out of sight. (When Giuliani threatened to create a "decency commission" to vet city-funded art, then-city comptroller and now gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall scored points with many New Yorkers when he quipped that the proposed commission on decency "ought to look at all political operations at City Hall."

Even for many arts professionals, culture is not a make-or-break issue. Norma Munn points to the state senate race in Manhattan's 26th district as a litmus test for the arts community. Democratic incumbent state senator Liz Krueger faces Republican challenger Andrew Eristoff, a former Upper East Side council member and commissioner of finance who is now the Republican Party Chairman. Krueger has a long and impressive record on housing rights and consumer protections„typical Democratic issues, which appeal to the many liberally minded in the arts community. Eristoff, on the other hand, is cut from Bloomberg's cloth; he is a fiscal conservative who has been a loyal and high-profile patron of the arts, particularly dance. It is tough to say how most arts professionals would vote. (Fortunately, as Munn points out, few live on the Upper East Side.)

Albany and Rebuilding

An issue of great concern to the arts community is the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. "Creative Downtown," a report on the potential role of culture in rebuilding that was released in late July, and based on public discussions organized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Arts Coalition, makes clear that artists care about more than just a memorial. Many believe that rebuilding creates an opportunity for an economic and social transformation of Lower Manhattan. The goals described„creating a 24/7 community, preserving affordable residential and work space„mesh with the goals of many civic planners and community leaders.

Recommendations focus, not surprisingly, on real estate. To prevent the crowd-out of artists that began before 9/11 and that, many fear, will be exacerbated by commercial rebuilding, the report calls on legislators to: establish an arts and cultural land trust; construct affordable performance spaces; and issue "arts bonds" for capital projects, among other proposals.

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 Education - 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."

Visit the Topic Archives!

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