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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
Rhonda Zangwill is a writer, editor and teacher in New York City.
The Archives
See past monthly updates for Arts.

by Rhonda Zangwill

Art for Politics: The Museum of Modern Art Strike

(july '00)The teary blonde is a familiar image to lovers of modern art. But outside the Museum of Modern Art these days, Roy Lichtenstein's well-known print, "Crying Girl" has an added feature, a cartoon bubble that has her saying: "MoMA's base salary is below poverty level."

The image has been appropriated by the members of the Professional and Administrative Staff Association, or PASTA. The strike by PASTA workers against the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMa, is now well into its third month.

The two sides differ on the effect of the strike. Glenn Lowry, the director of the museum, said that the strike was having "no impact" on operations and that "attendance was up" since it began. The union says that is not true, and points to several canceled events, including a major fundraiser and at least one outdoor "Summergarden" concert.

Both have filed charges of unfair practices with the National Labor Relations Board. The two sides have not talked face-to-face since April.

Though under the umbrella of the United Auto Workers, PASTA is an unusual union in several ways. No similar unions even exist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Whitney. What other union would mobilize protesters, dress them in evening gowns, and have them approach guests on the way to the museum for David Rockefeller's birthday party?

PASTA represents bookstore clerks earning $17,000 as well as curators earning three times that much. Many members have advanced degrees; some have more than one.

"I have a fabulous boss and a great job. And no one works here to get rich," explains striker Cristina Grillo, who works in the publications department. "But how much of your life can you give up?" She is striking over fears that health benefits will be cut, a charge that Lowry denies.

In addition to health care, other issues in contention include wages, job security, and what people in the labor field refer to as agency shop. Starting salaries for PASTA members are the lowest out of MoMA's six unions. They want five percent a year; the museum is offering three percent. Workers are also worried about their jobs when the museum closes its Manhattan site for a major $650 million renovation in two years. Union members want their jobs guaranteed after the reopening; the museum wants flexibility pending any reorganization in the new space. Agency shop is perhaps the most difficult issue. At the moment, membership in PASTA is voluntary; about two-thirds of those in eligible jobs are members. Agency shop would compel everyone in a union job to pay union dues.

As it is, the union itself is internally divided. About half the 250 members are not on strike. Some never went out. Others, especially in curatorial positions, have returned to their jobs -- allegedly under management pressure.

Joshua Freeman, a labor historian at Queens College and the author most recently of "Working Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II," sees the strike at the Museum of Modern Art as unusual for New York City's cultural community, and unlikely to influence it.

"However," he says, "this strike is interesting within the larger labor movement, where you see a renewed interest by professionals in unionization, like doctors and graduate students. At nonprofit institutions, it less a money issue, more one of respect."

At MoMA it is both.

"I'm in this for the long haul," says Cristina Grillo on the picket line. Then she points to a huge inflatable rat - the labor movement's mascot - that watches over the strikers ever day. In its puffy claws are signs that read "We Are On An Employee Strike" in English and five other languages.

Rhonda'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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