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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

Corporate Giving

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art needed a new president, in 1999, they did not ask an art historian, or even an arts manager; instead, they asked David McKinney, former president of IBM Europe. In the heady days of the 1990s, when corporate funding for the arts reached unprecedented levels, it made sense to appoint a businessman as helmsman for one of the world's richest museums.

Now, with corporate profits down sharply and a new Wall Street scandal each week, the marriage between corporations and culture seems uncertain. Thus it was with palpable anxiety that cultural fundraisers gathered on June 20 to hear Citigroup Foundation president, Charles V. Raymond, American Express Foundation president, Mary Beth Salerno, and senior vice president for corporate social responsibility at JPMorgan Chase, Michael Feller, discuss their companies' commitments to the arts.

The trio's message was upbeat: in their corporations, at least, philanthropy doesn't follow profitability. When the market is down, giving doesn't drop off, just as in really good times -- e.g., the late 1990s -- it doesn't go up as dramatically as profits. By keeping some charitable funds in reserve, these corporations are able to be reliable partners to arts groups over time. And yet, overall, corporate funding did go up 30 percent from 1995 to 1999, and it is likely to decline some in the next few years.

In addition to the considerable tax benefits, corporations will continue to fund the arts because it is relatively cheap, and it makes good public relations sense. This summer's River to River Festival, an ambitious line-up of outdoor concerts and walking tours in Lower Manhattan, is sponsored by, among others, the Port Authority, World Financial Center, New York Stock Exchange, and, most prominently, American Express. The festival is part feel-good, family-friendly urban party and part advertisement for the solidarity and strength of the Lower Manhattan business community. This kind of corporate sponsorship taps in to the post-9/11, post-Enron sentiments that there is more to life than numbers--and more to corporations than greed and the bottom line. Citigroup's "Live Richly" ads remind us to "Live within your means; sing beyond your range" and that "You don't need a lot of money to toot your own horn; you need a horn." Both ads tout Citigroup's funding of a concert series.

Advice to Fundraisers

If these days corporations need to blanket themselves in culture, many cultural groups are in desperate need of partners. To strengthen their financial positions, many say, arts institutions both large and small should follow the corporate example: "Form partnerships," advises JPMorgan's Michael Feller. Just as companies merge to reduce costs and maximize profits, artistic partnerships can pool basic resources -- like office space and equipment, or marketing budgets -- to reduce overhead, increase visibility, and maximize bargaining power. (Many groups are already doing this)

Judith A. Jedlicka, president of the Business Committee for the Arts, says that arts groups should focus on making partnerships at the small, local level. Companies with budgets of under $1 million a year, including many printers and small manufacturers, comprise the overwhelming majority of all corporations, and yet they are often ignored by fundraisers, who tend to gravitate toward high-profile corporations. In a national survey, the Business Committee for the Arts found that many smaller companies did not give money to arts groups simply because they had never been asked, or because they felt no connections to the arts in their communities. Arts groups have to do a better job in forging meaningful connections with local businesses (in other words, don't just send a yearly letter asking for money).

The Bottom Line

In early June, the Americans for the Arts research and advocacy group released a two-year study of the economic impact of nonprofit arts. Across the nation, the study found, the arts generate $134 billion in economic activity annually and result in $24.4 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues. These are just the latest numbers in a spate of recent studies that emphasizes the economic value of the arts. Armed with such figures, cultural groups should feel confident in knocking on corporate doors, even during the current economic climate.

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."

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