The mayor of the country’s largest city and arts capital announced a new plan yesterday (July 19) to ensure municipal arts funding goes to the cultural organizations that are working to diversify their boards and staffs.
Bill de Blasio unveiled the new cultural plan, ”CreateNYC,” at a press conference in the city’s Queens borough. He developed the plan with input from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), local arts organizations and more than 188,000 New York City residents, all with the goal of ensuring the city’s robust arts and culture sector better reaches and represents its millions of residents—especially those from communities of color.
“New York City is the world capital of art and culture,” de Blasio says in a statement announcing the plan. “If we are going to continue to live up to that title we must use every tool we have to ensure that every resident, in every neighborhood, has the same access to cultural opportunities. CreateNYC is the first comprehensive roadmap to lifting up arts and culture across the city—now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Part of that work involves data collection on staff and board demographics for arts institutions that receive DCLA and other city funds. The New York Times reports that these institutions include world-renowned places like Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—both of whose boards, like most elite culture organizations around the city, mainly feature wealthy White men from the city’s white-collar industries. A 2016 DCLA study found that people of color represented 67 percent of New Yorkers, but only 38 percent of the arts sector’s workforce.
According to The Times, de Blasio warned that organizations with predominantly White and male staffs and boards risk losing future funding. “[Internal diversity] will be a factor in the city’s funding decisions going forward,” de Blasio said as quoted by the Times. “We do this because we believe in fairness.”
That disparity mirrors the divide between marginalized communities and local arts organizations. “There’s a north-south division in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and a sense in Queens that the cultural resources cluster along the 7 train corridor,” reads one of the Times’ quotes from the full study, which the city has not yet made publicly available. “As it becomes more difficult for moderate- and low-income New Yorkers to live near the center, transportation and geographic divides come to the surface.”
CreateNYC grew out of criticism that the city did not make its arts funding priorities transparent and prioritized elite institutions over neighborhood ones. A previous Times report said that the Metropolitan Museum of Art received $26 million from the city’s previous $178.3 million municipal arts budget; by contrast, the Bronx County Historical Society, located in the city’s predominantly Black and Latinx northern borough where hip-hop first developed, received only $184,072.
The Times says that the plan will impact future city budget decisions and not the 2018 budget, which the city finalized last month. Read the cultural plan summary at CreateNYC.org.