New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Is Launching a $25 Million ‘New Deal’-Style Program to Employ Local Artists With Public Commissions

The money will fund some 1,500 local artists in the “comeback of New York City,” the mayor says.

Mayor Bill de Blasio leaves after making an announcement at Delacorte Theater in Central Park in March of 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is establishing a major program to support local artists this summer by funding public art. Through the City Artist Corps, as the economic recovery program is called, New York will invest $25 million to employ some 1,500 artists.

During a press conference today, de Blasio reflected on the legacy of the Federal Art Project, a depression-era Works Progress Administration program that generated jobs for creative workers by commissioning public artworks—and to which he directly compared his own new initiative. 

“It is so powerful that the federal government, in the midst of the depression, said we’re going to employ artists, we’re going to help them stay on their feet. But it’s also going to inspire the whole community,” de Blasio said, referencing Jackson Pollock, Dorothea Lange, and John Stuart Curry as artists who benefited from the project. “Amazing things came out of that effort. It gave the people hope in a moment of tremendous challenge.” 

“We’re going to take inspiration from that model and bring it to today,” he continued. “The City Artist Corp is going to employ artists as part of the comeback of New York City.”

The city will invest money directly in local artists to “beautify and activate public spaces and spur the city’s recovery,” according to an announcement from the mayor’s office. Among other tasks, artists and musicians will be paid to create public artworks, and to stage performances and pop-up shows. 

A representative from the department of cultural affairs told Artnet News that details about the program, including how and when funding will be distributed, will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The City Artist Corps is part of de Blasio’s broader campaign to rejuvenate the economic and cultural landscape of a city still reeling from the pandemic. A February 2021 report from the state comptroller’s office revealed that the city’s arts, entertainment, and recreation employment declined by 66 percent from one year earlier.

Cultural affairs commissioner Gonzalo Casals, who was also at the press conference, called the City Artist Corps an “extraordinary commitment.”

“This is a historic investment in artists in the city of New York—probably the largest in a generation,” he said.  

“We want to give artists opportunities and we want the city to feel the power of our cultural community again,” added de Blasio.

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