New York City Makes the Arts a Priority with New Cultural Plan

Arts will be brought to under-served neighborhoods.

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Spencer Platt, courtesy Getty Images.
Mayor Bill de Blasio. Courtesy photographer Spencer Platt, courtesy Getty Images.

New York’s City Council passed a bill yesterday that will help the city create its first comprehensive cultural plan, reports the New York Times.

“Administrations come and go; cultural affairs commissioners come and go,” Jimmy Van Bramer, the chairman of the council’s cultural affairs committee and majority leader, told the Times. “What we want is to have this ongoing prioritization of arts and culture.” Van Bramer, of Queens, and council member Stephen Levin, of Brooklyn, introduced the bill in 2013.

Other major cities, including Chicago and Houston, have their own cultural plans, such as Denver’s Imagine 2020, introduced last year, which identifies 50 goals for cultural growth over the next five years.

Unanimously approved by the council, the New York legislation calls for an analysis of the city’s current cultural priorities and the state of arts organizations and artists. The bill also looks to create a plan for keeping the ever-more-expensive city artist-friendly (see Tom Finkelpearl Promises to Make New York Livable for Artists and Mayor Bill de Blasio Pledges To Create 1,500 Cheap Houses for Artists). It also aims to increase the presence of arts organizations in the outer boroughs, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods, in the hopes of improving quality of life, creating jobs, and promoting tourism.

Cultural affairs commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, head of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, supports the bill, which calls for arts groups in all five boroughs to share their recommendations for the city’s cultural development. “Even though I spend all my time out looking at everything in all the boroughs, it still only adds up to an anecdotal idea of what’s happening,” he admitted to the Times. “Are there parts of the city that are not adequately served by cultural resources, or are there imaginative ideas for getting cultural resources to those communities?”

Since his appointment last year, Finkelpearl has introduced a municipal ID card that offers free membership to Cultural Institutions Group member institutions (see Get Free Museum Tickets with New York City’s New ID Card) and begun a diversity initiative at the city’s cultural institutions (see Tom Finkelpearl Wants To Diversify Leadership at New York’s Culture Hubs).

The organizations’ recommendations will be compiled into a citywide cultural plan by July 1, 2017. A citizens advisory committee will help oversee the plan.

The bill’s passage follows last week’s unveiling of One New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “plan for a strong and just city.” Among other goals, One New York hopes to create jobs and housing, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and flooding risks, and provide New Yorkers easy access to the city’s considerable cultural resources and activities.

One New York hopes to ensure that local cultural organizations have the funding and capacity to serve their neighborhoods, and will make it easier to get city permits to host cultural events at public spaces and facilities.


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