New York City and Rockefeller Foundation Invest $1 Million in Internships to Promote Diversity

These institutions are taking the long view.

Tom Finkelpearl.
Courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the Rockefeller Foundation are teaming up to increase diversity among the staffs of New York’s cultural institutions. Together, they’re putting $1 million behind a program to support paid internships at those institutions for students from the City University of New York (CUNY), in the hopes that the students will eventually get jobs at such venues.

The new initiative follows up on a January 2015 survey that revealed that the staff of New York City’s cultural institutions were a homogeneous group. The survey found, for example, that the city’s cultural workers are nearly twice as likely to be white as the city’s population (61.8 percent versus 33 percent).

Tom Finkelpearl with the first class of Cultural Corps students. Photo courtesy New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Tom Finkelpearl with the first class of Cultural Corps students. Photo courtesy New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

“When I first read the survey, I wrote the mayor immediately and said, ‘I think there’s one powerful and immediately available resource to address the challenge the city faces, and that’s CUNY,’” CUNY’s chancellor, James B. Milliken, told the New York Times.

Tom Finkelpearl, DLCA commissioner, tells the Times that “The idea is not to just expose people in the short term, but encourage the institutions to stay in touch with these young people, foster their growth, and maybe hire them in the long run.”

Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting September 28, 2015 in New York. Photo Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images.

Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting September 28, 2015 in New York. Photo Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images.

In the past, Finkelpearl has stressed the importance of attracting a diverse group of candidates for job openings at New York city institutions. There “has to be diversity in the pool,” he said in his keynote address at the ADAA Art Show in 2015, noting that cultural organizations need to expand their reach to include non-white communities. “As soon as you have a diverse staff, the social network will be there.”

The CUNY students will serve internships at institutions like MoMA PS1 and the American Museum of Natural History. In the program’s first year, some 85 students will find placements at 32 cultural organizations.


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