New York Works Plan to Create New Artist Studios and 10,000 Creative Jobs

The New York Works initiative aims to create a total of 100,000 new jobs, in areas ranging from tech to creative and cultural sectors.

New York artists seeking studios, nonprofits facing rising rents, and musicians seeking rehearsal spaces may have some reasons to be hopeful about the future. In a new initiative called New York Works, the city government aims to cultivate creative sector jobs and to provide artists with workspaces.

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the New York Works initiative, which aims to create 100,000 well-paying jobs (think $50,000 a year or a realistic starting point to get there) over the coming decade in areas from tech and life sciences to fashion to virtual reality. The 10-year plan is backed by some $1.1 billion in currently earmarked city spending and an additional $250 million the city will account for in upcoming budget updates.

As part of the plan, the city is shooting for 10,000 jobs in the creative and cultural sector. That includes jobs in fashion, film and television, media and design, and music, in addition to visual art. (The city wasn’t immediately able to provide a breakdown of what portion of those 10,000 jobs will go to visual artists.)

“The creative sector is the soul of this city, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs in all five boroughs,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “To help creative New Yorkers thrive, we need a diverse set of jobs and affordable places to present and create art. This plan will strengthen the entire cultural ecosystem.”

New York Works comes on the heels of a study released by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) that, as Sarah Cascone wrote in artnet News in May, “painted a grim picture of New York’s affordability for artists.” One startling fact: “A full 40 percent of responding arts and culture workers said they were unable to afford art supplies and tools.”

Affordable artist housing is also very hard to come by in the city. As Cascone reported in 2014, an eye-popping 53,000 applications poured in for a scant 89 apartments at East Harlem’s El Barrio Artspace PS109.

Given that crushing demand, the city’s promised new offerings seem rather modest, if welcome. The city’s announcement touts 63 artist workspaces created at Brooklyn Army Terminal (leased from Artopolis, a local artist workspace operator). New York has also worked with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to adapt a former Army warehouse, creating the Arts Center at Governors Island, with 20 visual artist studios and a gallery space. Though it didn’t immediately provide statistics on numbers of studios, the city also supports Spaceworks, which provides rehearsal spaces and visual arts studios at two locations in Brooklyn.

More ambitiously, the city hopes to bring 500 artist workspaces online within the next seven years.

The announcement depicts the initiative as a means of improving an already strong creative job market; it cites statistics from the Center for an Urban Future (CFU) that indicate that New York leads the country in its creative jobs, with some 216,110 jobs as of 2013, edging out Los Angeles with its 202,072. The 10,000 jobs would represent a five percent gain. But again, the number of visual artists represented in those figures is small. As artnet’s Ben Davis wrote in 2015, according to Creative New York, just 1,654 fine artists were sustaining themselves in New York on their art alone in 2015.

Mayor de Blasio describes the program as part of a larger plan to address class divides. “We have to take economic inequality head-on, and that means raising wages and launching more New Yorkers into the middle class. These are the fast-growing, high-paying industries that represent the future of our city, but only if we invest now in the places, the workforce and the infrastructure to compete.”

At press time, the New York City Mayor’s office had not responded to artnet News’s request for comment.

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