Want to Be an Artist-in-Residence at New York City’s Department of Corrections? Now’s Your Chance

Can artists help rehabilitate at-risk New Yorkers?

Tom Finkelpearl, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.
Tom Finkelpearl, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

New York City just got a little more liveable for a few lucky artists.

The city has rolled out a series of new artist-in-residency programs at three agencies: the Department of Corrections, the Department of Probation, and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

The program will fund three artists, each based in one of the agencies for a minimum of one year. Each residency will cost $40,000 to fund. The city will kick in $100,000 for the $120,000 initiative; the rest of the money will come from private donors.

Separately, the city also announced the new Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact, which will provide six grants of up to $50,000 for cultural organizations to work with the city’s public sector agencies. Mayor Bill de Blasio said both programs will focus on “access and inclusivity for low income and underserved communities.”

According to the commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Tom Finkelpearl, the move is part of the city’s plan to increase the integration of the arts into the city’s public sector. But this isn’t a traditional residency: In addition to making art, participants will be expected to help agencies work with the citizens they serve and help with problem-solving.

Successful applicants may end up working with inmates at Rikers Island or with young people on probation to help them get a fresh start through art. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the new initiative, Department of Probation Commissioner Ana Bermúdez said that the project could lower the rate of incarceration and the odds that inmates will re-offend once they’re released. It’s “a great use of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “It’s being smart on crime in a very effective way.”

There are currently two New York City agencies with active artist-in-residence programs. Theater director and writer Bryan Doerries is in residence at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, while Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has been the artist-in-residence at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs since 2015. The Administration for Children’s Services has also hosted artists in the past.

Finkelpearl hopes the latest batch of residencies will have a similar impact. “Art and culture can provide a powerful means for achieving positive social change and improved wellbeing,” he said in a statement.

To be considered for the program, artists need to apply by November 12. The residencies will begin in January 2018.

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