This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Dance/NYC Symposium, a full day gathering of the NYC dance community to share information, stimulate interest and awareness in dance through various panel discussions, case studies, interactive workshops, performances, and so much more! If you have not been to this event before, I strongly encourage you to do so, even if you are not in the NYC metropolitan area. The information is invaluable, the opportunity to network is great, and the energy in the room is inspiring!
One of the sessions at the Symposium entitled, Creative New York, was moderated by Adam Forman, Senior Researcher of the Center for an Urban Future. Forman along with an esteemed panel consisting of members of an advisory board, discussed the Creative New York Report that was released in June 2015, and the study’s findings and implications. Panelists included Patricia Cruz, Executive Director of Harlem Stage, Rick Luftglass, Executive Director of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Potri Ranka Manis, Founder and Artistic Director of Kinding Sindaw Melayu Heritage, Deirdre Scott, Executive Director of the Bronx Council on the Arts, Linda Shelton, Executive Director of The Joyce Theater Foundation, and Sami Abu Shumays, Deputy Director of Flushing Town Hall.
The Creative New York Report, published by the Center for an urban Future, is the first comprehensive report to document the economic impact of the creative sector in New York City, which includes both nonprofit arts organizations and for-profit creative businesses. The first report was released in 2005. A second follow up report was released showcasing what has changed over the last ten years.
I have read the report in its entirety and want to share a few things I got out of the report and the conversation from the panelists:
Real Estate Affordability
The cost of living in NYC is very high. A large percentage of wages goes towards paying rent for a place to live. The cost of living in Manhattan is 400% above the average in most major cities across the United States and the costs continue to rise. Areas that were once prized as “affordable” were mostly industrial and undesirable places. Artists would come into these areas and word would get around that these areas are “hip” beginning the process of gentrification. Developers come in, rent skyrockets, and those once undesirable places have become attractive with luxury condos and chain stores.
The report calls for the government to make it easier for artists and those with nontraditional incomes to apply for subsidized housing and encourages the creation of more affordable housing for the low-income (particularly artists).
The cost of office, studio, rehearsal, performance, and exhibition space has also increased, due to rising rent fees- causing many spaces to close. With the decreasing number of spaces available, it is extremely competitive to find space let alone space that is affordable. The report calls for new expanded initiatives to allow artists access to nontraditional spaces. Current programs includes the SU-CASA program- bringing artists into senior centers, and the CUNY Dance Initiative- a residency program that allows artists and companies space for rehearsals, master classes, and performances on City of New York University campuses.
Government Funding and Support
In the past, artists used to heavily rely on government funding and support for their work. Over recent years, particularly after the Great Recession, we have seen a deep decline in government funding. From 2008-2015, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) support fell by 4%, New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) support fell by 29%, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) support fell by 6% for NYC arts organizations. In contrast, the number of arts and culture organizations rose by 54%. This in turn,makes funding very competitive as a large number of organizations are competing for such a small pot of money.
The report calls for the government to establish new and dedicated funding for the arts. Suggestions for taking a percentage of hotel taxes for the DCLA budget, as tourism to NYC is due in part to the arts and entertainment.
Economic and Community Development
As artists, we understand the transformative power of the arts for a community, which in turn, can boost the local economy. In NYC, the creative sector is the fastest growing industry and with the largest job growth. This rise leads to impact in other industries such as tourism, technology, ancillary businesses, and manufacturing.
The report calls of arts-led community development to help revitalize neighborhoods. This has been seen and is successful in areas such as Downtown Brooklyn, Fourth Arts Block, and 125th Street for new cultural districts and should be expanded to other neighborhoods. The report also calls for government support economic and cultural foreign exchange, and support start up creative businesses that can tap into and expand foreign markets.
Diversity and Inclusion
The arts have had a reputation of being “high brow” or “an activity for the privileged.” The gap has widened between the number of White and Non-Whites to participate in the arts. This threaten the vibrancy of the arts. Anne Pasternak, Director of the Brooklyn Museum states, “We really need to look at the lack of inclusion. The city’s cultural’s sphere is going to be increasingly challenged and our audiences are going to become increasingly white and privileged.” It is said, this gap may be the result of the disparities in arts education services that is disproportionately distributed in the city’s lower income neighborhoods.
The report calls for greater diversity of the creative sector by increase funding and support for arts education and provide a richer array of offerings to draw a wider consumer base.
The panel, although mixed in how achievable and how quickly change for the NYC arts and culture sector may happen, all panelist did agree that there needs to be an increase in the degree of arts access and equity in funding. There also needs to be a shift on how to use our dollars smarter.
To view the full Creative New York 2015 report, please follow the link here!