The Cultural Plan


In order to ensure that New York City’s first ever comprehensive cultural plan included voices representative of all New Yorkers, the CreateNYC engagement process was designed to capture and reflect a wide plurality of perspectives and populations. 

From October 2016 to May 2017, more than 188,000 New Yorkers participated in the CreateNYC process in person or online. Residents, artists, teachers, researchers, students, parents, older adults, people with disabilities, advocates, community organizers, veterans, business owners, plaza managers, experts in the field, leaders of arts and cultural organizations big and small, cultural workers, and union members made their voices heard at large public meetings, small focus groups, one-on-one interviews, at open office hours, over a game of ping pong, at barber shops and nail salons, online, and via social media. 

The six-month engagement process was designed to be both broad and deep. Meeting people where they live, work, and experience culture, the CreateNYC team asked, “What does culture mean to you? How do you experience culture in your daily life? How can culture help create a just, inclusive, and equitable city?” 

In addition to large-scale events in each of the boroughs, the team tapped into existing networks and community resources-—from libraries to local advocacy and service organizations to funder networks–enlisting as many New Yorkers as were willing in developing and facilitating information-gathering events. In trying to reach a truly diverse range of New Yorkers, CreateNYC considered both geography—reaching 99% of zip codes and all 59 community districts—and identity. The rich engagement process was designed to ensure a plan that expands opportunities for all New Yorkers to access, participate in, and create the city’s rich cultural life. 

“Nueva York es una ciudad donde hay mucha arte y aún más nacionalidades llenas de cultura. Yo creo que debería haber lugares donde las personas puedan mejorar y demostrar al público lo bueno que hay en cada una.”

“New York is a city where there is a lot of art and many nationalities full of culture. I believe there should be places where people can improve and show the public the good that exists in each one.”



Below is a snapshot of the various types of events that were carried out during the CreateNYC engagement process. Together with community members, the cultural community, City partners, Cultural Agenda Fund grantees, and independent coalitions, CreateNYC reached over 188,000 participants.


Large format workshops were held in all five boroughs. Participants discussed priorities for arts and culture and shared input on each of the issue areas. Participants were invited to one-on-one conversations with Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl over a game of ping pong.


Of the more than 188,000 New Yorkers that participated in CreateNYC, almost 11,000 provided their home zip code. An analysis of these zip codes shows broad engagement across the city. While engagement was less intense in southwestern Staten Island, southern Queens, and eastern Bronx, 99% of all New York City zip codes were covered by CreateNYC. To cover so much ground, a variety of methods were employed, including workshops, community partner events, tabling at community fairs and festivals, surveys, and a public opinion poll.

Map of CreateNYC Community Engagement Sessions


In order to amplify the number of voices that informed the plan, the HST team designed a downloadable Community Toolkit coupled with toolkit training sessions. Activities in multiple languages, issue-based facilitation guides, video tutorials, and a feedback form were made available to any organization or individual interested in participating in the process. Over 40 events led by community partners provided input into the plan including a diverse set of ten cultural coalitions, from Staten Island to Jamaica, East New York to the Lower East Side, funded by the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in the New York Community Trust. 


The CreateNYC team met residents where they lived. At over 80 tabling events in all five boroughs, the team talked to residents at street fairs, cultural festivals, science workshops, and community events. Using materials that were produced in six languages, CreateNYC was able to ask New Yorkers questions such as, “What would you do if you were in charge of the budget for arts and culture in NYC?” and “What is your big (or small) idea for arts and culture in NYC?” The team deepened engagement by conducting short interviews in barbershops and nail salons.


CreateNYC hosted a series of thematic or industry-specific focus groups that brought together practitioners, subject matter experts, artists, and cultural workers for solutions-oriented discussions that could feed into the cultural plan process. More than 50 focus groups were held addressing subject areas such as: organized labor, artist wages, creative aging, business improvement districts, science-based cultural organizations, community anchors, and how arts and culture can better serve NYCHA residents, LGBTQI, veteran, and immigrant communities.


A partnership with the city’s three library systems placed CreateNYC public engagement toolkits at 31 of the most highly trafficked library branches across all five boroughs, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bangla, and Arabic


Many experts were consulted and interviewed throughout the process including teams from other cities that have recently completed cultural plans, including Denver, Boston, and Chicago, and researchers and industry leaders in arts and cultural tourism, philanthropy, economic development, and social and economic impact of the arts.


City agencies were engaged throughout the
CreateNYC process through a large inter-agency roundtable convened by the First Deputy Mayor, participation in CreateNYC focus groups, and during one-on-one consultations to discuss potential strategies and solutions.


Over the six-month engagement period, Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl hosted a biweekly series of thematic conversations, open to the public. Participants discussed issue areas, challenges, ideas, and recommendations related to the cultural plan on a variety of topics such as: aging in the arts, arts education, cultural heritage and neighborhood character, DIY and alternative arts spaces,
and disability arts.

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