The Cultural Plan


Over the last year, close to 200,000 New York residents, teachers, parents, students, artists, activists, academics, and workers contributed to the development of CreateNYC: A Cultural Plan for all New Yorkers. They answered questions about the current state of our arts and cultural ecosystem, identified pressing needs, and offered recommendations for improvement.

This input was digested, assessed, and augmented by the CreateNYC team, DCLA staff, expert focus groups, and a wide range of colleagues from across City government. However, the voices we heard across New York City formed the foundation for the plan.

As a result, CreateNYC is both pragmatic and ambitious, incorporating many strategies that look to the short-term, and others that will take years of effort by New Yorkers who value arts and culture (a full 97% of us, according to the CreateNYC phone survey!). CreateNYC establishes a roadmap for creative solutions, new partnerships, and cultivation of relationships with an assortment of agencies and the private sector. If we work together, the spectrum of new ideas that emerged from this process can make lasting change in New York’s cultural community.
CreateNYC lays out a vision for the City of New York’s support for culture built on concrete markers of progress. To that end, each of the strategies identified in CreateNYC will be measured by a number of indicators which are being developed by DCLA and the Mayor’s Office of Operations. How progress will be measured is explained at the end of this chapter.

But even as the plan looks to the future, Department of Cultural Affairs has been seeking concrete ways to put the lessons of the plan into practice immediately. On the following pages are eight strategies for making progress toward CreateNYC goals that will be implemented this year.


1. Increase support for the cultural life of low-income communities and underrepresented groups.

As laid out in the chapters on Public Engagement and Equity and Inclusion, cultural participation is 20% higher among New York City’s highest income earners than the lowest earners. 75% of New Yorkers say that they wish they could attend arts and cultural activities more often. 72% of New Yorkers say they would participate more in cultural activities if they were located closer to home. A report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project, described in the Research and Discovery chapter, revealed that the presence of cultural assets in low-income communities is correlated with improved outcomes in education, health, and safety.


DCLA is committing to increased funding for cultural programming in low-income communities and for underrepresented groups. This will be implemented directly in grants from DCLA and through increased support to re-grant partners—for example local arts councils and New York Foundation for the Arts.

2. Continue to invest in the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG), increasing support for those in low-income communities.

As discussed in Research and Discovery, the 33 members of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) employ 13,700 full and part-time workers, including 4,500 union employees. The CIG offers free and affordable educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of public school students. These organizations include some of the most renowned cultural groups in the world, as well as some of the most community-engaged organizations that bring nature and science to all New Yorkers across all five boroughs. As discussed in A History of Supporting Culture, this is a unique public-private partnership that started in the 19th century and continues to enrich the lives of New Yorkers in all five boroughs in the present day.


In response to the findings of CreateNYC, DCLA will increase support for under-funded members of the CIG, helping to grow their role as anchors for communities citywide.

3. Support increased language access for communications and cultural programming to reach broader, more inclusive audience.

About half of New York City’s residents speak a language other than English at home. Those languages span the globe. Language connects us—but it can also be a barrier to access and inclusion.


Following recommendations in Equity and Inclusion, DCLA will establish a fund to support translation services—including for print and online communications and live programming translation—at cultural organizations across the city.

4. Increase support to individual artists.

As Mayor de Blasio said in his State of the City address in 2015, “we know that New York is the city it is today in part because of the contributions from generations of artistic visionaries who at one point struggled to make ends meet.” As stated in Public Engagement, 75% of arts and cultural workers support their art practice with income from sources other than their artistic practice. A staggering 40% of arts and cultural workers are unable to afford art supplies.


Following the recommendations in the Health of the Cultural Sector, DCLA will increase support for individual artists through its re-grant partners.

5. Expand cultural access for people with disabilities and for disability arts.

An estimated 10% of New York City residents are people with disabilities. There are physical barriers to their full participation in the arts and cultural world, exacerbated by prejudice and ignorance. DCLA is increasing support for people with disabilities as audience members, artists, and workers at cultural organizations.


Following the findings of the Equity and Inclusion chapter, DCLA is increasing its considerations of disability and disability arts and artists through its grant programs, and will create a new fund to support people with disabilities as cultural workers, artists, and audiences. In addition, DCLA will set a goal in its capital spending to create spaces that are physically accessible.

6. Expand diversity and inclusion in the cultural workforce.

67% of New York City residents identify as people of color, yet only 38% of employees at cultural organizations are people of color, according to a 2016 survey of DCLA grantees. Further, while New York City’s cultural organizations’ staffs are not as diverse as our city’s residents—the most junior roles at these groups reflect greater diversity: the survey found that 26% of senior staff identify as people of color, compared to 32% of mid-level staff, and 45% of junior staff.


Following recommendations in the Equity and Inclusion and Social and Economic Impact sections of CreateNYC, DCLA is committing to continue support for CUNY Cultural Corps, placing undergraduate students in paid internships at our city’s cultural organizations. This is an investment in the future of our students, our cultural organizations, and our city.

To help junior level staff grow into the next generation of cultural leadership, DCLA will pilot a professional development program for cultural workers. This investment in the skills of our city’s workers is intended to accelerate their professional advancement and cultivate the cultural leaders of tomorrow.

These efforts will focus on promoting greater inclusion of people with disabilities and transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

7. Work with cultural organizations to achieve the City’s sustainability goals.

Over 25% of DCLA’s support to cultural organizations goes to fund energy costs—over $43 million each year. According to OneNYC, buildings account for nearly three-quarters of all emissions in New York City. That’s why OneNYC’s goal for an 80% reduction in all emissions by 2050, while creating green jobs and generating energy savings for building owners and tenants, focuses on the city’s more than 1 million buildings of all sizes, types, and uses. As stated in the Social and Economic Impact chapter of CreateNYC, environmental issues are inherently tied to social equity and have profound impact on the local economy. A commitment to a greener New York City is a commitment to a healthier, more equitable city.


DCLA is creating a new position specifically to work with cultural organizations to help them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to create a more sustainable city. The energy specialist will identify ways that cultural organizations can reduce carbon emissions, and will work with the organizations and DCLA’s Capital Projects Unit to expand the use of DCLA capital resources to reduce energy consumption.

8. Coordinate and promote engagement between the City and New York City’s cultural community.

The Department of Cultural Affairs is not the only City agency that supports arts and culture in New York City. As described in the Citywide Coordination section, The Departments of Education, Parks, Transportation, Probation, Youth and Community Development, and the Department of Sanitation—just to name a few—are deeply connected to our city’s cultural life. Central to the CreateNYC vision for the future is the coordination of our City’s investments in our cultural community.


The establishment of a Culture Cabinet consisting of representatives from a wide range of agencies will coordinate and drive forward the City’s engagement with the cultural community.

Across New York, cultural groups are already collaborating with City agencies in a number of dynamic and fruitful ways. With the new Culture Cabinet as a central point for coordination and the sharing of best practices, the City will seek new projects that aim to make the social fabric of the city stronger: the Mayor’s Cultural Impact Fund will support collaborations that improve City engagement with underserved communities and allow agencies to scale up cultural programming that enhances public services by providing resources for partnerships between City agencies and cultural organizations.



From the beginning, CreateNYC has been conceived of as a document that would have a real influence on policy direction and advocacy efforts, with milestones established to review progress and evaluate implementation. The Cultural Plan Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC)—whose 22 members were appointed by the Mayor, the City Council Speaker, and Borough Presidents—was established at the start of the planning process. This Committee was charged with assisting in gathering community input and advising the development of CreateNYC. After the plan is complete, DCLA will submit cultural plan reports detailing progress to the Mayor and the City Council Speaker every two years. The CAC will continue to meet to review these reports and may make recommendations regarding implementation.

In addition to the CAC, the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission (CAAC) is mandated by the New York City Charter to advise DCLA on issues relating to the City’s cultural life. The 24 members of the CAAC actively advised on the development of the cultural plan and will continue to do so through implementation.


In order to ensure that the goals set out in CreateNYC are met, a set of key indicators will be established over the course of the first year that will track progress toward the plan’s goals.

The indicators will be both quantitative and qualitative and designed to do four things:

  1. Establish clear benchmarks and milestones that measure progress toward CreateNYC objectives;
  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of CreateNYC strategies;
  3. Ensure CreateNYC principles and visions withstand political, economic, and other long term changes in the landscape; and
  4. Maintain transparent dialogue with the public now and in the long term.

Key CreateNYC evidence of progress would seek to monitor and report on:


More resources for organizations whose primary mission is to
support underserved neighborhoods and people.


Greater representation of underrepresented groups in arts and cultural leadership and staff positions.

Artists from underrepresented groups receive greater support.

Improved language and economic, social, cognitive, communication, and physical access in arts and cultural programming and venues.

Number and quality of inclusive hiring and training policies and practices at arts and cultural organizations.


Increased awareness for City agencies regarding arts and cultural organizations serving their constituents.

Initiatives to facilitate and streamline public-private information to increase access for residents.


Cross-sector support for arts and culture (including more inter-agency and public-private collaborations).

Number of City-sponsored initiatives that explicitly include arts and culture (i.e. parks projects, re-zonings, community health initiatives, resiliency efforts, and more).


Greater access to affordable workspace and housing for artists.

Greater access to affordable work and presentation space for cultural organizations.

More free and affordable arts and cultural programming for residents.


More arts and cultural programming in public spaces, schools, after school, in low-income communities, and beyond.

Fewer organizations in fiscal distress.

Diversified sources of support—both public and private—for cultural groups.

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