DCLA is the largest municipal funding agency for culture in the United States, but it is not the agency that spends the most on arts and culture in New York City. How could this be? Because the New York City Department of Education spends tens of millions more on arts and science education each year. If we are not connecting the dots within city government, we are missing a massive opportunity.
Arts funding and cultural partnerships are critical to the operations of many City agencies. And City support for arts and culture extends beyond direct funding. For example, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Street Activities Permitting Office facilitate temporary public art installations, festivals, performances, and other cultural activity taking place in public space. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment supports musicians, film and television producers, and commercial theater. Our tourism and hospitality bureau, NYC & Company (a private corporation with substantial funding from the City) has a global network as well as deep local roots allowing it to connect visitors and residents to cultural offerings. This chapter looks at ways that these services can be streamlined and better coordinated, as well as new opportunities for integrating arts and culture into the work of City government.
NEW PARTNERSHIP BUILT ON ARTS AND CULTURE
A major initiative in this administration has been launching new cultural partnerships in City government, and the planning process confirmed that this is an important agenda. In fact, there is sentiment at DCLA that more in-depth cultural partnerships across government might be as important as any other outcome from this plan. The process has brought the agency into deeper partnerships, and with the establishment of a clearer mechanism for ongoing dialogue with other agencies, there is a great deal of optimism that culture can infuse government in New York City like never before. Let’s be clear, this is not a brand-new idea. There has been public art in the city for centuries. WPA muralists created public art in post offices and libraries. With the pioneering artist residency of Mierle Laderman Ukeles extending back to the 1970s, the Department of Sanitation is a leader in integrating culture in to municipal services. Sanitation also works with the Departments of Education and Cultural Affairs to support Materials for the Arts, which reduces waste while providing free supplies for arts activities citywide, and works with botanical gardens in each borough to boost the City’s ambitious composting goals. This has been going on for decades.
Beyond the Department of Cultural Affairs, public art programs are found throughout City government, allowing the power of art and creativity to blend into the everyday lives of New York City residents and visitors. For example, the Parks Department’s Art & Antiquities program has more than 800 public monuments in its permanent collection and displays dozens of outdoor temporary works of public art every year. The Department of Transportation’s “DOT Art” program collaborates with community-based organizations to commission artists to design and install temporary art on DOT property. The New York City Mural Arts program of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene extends mental health beyond medical care to include family and community engagement through a place-based mural initiative. Cultural groups across the city also leverage public funds to develop innovative cross-sector partnerships that intervene, improve, and steward public spaces. And there are great examples of ongoing cultural partnerships at numerous city agencies: The Department of Probation’s NeON Arts initiative is a collaboration with Carnegie Hall that coordinates dozens of community-based cultural organizations to provide cultural experiences to New Yorkers who have been involved in the criminal justice system. Founded in 2014, the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity includes culture at the center of its efforts to invest in key neighborhoods, eliminate the social barriers to good health, and advance health equity throughout New York City. The Parks Department’s Community Parks Initiative is fostering cultural programming in parks across the city.
And, as mentioned in the chapter on Arts and Culture in Public Space, in 2015, DCLA launched the Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program. PAIR integrates artists and art practice into City government in order to find new, creative ways to address pressing civic issues.
Creating art in public space is great, but not always easy to accomplish, especially for individual artists not versed in the City process. There needs to be better communication of how it can be done—who issues permits? What sort of insurance do I need? How long can it be up? One proposal highlighted by many participants in the planning process is the need for dedicated points of contact inside of City government who can facilitate art and cultural programming across agencies.
Perhaps as important as weaving artists into agency work and artworks into public space is how the arts are integrated into community development. DCLA’s Building Community Capacity (BCC) program supports cultural organizations in low-income communities around the city. Through funding and technical assistance, BCC helps create stronger networks of artists and cultural organizations in communities. In East Brooklyn, Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Jamaica, these coalitions are working with a number of City agencies, collaborating on planning, visioning, and other efforts charting the future of neighborhoods. This is especially important as each of these areas experiences community change. The program works to create strong cultural networks of existing creative community stakeholders while also integrating cultural assets and activities into overall community development.
Multiple City agencies and elected officials have expressed their support for BCC and their gratitude for a way for culture to be involved in planning efforts. Department of City Planning, Housing Preservation and Development, and Economic Development Corporation have invited the BCC communities and other cultural stakeholders into planning and development efforts in the BCC neighborhoods as well as in Northern Brooklyn, Gowanus, Jamaica, and the Rockaways.
City agencies are able to reach diverse New Yorkers both geographically and demographically. Many of them are already helping to strengthen New York City’s cultural infrastructure, often with a particular focus on disadvantaged communities. The following proposals address City support for culture holistically, looking to build bridges across agencies to facilitate art in public space, provide new housing and workspace for artists, promote strategies to support culture in low-income communities, and to better communicate the city’s cultural offerings to residents.
CC.1 Support culture across agencies
Help artists and cultural organizations navigate city government rules, regulations, and permitting.
- Establish Agency point of contact and utilize social media for informational resource sharing.
Timeframe: Short PARTNER(S): DCLA, CAU
Promote the inclusion of cultural facilities and artistic design elements in mixed-use affordable housing developments on publicly-owned sites.
Timeframe: Long PARTNER(S): DCLA, HPD
Hold meet-and-greet sessions for cultural organizations, artists, and City agencies to facilitate collaboration and share information on upcoming opportunities.
Timeframe: Long PARTNER(S): DCLA, All Other Agencies
Partner with other City agencies to ensure that the needs of the cultural community, including artists, are considered in community and economic development and planning processes.
Timeframe: Long PARTNER(S): DCLA, NYCEDC, HPD, DCP, SBS
CC.2 Strengthen interagency and intergovernmental collaboration
Formally coordinate efforts to support and integrate culture across City agencies. Facilitate collaboration between agencies, sectors, and initiatives.
Timeframe: Immediate PARTNER(S): Interagency collaboration led by DCLA
More effectively communicate cultural funding opportunities and programming citywide via existing information systems such as NYCHA Journal and libraries.
Timeframe: Short PARTNER(S): DCLA, MOME, NYCHA, Library Systems
In 2015, IDNYC was launched as a tool to reduce inequality in New York City by reducing barriers for as many individuals as possible to access resources and integrate into the City’s civic fabric. IDNYC is the largest free municipal
identification card program in the country and is available to all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status. To date over one million New Yorkers have obtained the ID.
Card benefits address multiple public policy priorities. IDNYC has helped to expand access to cultural opportunities by working with institutional partners to provide free membership benefits at 40 large and small cultural organizations across all five boroughs. To date over 500,000 free cultural memberships have been extended to New Yorkers. Other benefits expand access to education, health, mobility, and economic development resources.
The ID cards can be used to access the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens public library systems (the first time this has been possible with just one card), enter municipal buildings, open bank accounts, receive prescription drug discounts, and sign up discounts for Citi Bike and YMCA memberships. The card can also be used in previously challenging day-to-day situations for New Yorkers without access to official ID, such as signing a lease, picking up prescriptions, or identifying one’s self to police officers.
IDNYC is intended to bring ever greater numbers of New Yorkers into the fold, and it serves as a practical tool for improving lives.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN
IDNYC is a successful example of a municipal initiative which addresses numerous public policy priorities—including increasing access to culture—by coordinating the resources of a diverse array of agencies, stakeholders, and partners into a shared solution.
By including a variety of communities (including cultural organizations) in its planning and implementation, the City can greatly expand the reach and efficacy of its initiatives.
New Yorkers love culture. No other city in America has garnered such an uptake of their municipal ID. One reason is the generous cultural benefit attached to the card.