The Cultural Plan

Social and Economic Impact

The cultural sector in New York City brings communities together and makes them more resilient, promotes public health and safety, improves educational outcomes, creates a platform for civic participation, employs hundreds of thousands of workers, attracts tens of millions of tourists, and generates billions of dollars in economic activity each year.

A thriving and sustainable cultural sector fundamentally underpins the economic and social fabric of New York City.

According to the Center for an Urban Future’s 2015 report Creative New York, New York City is home to 8.6% of all creative sector jobs in the nation. And the city’s cultural sector is growing faster than traditional employment sectors in New York City like law and finance. The diverse employment opportunities in culture—union and non-union; high- and low-skilled; and hourly, contract, and full-time—are accessible to New Yorkers from all education and skill levels. Efforts to support and grow this workforce can benefit the New York City economy as a whole.

Culture is also integral to the social fabric of New York City, bringing communities together in every neighborhood throughout the five boroughs. As the Americans for the Arts report, Trend or Tipping Point: Arts and Social Change Grantmaking, pointed out, arts and culture engage individuals and communities that traditionally have been excluded from the civic decision-making process and create a platform for those communities to participate. Furthermore, a recent report put out by the recent Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) report indicates that cultural activity in New York is linked with significant social and health benefits such as violence prevention, reduction in obesity, and improved literacy.

“A key feature of community… [is] the extent to which residents have the where-with-all to relate and control their own narrative—their own story.”



As the Research and Discovery chapter laid out earlier in this report, the body of evidence supporting culture’s tremendous impact on the economy is vast. The nonprofit sector alone generates over $8 billion in economic impact. The members of the Cultural Institutions Group employ 13,700 people in full and part time positions, including 4,500 union jobs. Neighborhoods and commercial corridors in every corner of the city are anchored by cultural organizations and creative enterprises. And according to the New York Works report, culture employs over 400,000 workers across New York City all told.

Where annual salary data is available, an analysis conducted for CreateNYC found that employees in most cultural subsectors earn wages that are higher than the annual median salary for all workers in New York City. Investing in culture means investing in good jobs.

“Arts impact the local economy—they should be treated as part of the economic ecosystem.”


It should be noted, however, that the compensation structure for cultural workers varies widely. Many individuals employed in the arts and cultural sector do not earn annual salaries but rather hourly wages and/or project-based fees. Throughout conversations with artists in CreateNYC engagement events such as the Labor Union Focus Group and the DanceNYC Town Hall for fiscally sponsored artists, artists brought up issues related to working in a sector characterized by unsteady income and non-traditional compensation structure. Stakeholders indicated that many artists cobble together multiple income sources to earn enough money to live. This suggests that supports around good wages and more opportunities for artists to earn good wages could support and strengthen the cultural sector.

From 2004 to 2014, the number of cultural firms grew by approximately 20% and the number of cultural workers grew by approximately 25%, driven in part by growth in the number of independent artists, writers, and performers, and by the motion picture and video production and graphic design services industries. As the number of independent and freelance cultural workers grows, pooled administrative and marketing services are frequently cited as a potentially valuable resource to support these workers.

“My big idea for arts and culture in
New York City is…promoting the economic, educational, and quality of life impact of arts & culture in the city to encourage participation.”


Cultural organizations and firms are heavily concentrated in Manhattan. This geographic concentration was identified as an issue throughout the CreateNYC engagement process. Indeed, the community expressed equitable distribution of cultural activity and investment as a core value. Geographic distribution of cultural activity, however, has improved between 2004 and 2014. In particular, Brooklyn has experienced significant growth in the number of cultural firms and employees. Libraries are also key place-based centers that allow New Yorkers to access and engage with culture within their communities.


The cultural sector is also a powerful driver of tourism in New York City. Analysis from NYC & Company indicates that the cultural sector attracted almost 30 million visitors in 2015, up nearly 8% from the prior year, and up 50% since 2010. The same analysis indicates that international tourists spent $1,786 per trip on culture. The global value of New York City’s cultural sector may present additional opportunities to support and celebrate cultural firms, nonprofits, and workers. A 2017 New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment report found that the music industry has established an ecosystem of supporting subsectors that generate over $21 billion in economic output per year. According to The Broadway League, attendance for the 2016-2017 Broadway theater season topped $13 million for the third year in a row and yielded more than $1.4 billion in grosses. Clearly, visitors to New York City are eager to experience our one-of-a-kind cultural offerings.

“Я бы создал больше мероприятий, направленных на улучшение посредством искусства и культуры психического здоровья и общего благополучия. Подобные мероприятия (например, бесплатные уроки музыки, йога, лекции и семинары по психотерапии) были бы доступны для всех жителей Нью-Йорка.”

“I would create more activities focused on improving—using art and culture—mental health and overall wellbeing. Such activities (for example, free music classes, yoga, lectures, and seminars on therapy) would be available for all inhabitants of New York”


In addition to the nonprofit cultural sector mentioned in detail on page 39, when looking broadly at the entire creative and cultural sectors New York City is home to over 400,000 induced and indirect jobs. The sector is associated with $21.2 billion in economic impact. According to the 2005 Alliance for the Arts study Arts as an Industry, the sector generated more than $900 million in tax revenue.

Throughout the CreateNYC community engagement process, New Yorkers expressed that City policy should continue to support sector job growth, good wages, professional development, organizational capacity building (particularly for small- and mid-sized organizations that often have difficulty competing for existing resources), and naturally occurring cultural clusters.


Thriving cultural activity can serve as a foundation for healthy communities by strengthening community identity, promoting diversity and inclusion, improving literacy and educational outcomes, supporting social justice and neighborhood cohesion, creating opportunities to instill a commitment to civic participation, and increasing safety and public health. In addition, science-based cultural organizations raise our awareness about climate change and lead the charge to reduce our environmental impact.

An active arts and cultural community is a proven component of strong and healthy communities. The Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) report provides quantitative evidence of the positive social impact of the arts. The study found that for low-income neighborhoods in New York City, high levels of cultural activity correlate with reduced rates of obesity and serious crimes, while increase the number of students who score in the top stratum of English Language Arts and Math exams.

“[The Social Impact of the Arts report] proves what we’ve witnessed anecdotally for decades: the arts improve lives. They draw upon our most fundamentally human qualities such as creativity, discovery, and community. We have seen this time and again in MoCADA’s diverse array of arts programming, in schools, parks, and public housing throughout Central Brooklyn.”


As outlined in a 2015 policy brief prepared by Arts & Democracy, Groundswell, and Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts NY (NOCD-NY), arts have also played a significant and unique role in promoting healing following city-wide crises. Following Hurricane Sandy, Arts & Democracy worked with hundreds of volunteers to engage displaced residents at the Park Slope Armory and provide volunteer performances and workshops. The wellness center engaged the residents in reclaiming their dignity, shifting them from victims to creators. Dance Theater Etcetera played a key role in organizing in Red Hook, and Sandy Storyline provided sustained opportunities for people to share their stories. These artistic outlets provided a platform for victims of the hurricane to articulate, reflect upon, and unite over the impact the hurricane had on their lives.

Participants in a CreateNYC focus group for arts, culture, and resiliency expressed the unique position that culture often serves in promoting social cohesion. While artists and cultural organizations can themselves represent vulnerable populations, they have proven to be critical to emergency response, recovery, and resiliency efforts, whether it be in times of natural disaster, financial crisis, or political unrest. See page 41 for a more in depth look at the SIAP report.

“Art can be used as a tool to create connections between people, bringing them together, fostering healthy communities.”


CreateNYC’s vision for social and economic impact is one in which the City facilitates more good jobs in arts and culture that pay well, as demonstrated in the following strategies. The City will work to leverage continued and increased private investment in culture as well as leverage communications and promotions in support of culture throughout our neighborhoods to tourists and to our residents alike. And the City will collaborate across agencies so that arts and culture can continue to yield positive social impacts on the lives of more New Yorkers.


SE.1 Support the growth and development of the arts, culture, and science fields to provide New Yorkers with quality jobs

Increase access to and opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in arts and science.

  • Continue to support CUNY Cultural Corps, a partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY) that places CUNY students in paid internships at cultural organizations.


Establish new ways to support the employment and ongoing professional development of New Yorkers from diverse communities and underrepresented groups to help them advance in their careers.


Support wages for cultural workers and artists that allow them to thrive and make a living in New York City.

  • Advocate for more general operating grants and/or the elimination
    of limits to administrative overhead from the philanthropic field.
  • Explore collaboration on jobs initiatives in creative, cultural, and life sciences sectors as part of New York Works Creating Good Jobs.


SE.2 Build on New York City’s long history as a vibrant center for arts, cultural, and science

Leverage private investment in arts, culture, and science from foundations, individuals, and corporations.

TIMEFRAME: Short PARTNER(S): DCLA, Private Sector

Address the health of the performing arts sector through audience development, professional development, staff diversity, and affordability.

  • Explore models to create new opportunities to support culture.


Continue the dialogue with public stakeholders regarding the cabaret licensing law, which required establishments serving food and beverages to be specially licensed for patron dancing.


Partner with other City agencies to support for-profit arts and cultural organizations including art galleries, bookstores, theaters, centers for performing arts, music venues, and science-based cultural organizations.

  • Ensure that cultural organizations are a part of the City’s economic development strategy.


Continue support for the City’s and other partners’ worldwide promotion of Broadway, museums, galleries, theaters, centers for performing arts, and cultural attractions in every borough.


SE.3 Make the case for arts, culture, and science as essential components of a thriving and equitable city

Ensure that artists and cultural organizations continue to positively impact the health and wellbeing of New York City neighborhoods.

  • Use the findings in the Social Impact of the Arts (SIAP) report to support culture in low-income neighborhoods in partnership with other parts of the government.


SE.4 Make the case for arts, culture, and science as essential components of a resilient and sustainable city

Include arts and culture in resiliency planning and preparedness.

  • Designate a City liaison to help coordinate the participation of artists and arts, cultural, and science communities in disaster preparation and response.


Hire an energy specialist who will work with cultural organizations to help them decrease their energy use and lower their environmental impact.



THE POINT Community Development Corporation


THE POINT Community Development Corporation is dedicated to youth development and to the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country. THE POINT programs offer residents an opportunity to develop their critical awareness, express their values, and to become activists to affect community change.

The arts are a key component of THE POINT’s work. The organization works to promote and protect the heritage of the arts in the South Bronx and ensure the low-income community has access to the arts. Programs intersect with all aspects of the economic and social impact of the arts. THE POINT provides affordable spaces to create and showcase art, incorporates the arts into neighborhood revitalization strategies, offers paid employment for community-based artists, and helps to establish a pipeline of arts and cultural workers and audiences.

Their Village of Murals, the first stop on the South Bronx Greenway, enhances the community’s access to the Bronx River while creating new opportunities for arts and the environment. With support from the Department of Transportation, THE POINT commissioned neighborhood artist and activist Sharon de la Cruz to paint a mural that bridges a community divided by an expressway. De La Cruz, who started at THE POINT as a teenager and returned after receiving a Fulbright, exemplifies the leadership development and civic engagement that is integral to THE POINT.


THE POINT programs are effective because they are based on the principles of asset-based community development.

By integrating arts strategies and processes with these broader community development efforts, THE POINT supports the positive health and social wellbeing of its local community.

THE POINT’S leadership development model provides Hunts Point residents the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the cultural life of the neighborhood and establishes a pipeline of arts and cultural workers that is reflective of the community it serves.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music


The Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) generates significant job opportunities for New York City residents of all skill levels and in a range of occupations. Over 13,700 full- and part-time workers are employed with CIG members in New York City, in roles that range from custodial work to fundraising to production to education to performance.

Jobs are only one piece of the economic impact for members of the Cultural Institutions Group. In 2013, members of the CIG spent $364 million on goods and services, such as printing, catering, and security. The combination of business to business spending and wages paid by CIG members cycles through the New York City economy, contributing to the economic impact of the cultural sector of $21.2 billion per year.

A CreateNYC sectoral analysis indicates that cultural activity in Brooklyn has experienced significant growth in recent years. This trend is consistent with many Brooklyn-based members of the CIG. For example, the Brooklyn Academic of Music (BAM) increased its number of employees by approximately 30% and its number of teaching artists by approximately 40% between 2010 and 2015.

BAM’s growth does not only benefit those employed there. According to its annual reports, BAM’s operating expenses on wages, goods, and services increased from $39.9 million in 2010 to $58.4 million in 2015. This growth in spending supports local businesses such as its designated bookseller, Greenlight Bookstore, and its medical consultants.


Through partnership with the City of New York, many CIG members are able to offer union job opportunities to New York City residents that offer generous benefit packages and job security.

Members of the Cultural Institutions Group also offer significant per diem employment opportunities for teaching artists, musicians, educators, and other cultural professionals.

The direct and indirect effects of the growth of cultural organizations such as BAM funnel additional money into the New York City economy that supports additional jobs and consumer spending.

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