April 2, 2021
Contact: Yuridia Peña, [email protected], (718) 790-0837


In Donovan’s first in-person press conference since his campaign launch, he unveiled his comprehensive plan to support the city’s Arts & Culture sector while highlighting contrasts with the antagonism of the current administration.

The plan recognizes the potential of Arts & Culture to power our city’s recovery, enrich the lives of all New Yorkers, and drive the growth of communities and local businesses.

NEW YORK, NY — This morning, former Obama-Biden administration Housing Secretary and Budget Director Shaun Donovan held a press conference in Brooklyn’s Betty Carter Park alongside arts and community leaders from across the city — his first in-person event since the launch of his campaign. There, he rolled out his comprehensive Arts & Culture plan entitled ‘Healing our City by Investing in and Supporting our Art, Artists, and Communities,’ a nearly 7,000-word platform that stresses Donovan’s commitment, in stark contrast with the current administration, to see our city’s artists and arts organizations as the positive force that they are and properly support them. 

View the full press conference recording here.

Arts and Culture have long been central to the social and economic development of New York City. Art has brought us together to mourn and heal in times of struggle, and it has given New Yorkers from all backgrounds a common language with which to celebrate moments of triumph. But even before the pandemic shut down the marquees and cast artists into even deeper uncertainty, our city was already falling short of supporting its artists,” said NYC Mayoral Candidate Shaun Donovan. “The arts across all five boroughs fight year after year just to stay here as we take them for granted, and they still contribute immensely to our city’s economy, to the fabric of our communities. Our current mayor views the arts as synonymous with wealth and elitism, and uses that as an excuse to ignore them. I see what the city can be if we actually supported the arts and recognized their benefits, and as mayor I’ll work to make that vision a reality.”

The extensive platform was praised by arts and community leaders from across the city:

Right now, we know that artists are struggling in so many ways, that we don’t know if they can come back. They’ll have to probably take other jobs unless we have an initiative that says ‘we want you to continue to be artists, and we’re going to help you do that’,” said Antonio Reynoso, Council Member and Candidate for Brooklyn Borough President. “I thank Shaun because he took the time to put a plan together, to think about this in a way that really speaks to this work of equity… It’s about looking at the people that were most affected during this time, during COVID, and saying ‘we’re going to be there for you first, and we’re going to be there for you more.’ That’s what equity is about.”

What’s remarkable about Shaun Donovan’s plan to support New York’s Arts & Culture sector, beyond just how incredibly detailed and thoughtful it is, is that it shows such a deep understanding of the importance of this sector for the overall wellbeing of our city,” said Voza Rivers, Chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance. “As someone who works with individual artists and arts organizations of all sizes, it is so great to see a plan that clearly makes an effort to not leave anyone out, and to not just address the needs of makers of art but also to think about how the arts contribute to every one of our communities. It’s clear through this plan that Shaun will prioritize making the Arts & Culture sector stronger and more diverse, and support neighborhoods across our city as a result — a very long overdue position for City Hall to take.”

The importance of the upcoming mayoral race cannot be overstated. The arts and cultural organizations in New York have been decimated by the pandemic. We need a mayor who understands both the economic and spiritual value our field can bring to the city’s recovery,” said Karen Brooks Hopkins, President Emerita of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “Shaun Donovan has the relationships in Washington to get New York the help it needs. He will work with the cultural community to restore its grandeur so that artists and their audiences from at all five Boroughs and from all over the world can benefit.”

Shaun is a great supporter of the arts. Every small conversation that we have is more than just talking about what’s going on around the city and how to make things better, but also about the arts, how to get everyone involved—not only the community but the schools, the people,” said Jorge Castro, member of the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra. “New York is a piece of art itself. When you look around, there’s art everywhere, there are musicians everywhere, art is always everywhere. Shaun has a clear great vision to actually bring all those elements together.”

The arts are at the heart of New York City, making New York City the cultural capital of the world. We all know our city is in crisis. We cannot heal unless the heart is healed, but too often, independent artists and small cultural organizations that are this City’s lifeblood, economic drivers and neighborhood anchors are left out of the picture,” said Aimee Todoroff, Managing Director of the League of Independent Theater. “With this plan, Shaun Donovan takes a smart, holistic approach to recovery by not just including but by putting a strong focus on the independent arts and culture workers that are so vital to our future.”

I am a proud New Yorker who works in the arts industry and am proud to support Shaun Donovan for Mayor of New York City. Shaun’s ideas, experience, and passion for the City of New York are all reasons for me to support his candidacy,” said Natasha Schlesinger, Founder and Chief Curator of Artmuse and Artmuse Selects. “But, more specifically, Shaun’s plan for Arts & Culture is impressive and will be wholeheartedly welcomed by the arts community. Arts and culture have always been central to New York City. Shaun understands that and has laid out the most comprehensive and effective ways to connect both New Yorkers and visitors through arts and culture and to support artists, arts organizations, and arts education.

As an artist and small-business owner, I know the challenge of matching creativity to practicality,” said Michael Angelo, artist, designer and founder of Wonderland Beauty Parlor. “New York isn’t New York without its vibrant, diverse community of artists, but those artists can’t survive in a metropolis that isn’t set up to support them. That’s why it’s imperative to prioritize platforms that place the arts on the same level as other key facets of our civic life.”

The platform emphasizes that learning about and experiencing art has incredible benefits for individuals regardless of their involvement with the arts as a profession.

Highlights of the platform include:

  • Working with experts to reopen our arts venues and bring audiences back safely, while listening to arts leaders and venue owners to ensure safety considerations are clear, enforceable, and take into account challenges for the businesses — like the understanding that opening at 25% capacity could be more harmful than staying closed altogether.
  • Shaun leading by example as a candidate and mayor, attending arts events across boroughs and disciples and demonstrating that the arts are once again safe to enjoy.
  • Partnering with NYC & Company on a campaign that features our Arts & Culture sector prominently and promotes our “NYC Healthiest City” and “NYC Safest City” to bring back tourists and power our economic recovery.
  • Launching a citywide program to utilize empty spaces for Arts & Culture initiatives, prioritizing making space available to artists of color who historically may not have had equitable access to performance and work space, and utilizing digital tools to make reserving these spaces easy.
  • Rethinking school arts funding and the way the City engages with nonprofit partners to ensure all students are properly exposed to the arts without asking nonprofits to take on responsibilities that should fall on the City.
  • Integrating the arts into Shaun’s plan to guarantee at least one paid job, apprenticeship, or internship opportunity that connects to a meaningful career pathway to every high school student by 2026, and utilize these and other efforts to create a more diverse pipeline of students for a wide range of arts professions, from the stage to the administrative office.
  • Leveraging Shaun’s broader plans to make affordable housing available to all New Yorkers to make it easier for artists to live in the City, and integrating work spaces to affordable housing, libraries, and other community buildings to make it easier for artists to work near their homes.
  • Partnering more closely with the private sector to support arts organizations and promote greater involvement in boards of neighborhood arts organizations, given the advantages that companies have for recruiting and retaining top talent as a result of our vibrant Arts & Culture sector.
  • Utilizing technology to create a robust digital network of cultural organizations and developing an application to make all these places easily identifiable, connect them to each other through curated “walks” and “experiences,” and tie them to local businesses through discounts, bundles, and promotions meant to drive New Yorkers and tourists to businesses across all five boroughs.

This plan follows a series of other ambitious, comprehensive policy proposals, achievable only through Donovan’s equity-driven approach that prioritizes gathering input from every relevant community, advocacy group, and business sector. Last week he released his plan to support our city’s immigrants, and earlier this month he released his Plan for the City of New York — a 200+ page collection of platforms aimed at addressing a broad range of challenges facing this city during and prior to the pandemic. Among these are his plans to create 500,000 jobs for New Yorkers by the end of his first term, open libraries 7 days per week in every neighborhood, make every neighborhood in the city a 15 Minute Neighborhood — where every resident has access to a great public school, fresh food, rapid transportation, a park, and a chance to get ahead within 15 minutes of their front door — and launch equity bonds, whereby every New York City child will receive $1,000, plus up to an additional $2,000 each subsequent year. Last week he released his Innovation Platform, which aims to improve the city’s innovation and data infrastructure and bring quality, high-speed broadband to every New York City household.

For more details on Donovan’s Arts & Culture Platform, please visit https://shaunfornyc.com/issues/arts-culture/.

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