Healing our City by Investing in and Supporting our Art, Artists, and Communities
Arts and Culture have long been central to the social and economic development of New York City. From the bright lights of Broadway, the halls of our grand museums, and the stages of our world-class concert halls to our neighborhood galleries, our parks, and the individual studios of our countless artists, our city’s ever-flowing river of artistic expression has exerted a gravitational pull on the world’s brightest minds, its most dedicated public services, and generation after generation of new revolutionary artists.
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. It has allowed the entire world to exist in New York, and it has made New York known across the world.
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. Often art in New York City flourished despite the city’s actions, not because of them, and this flourishing followed clear geographic and racial patterns.
For many of the artists that make New York the city we all love, the cost of living here has always been unrealistic. Receiving payment for services—payments that can mean life or death for a smaller arts organization—can be unreasonably burdensome and costly. While we make it harder for artists to survive, we ask them to take on greater and greater responsibility that should belong to the City. And many of these strains are felt far more acutely by the artists and organizations that play vital roles in communities outside of Manhattan.
Our city has taken for granted that its artists will always want to be here, a trend that is becoming less and less certain the easier it is for artists to work and collaborate remotely and the harder other cities work to welcome and support artists.
We can no longer defer actions in support of our Arts & Culture industry that should have been taken long ago—we simply do not have a choice. At this current moment of crisis, we must recognize the irreplaceable role that Arts & Culture has always played in the life of our city and give it the tools needed to properly contribute to our economic and social recovery. Not just our short-term recovery, but our long-term growth as the capital of the world depends on our artists surviving and thriving.
We will launch a plan focused on all five boroughs—Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island—that prioritizes the safe and efficient use of space, empowers our artists, and puts Arts & Culture front and center in our city’s recovery.
We will view each policy in this plan, as with all of Shaun’s platforms, as an opportunity to tackle racial inequity pervasive in the Arts & Culture field by considering the impact of each policy on the historically neglected and direct resources toward those communities to ensure that our city as a whole is flourishing.
We will leverage Shaun’s deep understanding of the federal government and close relationships with senior members of the Biden-Harris administration to ensure that federal resources and programs reach members of the Arts & Culture community.
And, we will consider the role of Arts & Culture in the long-term strengthening of communities across our city and enrichment of all New Yorkers’ lives—regardless of age, race, income, or level of ability—while addressing the particular needs of arts organizations of all sizes, backgrounds, locations, and disciplines.
Our plan will focus on:
- Putting Arts & Culture at the Center of our City’s Recovery
- Making Learning About and Creating Art More Affordable and Accessible
- Leveraging Arts & Culture as a Tool for Long-Term Development Across our City
Putting Arts & Culture at the Center of our City’s Recovery
The Arts & Culture community has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. The steep decline in tourism has cut potential live audiences and gallery-goers considerably—not that they would have been able to enjoy art in person even if they were here, as resident New Yorkers can attest to. As we rebuild our city’s economy, supporting our Arts & Culture industry must be a top priority.
That said, bringing back Arts & Culture is more than just about adding back the jobs we’ve lost. A vibrant Arts & Culture sector attracts people from all over the world and contributes to the success of businesses and neighborhoods across our city.
This is true for the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG)—the 34 large arts organizations that receive significant capital and operating support from the city and are responsible for much of the city’s arts jobs and tourism. But the same is true beyond the CIG as well. In fact, every dollar spent in a small local arts organization translates to many more for local community businesses, from audiences visiting adjacent restaurants after a show to artists purchasing materials at nearby hardware stores.
And the impact that it has on the spirit of our city is undeniable. Indeed, investment in Arts & Culture across disciplines, from the individual artist to the largest institutions, will yield multiplying dividends financially and socially, and no effort to bring our city back would be serious without putting Arts & Culture at its center.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Work with experts to reopen our arts venues and bring audiences back
Even at 70% to 80% capacity, many of our city’s arts venues would struggle to stay open. Limiting them to 25% isn’t just as bad as keeping them closed—it can actually be worse, since this reintroduces rent and other financial obligations that these venues would be incapable of fulfilling while following city regulation.
With vaccine distribution increasing in New York City, we have the opportunity to finally and properly reopen arts venues that have been shuttered for over a year. To ensure that this is carried out with safety as a guiding principle, we will listen to data, science, and insight from our health leaders. Bringing together experts and venue owners to establish a clear set of guidelines around reopening of businesses will ensure that safety considerations are clear and enforceable while taking into account the needs and perspectives of our local businesses.
Even with a strong, scientifically-informed plan, many New Yorkers and potential visitors from across the world may be justifiably apprehensive to patronize our arts venues. In order for the industry to thrive as the pandemic winds down, it must be articulated clearly to the public that arts organizations and venues are safe to visit, and in this regard Shaun, as a candidate and as mayor, must lead by example. Shaun will frequent and uplift arts organizations across all five boroughs, including but not limited to galleries, dance studios, music venues, independent theaters, circus performances, comedy clubs, and museums, from our large arts spaces to our smallest community groups, with a particular focus on organizations led and promoting art by women and New Yorkers of color.
And, we must properly invest in communicating this same confidence and safety to people around the world who are eager to once again visit New York City. As mentioned in our Health and Economic Development platforms, we plan to partner with NYC & Company on a campaign to promote our “NYC Healthiest City” and “NYC Safest City” commitments, attracting tourists from across the region, country, and globe, and geared toward attracting first local, then national, and finally international visitors.
Local arts organizations have long benefited from the work of NYC & Company, which aims to maximize travel and tourism opportunities throughout the city, build economic prosperity, and spread the dynamic image of New York City around the world. In order to ensure that arts organizations benefit from this campaign, we will feature Arts & Culture prominently in this partnership. This also involves ensuring that NYC & Company has the funding and resources needed to properly promote every borough of our city.
As we work to drive tourism regionally, nationally, and globally following the conclusion of the pandemic, groups such as NYC & Company will prove critical in getting our message across that New York City is once again safe.
Launch a citywide program to utilize empty spaces for Arts & Culture initiatives
In the 1970s and 1980s, during a different time of crisis in the city, we looked to occupy abandoned or empty spaces in ways that brought life to the community. Once again, we have the need and the opportunity to find spaces for cultural organizations to safely engage with New Yorkers.
We must make unoccupied commercial spaces like empty storefronts, as well as open public spaces, available to visual and performing artists, with a particular focus on providing space to artists of color. This effort will bring people back to our streets and adjacent local businesses while filling formerly vacant space with life. The allocation of these spaces will economically benefit the city at large as it will provide work opportunities to our artists, financially support struggling landlords through rent subsidies or tax forgiveness, and visibly demonstrate to the rest of the world that the arts scene in New York City remains strong.
This ties directly into a broader effort by the Donovan administration to make space for expression and creation across artistic disciplines more widely available—which we will discuss in more detail later on in the platform.
To ensure that these spaces are available to artists in a timely manner, we will better coordinate across agencies for efficient disbursement of permits and funding. And, recognizing that getting permits can itself be a costly process, we will make subsidies and grants available for arts organizations looking to use empty spaces in order to reduce these potential costs.
In continuing to offer unconventional spaces to artists, we can consider New York City’s incredible parks, green areas, and streets as potential opportunities for artistic development and expression. We need to better manage our Open Streets program—through partnership with organizations like the Department of Transportation and the Department of Parks & Recreation—and in cases where Open Streets and empty spaces may not be the best setting, like certain performance functions, we must make it easier for park space to be utilized and ensure that park space reservations are honored.
Read more about our plan to properly create and maintain Open Streets in our Transportation Platform.
This initiative will require robust and innovative coordination by the City, not just in terms of identifying and securing these spaces, but in promoting and distributing them. To facilitate these last two, we will develop an online reservation app with a map demonstrating the locations of all empty and public spaces and a single application that individuals and organizations can submit to occupy spaces.
We will also explore ways we can utilize incentives to promote renting space to nonprofits and cultural organizations long-term, such that these organizations can stay in and become plant roots in a community without their rents rising unsustainably.
Partner with artists to communicate vital information
Strategic and creative campaigns will be needed to do more than communicate the safe reopening of our city. As we adapt to future stages of this pandemic, the threats of new strains of the coronavirus, and new realities of life like regular vaccination programs and other health measures, the City will need to be smart about how it gets its messages out there. In this regard, we don’t need to look far to find an endless wealth of experience and talent.
The Donovan administration will actively partner with local artists to develop public service announcements and campaigns outlining the safest ways to enjoy Arts & Culture throughout the city. This includes working with prominent New Yorkers on television ads, commissioning graphic designers to produce written and visual materials, and involve social media and influencer experts to promote information on digital platforms. In this way we will not only publicize the safety precautions the City has taken, but also feature some of New York’s incredible talents.
Making Learning About and Creating Art More Affordable and Accessible
The city historically—particularly under the current administration—has viewed the arts as synonymous with wealth and elitism, disregarding its potential to enrich the lives of individual New Yorkers and entire communities. More troubling still, the City has used this belief to justify not properly investing in or prioritizing the arts, to the detriment of everyone from young students who are never exposed to the arts to professional artists who find it impossible to make a life here.
As we emerge from this pandemic and consider how the arts will feature in the long-term social, cultural, and economic development of our city and its people, we must identify where the City has acted as an obstacle and change course through thoughtful policy. And, we must go further by making City Hall a place people want to go to for help, and where they know help will be found.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Rethink school arts funding and engagement with nonprofit partners
As a trained architect, Shaun has long turned to his design background as a foundation for developing creative solutions to complex problems. He understands that arts education is critical not just for ensuring all students grow up to be well-rounded members of their communities, but also for providing skills that allow them to be effective problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and more successful professionals. Critically, in our post-Covid recovery, arts education will play a significant role in bringing students back into supportive school environments where the arts are integrated into their learning in order to process trauma, support differently-abled learners, and find unique pathways back to collaborative, project-based learning.
Shaun will ensure that new and reallocated State and City funding underwrite a new generation of rich and sustained arts education for every public school student in New York City, beginning in Pre-Kindergarten. Every elementary school should provide arts instruction through classroom teachers, school-based arts teachers, or cultural arts organizations working in schools. Elementary schools should integrate arts education into student curricula and school-wide learning goals. In middle schools, Shaun’s administration will ensure that every student who wants to has the opportunity to learn and master a musical instrument. We will also address the long-standing problems only about a third of 7th and 8th grade students are able to meet New York State Education Department (NYSED) requirements to take at least two courses in each of two arts disciplines taught by a certified teacher. Shaun will expand the existing, high-caliber Career and Technical Education and special arts-focused high schools to provide college and career pathways for the arts and arts-related industries that make New York City the arts capital of the nation.
Our city’s arts nonprofits, many of which operate on fairly tenuous financial situations already, have often been asked to provide subsidized services to schools, and the payments that they are offered are often incredibly difficult and costly themselves to obtain—an issue that we will discuss later on in this section. On top of this, the Department of Education’s fundraising efforts for the meager sum they do spend on the arts are at times in direct competition with the fundraising efforts of these same nonprofit organizations.
The City must take an approach to acquiring arts funding that is in partnership, not conflict, with our arts institutions. As a result, New York City students will directly benefit from arts education from the City, while the City government maintains positive and collaborative relationships with such arts organizations and institutions.
Create pathways for all students to explore careers in the arts
One of Shaun’s landmark Education and Economic Development proposals is his 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. As we look to create new pathways for students to explore potential careers in the arts—particularly those who do not have as much access to arts careers or don’t see them as viable options—we must ensure that cultural institutions are directly integrated into this initiative.
The City and the coordinated efforts of private philanthropy and industry will provide financial support and guidance to ensure that such institutions are able to sustain such apprenticeships and internships, and, as with the rest of the broader initiative, students will receive supplemental support and training on general workplace skills.
At the post-secondary level, a promising model is CUNY’s Culture Corps. Begun in response to a city report citing the lack of diversity in the city’s arts organizations, the Corps provides several hundred CUNY students with paid internships in arts organizations. We also have an opportunity to partner closely with the city’s arts unions, which face an aging out of members and will be able to rebuild their workforce by engaging with young people.
The pandemic further exposed and widened the deep equity gaps in students from lower income families and communities of color in accessing and engaging with the arts in New York City. It is critical that we apply a lens of equity, as with every policy, making sure that apprenticeship programs are representative of New York City’s public school system demographics and that funding is directed toward communities that have usually received the least investment. The diversity of our student body has the potential to contribute to a more diverse arts community and field in the future.
And, equipping our students with financial literacy and business management skills will be critical across future professions, including the arts, and we must ensure schools help all of our students learn these skills.
The City can also go further in supporting students interested in specialized careers in the arts. Trade and technical schools across the country, and in New York City, have offered students the opportunity to access training in specialized skills for centuries. Such technical schools increase diversity within certain fields and open doors for economic development and opportunities.
The Donovan administration will establish a public technical high school devoted to creating a more diverse pipeline of New York City students feeding into a broad range of careers in the arts—from back-stage work to arts organization administration, financing, and marketing—that have historically lacked diversity. This public institution will provide students with practical skills and tools that will make them marketable and attractive potential employees while affirming to young people that the arts are a viable and profitable career.
In order for students to truly see the professional possibilities in the arts—or simply to enjoy the arts more fully as an adult—it is important that entire families be aware of the value of and opportunities in the arts. To this end, we will work with communities to tell the stories of artists who look like the members of those communities to demonstrate that good, family-sustaining careers in the arts are obtainable.
Provide the opportunity for all high school students to watch a live performance before graduating from a New York City high school
It is incredible that in towns across our country where art can only be found if someone looks for it, students are constantly presented with opportunities to view and interact with art—while in New York City, where art is happening around every corner, a student could walk past fountain after fountain of artistic expression and never once interact with any of them.
Shaun will address this gap not only by providing schools with more adequate funding and exposing students to potential careers in the arts, but by integrating interaction with the city’s artistic institutions into the curriculum itself.
Watching performances sponsored by arts institutions increases students’ desire to engage with the arts following graduation from high school. In order to promote participation in the arts and local cultural scene, as mayor, Shaun will ensure that all New York City public schools provide an opportunity for all high school students to watch a live performance at least once before they graduate, and will work with schools and local organizations to provide such opportunities. Curriculum units and guidance will be provided to schools so that after high school students watch a live performance they engage directly with the arts by producing a piece of artistic material, like an original piece of music, a poem, a dance, or a video. By providing an opportunity for students to not only watch an artistic performance, but produce a piece of art themselves, students will feel more engaged with the arts during their time in secondary New York City schools.
Facilitate living and working in New York City for artists
In New York City there have long existed the seemingly irreconcilable situations of a teeming arts scene and a real estate market that makes living here nearly impossible for the artists that keep this scene vibrant.
As outlined in his Housing Platform and as displayed in his decades of experience working to expand the quantity and quality of affordable housing, Shaun will be committed as mayor to making housing accessible in all neighborhoods and for all New Yorkers, including our artists.
The City can also focus on including studio and rehearsal space in new housing developments and integrating these into existing housing, libraries, and other community buildings to make arts spaces more available to artists and members of the neighboring community. There will be an emphasis on diversity of discipline across spaces in a given community so artists in need of particular equipment do not have to travel across the city to conduct their work.
An important step in truly making this vision a reality is effectively enforcing community benefits agreements, whereby developers receive incentives in exchange for the promise that they will create community spaces. Many times, developers will make these claims, receive the incentives, and then not comply and face little to no consequence. We support conducting an audit of community benefits agreements to ensure that everyone receiving an incentive for the production of community space has actually followed through with their commitment, and emphasize the strict enforcement of these standards going forward.
A challenge for many artists is traveling between their home and place of work. To address this, we will establish more flexible zoning that will give artists more opportunities to work within their same neighborhoods. This ties directly with similar plans in our Economic Development Platform aimed at strengthening neighborhood commercial corridors and creating 15 minute neighborhoods—an idea we’ll discuss in more detail further in the platform—with economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.
Another factor working against our city’s artists is the amount they’re paid relative to the cost of living in our city. We need to ensure that our city’s artists are compensated fairly, and in this regard Shaun will once again lead by example. The Donovan administration will work with organizations like W.A.G.E. to set standards of compensation for artists working with the City starting on day 1. By 2025, Shaun would expect that any organization receiving public funds follow these standards as well.
However, as mentioned earlier, how much artists and arts organizations are paid by the city isn’t always the only problem—often there are challenges with getting paid on time or even at all. In fact, arts organizations can spend months or years waiting to receive payment after they’ve rendered services, which can have dire consequences on smaller groups even when the economy is doing well.
This doesn’t only hurt the artists—the City currently wastes large sums of taxpayer money through an inefficient contracting and capital grants process. Improving this process and adding accountability will both support our city’s arts organizations and artists in getting the payment they deserve and save the City money that can be directed toward adequately funding arts initiatives.
The pandemic has also demonstrated how hard it can be for artists to receive the help they need when they fall on hard times. Shaun is the only candidate with the knowledge of and relationships in the federal government to ensure that our safety net is strong and that federal investments in programs like unemployment insurance and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reach our artists and arts organizations.
As mentioned above, we also want City Hall to be a place that makes it easier, not harder, for people’s ideas to come to life. The Donovan administration will dedicate resources toward fielding ideas from New Yorkers, creating a list of government and non-government partner organizations, and directing people to either the government resources or partner organization support needed to bring those ideas to life.
Make City support of arts organizations simpler and more transparent
Inefficiencies and lack of clarity between city government and arts organizations also have financial ramifications when it comes to allocation of city funding. At times our largest institutions are compared to much smaller organizations, without the most transparent criteria for disbursement of resources. This is one of the areas where the city’s first Chief Equity Officer—described in our Racial Equity Platform and later on in this plan—will step in to ensure that city resources are being put to use in ways that address gaps in equitable opportunity.
In the case of arts organizations that qualify as Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs), we will leverage the same policies outlined in our Economic Development Platform to strengthen MWBE network and infrastructure, create mentorship and support opportunities, make capital more accessible, and make it easier for artist and organizations to grow and scale. Recognizing that many existing processes for accessing support are convoluted and confusing—from regulation to our city’s web platforms—we will work to make getting help and funding from the city as easy and straightforward as possible.
Another group that has struggled to receive support from the city and that represents a great deal of our artists are fiscally sponsored organizations—typically very small groups or specific causes that receive legal and tax-exempt status as well as support and oversight through a partner nonprofit. These groups are not currently eligible to receive support from the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), and we will investigate potential ways that the City can help these groups succeed.
Regarding supplementing city resources for Arts & Culture, it is important to recognize that Shaun, with an intimate understanding of how government works at every level and close working relationships with senior members of the Biden-Harris administration, is in a unique position to advocate for proper resources from Washington Albany for our city’s Arts & Culture sector.
And, as we look back on the lessons learned over the past year, we cannot ignore the role that digital spaces and streaming technologies played in the survival of the city’s Arts & Culture sector through the pandemic, the role it can potentially play in the future, and the challenge that many individual artists and smaller organizations still face in accessing these tools. The City will partner with these groups and individuals to develop platforms for sharing work remotely and bridge these digital gaps.
This also includes helping artists and organizations get the resources they need to save and chronicle their art—allowing the City to preserve a truly representative range of artistic pieces by New Yorkers from every corner of the city.
Promote greater private sector involvement in the arts across all five boroughs
The private sector benefits directly from a rich and thriving arts sector, given this makes it easier for them to attract and retain top talent. Coming out of this crisis and recognizing that philanthropic contribution to the arts remains relatively low, partnership with the private sector to creatively support arts institutions will be critical.
The Donovan administration will partner with the private sector in the city to develop a plan for greater investment in the Arts & Culture industry, with funding directed toward arts organizations across boroughs.
Support needn’t come exclusively in the form of direct investment. For example, many smaller arts organizations depend heavily on their board’s ability to keep them afloat. Part of the plan for greater private support of our Arts & Culture sector should involve corporate sponsorship of middle- and senior-level management employees interested in joining boards of neighborhood arts organizations.
This layers into a broader administration effort to promote greater board equity and diversity across our city’s cultural organizations. As decision-makers for both funding and programming, boards often steer New York’s cultural offerings—and Shaun will aim to leverage both private partnerships to support arts organizations and direct City investment as tools to ensure that women and people of color hold space on New York’s cultural boards to a degree commensurate with New York’s demographics.
We can also work with organizations to provide incentives for their employees to attend arts events in the city—particularly as the Arts & Culture sector recovers from our current crisis.
We will explore ways to partially offset the costs of these and other initiatives for participating companies, including potentially offering local tax benefits.
Leveraging Arts & Culture as a Tool for Long-Term Development Across our City
The potential of the Arts & Culture industry to drive the growth and prosperity of our city goes well beyond recovering from this pandemic.
New York City’s role as a cultural capital of the world is a driving force in attracting the best talent to our city—a trend that directly benefits organizations across sectors that have established themselves here. At the same time, Arts & Culture organizations can serve as engines of economic activity for their surrounding areas, as well as centers for community engagement and activism that get people involved at the local level.
Indeed, businesses and communities across our city either already have benefitted, or have the potential to benefit, from a strong Arts & Culture sector, and we must make the proper investments to ensure this opportunity isn’t wasted.
We are committing to the following policies and programs:
Promote art across all five boroughs and drive engagement with entire communities
As described in our Economic Development Platform, one of Shaun’s key priorities is to ensure every neighborhood in NYC is a 15 minute neighborhood—where everyone has access to a good public school, fresh food, a great park, rapid transportation, quality primary care, and a chance to get ahead within 15 minutes of their front door. The arts are a vital part of every neighborhood and as such, cultural organizations must be built into this vision of New York City communities, prioritizing neighborhoods that are furthest from being 15 minute neighborhoods.
In particular, arts organizations have the benefit of not just contributing to the neighborhood they’re in, but in a sense by making the neighborhood bigger by attracting people from other parts of the city that could spend time and money at the neighborhood’s establishments. This is a tool for community development that cannot be ignored.
To that end, we will leverage the existing technology to create a robust digital network of cultural organizations in our city, displaying the richness of our cultural sector across all five boroughs, creating bridges between our neighborhoods, and spurring greater movement across our city.
We will develop a digital application making all of these places easily identifiable—potentially with curated “walks” or “experiences.” This network can also make it easier to launch artistic events across the city, from large-scale community festivals to short pop-up performances and exhibitions, and to create a citywide events plan to improve coordination—ensuring people are incentivized to visit all boroughs and minimizing conflict between events and local arts organizations.
Recognizing that many New Yorkers lack proper access to broadband or the equipment to access these resources, we will work with local arts organizations to promote events and partnerships between groups while investing in reaching the point where every New Yorker has affordable, high-quality broadband in their home—as outlined in our Innovation Platform.
And, we will work to incentivize the development of arts districts across the city that provide more community-focused, sustainable, and inclusive ways to interact with the Arts & Culture industry. Like the policies outlined in our Economic Development Platform to support the growth of neighborhood commercial corridors, these efforts will draw upon cross-agency collaboration, as well as clarification and simplification of regulation.
Of course, a clear and consistent dialogue with the communities themselves will be central to these efforts. We will promote communication and collaboration between community boards and boards of local arts organizations to drive community involvement.
We must also recognize that our local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are closely tied to the economic development of specific communities in our city, and are acutely aware of the resources available and some of the most pressing needs. By establishing stronger partnerships with our local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and following the examples of those that have actively and effectively leveraged culture as a part of their economic strategy, we can work with instead of against the communities that house our arts organizations and artists. At the same time, we must work with BIDs to make their presence and resources better known within their communities, since many artist and arts groups aren’t aware of the existence of their local BID, let alone how best to engage with it.
It is also Shaun’s belief that, given the potential of these strategies to drive economic development, particular attention should be paid to communities that have faced historical neglect or disinvestment when directing funding and promotional attention. In that spirit, we can use another existing tool to help drive greater investment in our local communities’ arts sectors: Opportunity Zones.
Opportunity Zones are an economic development tool that allows people to invest in distressed areas in the United States. Their purpose is to spur economic growth and job creation in low-income communities while providing tax benefits to investors.
Given the importance of Arts & Culture investment not just in the recovery of our city’s communities but in the long-term development of communities that have historically faced lesser investment, Opportunity Zones have the potential to be a powerful tool in directing Arts & Culture investment toward the communities across our city that need it most.
Prioritize accessibility of art for all New Yorkers
Reducing distance from art is critical to making young New Yorkers—and older New Yorkers—feel more comfortable interacting with it. This removes the “otherness” that can be prevalent when art is only thought of in the context of our larger museums and performance spaces. One set of locations where we believe it is critical to integrate public art is in NYCHA housing.
We will work with local artists to produce one public art piece in each affordable housing complex in the city to communicate to New York City families that may often feel that art only belongs elsewhere that that is not the case. And, in each housing complex, we will prioritize working with artists who grew up in that same residence and integrate the input and perspectives of the complex’s children, creating a sense of ownership and long-term opportunity for potential future artists.
It is important to also recognize that for many New Yorkers, art is not always accessible, even in traditional arts venues. We will partner closely with the disability community to ensure that the gaps to engaging with art are clearly discussed and that city resources are used as an incentive to get more arts organizations to strive for greater accessibility.
Make it easier to travel across the city to experience art
As a global destination for Arts and Culture, New York hosts events, exhibitions, and performances that often command high ticket prices and are concentrated within specific geographic regions of the city favorable to high concentrations of tourists. One of New York’s greatest challenges is ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to and feel comfortable visiting these same cultural offerings, and that tourists are able to experience the great variety of arts programming available throughout the city’s five boroughs.
To—quite literally—drive tourism and improve access across the city, we will build transportation incentives, networks, and partnerships specific to cultural programming, with a particular focus on making it easier to reach smaller arts organizations and businesses across the city. Interborough bus routes that connect cultural organizations and are accessible with a same-day ticketing system will open our spaces up to a broader public, and encourage the exchange of ideas. These will build upon broader efforts to invest in transportation and make it easier for residents and visitors to get around, as outlined in our Transportation Platform.
In order to ensure that all New Yorkers can access our world-class artistic venues, Shaun will also expand New York’s IDNYC program that gives New York City Residents free access to participating cultural organizations, and will build coalitions across organizations for reciprocal visitor access.
In addition to supporting arts organizations, these efforts will aim to expose New Yorkers and tourists to a broader variety of arts experiences across the entire city and to make these more accessible for all New Yorkers.
Foster partnership among arts organizations and between the arts, other sectors, and the community
Building artistic hamlets throughout New York will only reinvigorate communities if the exchange goes both ways: not only will visual and performing arts be fostered on a hyperlocal level, but the inherent strengths of communities themselves must be harnessed.
Shaun views restaurants and bars as spaces for dialogue and repose central to artistic engagement, and will work to ensure that audiences of arts programming frequent local establishments. By strengthening connections between the hospitality industry and the arts, we will ensure that investments in cultural programming are an economic as well as cultural boon for host communities. And, as part of the digital curation of arts experiences described above, arts organizations will be connected to local businesses, including restaurants and shops, through discounts, bundle offers, and other promotional incentives. These efforts will prioritize smaller neighborhood arts organizations and businesses to encourage New Yorkers and visitors to venture into new areas and establishments.
Cultural organizations throughout the five boroughs must also involve local volunteers in their operations, events, and decision making processes. As mentioned above, Shaun believes that improving avenues of communication amongst often insular arts communities and their publics is essential to building a thriving artistic exchange across the city.
There is also considerable value in arts organizations of different sizes located across the city forming partnerships whereby they can share resources, space, and ideas. The Donovan administration will work to promote and facilitate these types of partnerships, with particular stress on creating collaborations that yield more diverse and representative programming. Cross-pollinating New York’s artists and arts organizations across borough, genre, and size is a central tenet of Shaun’s plan to increase accessibility and diversity of New York’s cultural programming.
Shaun will also investigate ways that small arts organizations in need of space can connect with larger organizations with dedicated spaces so that—just as public school buildings across New York sometimes double as community centers on weekends and evenings—cultural organizations can offer open performance, rehearsal, and exhibition spaces to organizations in need during times of vacancy. This ties into a broader trend of larger institutions supporting smaller organizations in the city and the communities that surround them.
And space needn’t come exclusively from other arts organizations—there is already a tradition of schools, churches, and other local establishments housing community arts events, and the City will do its part to facilitate these connections.
Actively promote greater diversity in our city’s cultural offerings and pathways to careers in the arts
Throughout the platform, we have made particular commitments to leverage our strategies in ways that bridge racial gaps in opportunity, including through our internship, apprenticeships, and jobs program, representation in boards of the city’s arts organizations, and partnerships between organizations that can expand access to resources and audiences.
In addition to these efforts—all of which fall under the purview of the Equity Office and the city’s first Chief Equity Officer, which Shaun has committed to naming since the launch of his campaign and whose role is described in greater detail in our Racial Equity Platform—we will specifically direct City funding toward organizations that tell stories, promote perspectives, and support communities that have historically been neglected by the City and its broader Arts & Culture sector.
Foster international exchange across the artistic community
Over the past decades, cross-cultural and cross-national artistic partnerships have contributed to a thriving and positive Arts & Culture industry in New York City, while promoting our city externally.
In order to ensure that New York City residents can benefit from this cross-cultural exchange, we will work closely with the Biden-Harris administration, and the many leaders there with whom Shaun has strong working relationships, to make it easier for artists to come to our city from all over the world, bringing ideas and new potential audiences. We would seek to establish a program rethinking artist visa requirements within New York, where foreign artists sponsored by New York cultural organizations would be given temporary work space and housing, and would be encouraged to engage within local artistic communities.
At the same time, we will partner with countries to showcase our city’s talent abroad as a means of promoting cultural exchange and introducing new audiences to our artists. We would similarly look to establish partnerships offering our artists opportunities abroad to acquire housing and space in exchange for engaging with local communities.
All of these efforts can leverage and foster international relationships that our globally renowned cultural organizations have with other organizations across the globe.