Wednesday, November 16

Funding the culture of New York City: The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

Mayor Bloomberg performing a skit in ceremony for the Mayor's Awards for Arts & Culture, 2010
Photo Credit The Department of Cultural Affairs
On November 8th, 2010 Meryl Streep and Mayor Bloomberg announced  stood on stage together to announce the Mayor's Awards for Arts & Culture, a category of awards created in 1974 “to honor individuals who’ve made significant contributions” to the area of culture in New York City.
Streep & Bloomberg presenting the Mayor's Awards
Photo Credit: Department of Cultural Affairs 

With a current budget of $141 million dollars the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is the largest cultural funding agency in the nation; as a government agency, its mission is to support the growth and preservation of the arts in New York City by ensuring “adequate public funding for non-profit cultural organizations, both large and small, throughout the five boroughs.” 

The Department of Cultural Affairs funds provides funding in three major ways:
  1. Funding to organizations that in exchange provide cultural services to citizens awarded primarily through grants
  2. Funding through direct subsidies that support the cost of maintenance, administration,security and energy for the 33 city-owned Cultural Institutions (P.S. 1, The Met, Brooklyn Museum and the New York Botanical Garden are examples in this category of sponsorship).
  3. Through Capital spending that covers the cost of construction & renovation for the 33 city-owned institutions and  applicable institutions that serve low-income communities.
“Percent for art” is an initiative by which selected artists are commissioned to create public works to be placed in the city-owned buildings and public spaces throughout the five boroughs; the program operates on the rule that “1% of the total capital budget for newly constructed and reconstructed buildings must be spent on art; the artist is commissioned 20% of the total art allocation.”
"The Gates In Central Park" by Chrtisto & Jeanne-Claude installed for 16 days in February of 2005
Photo Credit: Jackie Carven 
“Materials for the Arts” is a resource warehouse and initiative ran by Department of Cultural Affairs program that provides art materials for public schools, city agencies and non-profits with art programs that in some capacity serve the city’s public.
Individualize funding and support for artists is also something that happens via this department, applicable artist who hold recognizable contributions to the city’s cultural life are eligible through application for residency in specific city zoning, Soho is one such space.
It wasn’t until 1934, under the direction of Mayor Fiorella Lagurdia that New York city arrived at a “Municipal Art Committee” whose sloe purpose was to direct the government  in ways of stimulating the cultural life of the city, a motivation that arose out of the Great Depression.  Under Mayor Robert F. Wangner the office of Cultural Affairs was created in 1962 and appointed a six member paid staff with an unsalaried cultural executive. 
1964 is when the department received its first operating budget,  $100,020; the city put money into free school concerts, summer theater at Prospect Park and outdoor opera performances at the Metropolitan Opera. 
 The department of cultural affairs continues to exist today because there is an understanding that a thriving cultural community contributes to the economic vitality of the city.

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