|"Splotch 15" a Sol Lewitt structure on view at City Hall Park sponsored by Public Art Fund which is supported by the DCA. Photo: Jason Wyche|
A tourist in New York might visit a few museums, such as the Museum of Natural History or the Met; wander around one of the three botanical gardens, in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens; and take in a showing of the New York City Ballet or New York City Opera. All of these institutions and many more well known, highly frequented establishments are city-owned and city-funded.
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) supports the 33 members of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG). All of the mentioned institutions are part of this group. The support the DCA offers the CIG includes the city-owned property these institutions are located on and the capital needed for basic security, maintenance, administration and energy costs. It has two other funding units: Program Services, which supports 881 nonprofit cultural organizations, and Capital Projects, which provides funds for design, construction and equipment. The Department of Cultural Affairs also gives grants for small capital projects initiated in lower income neighborhoods or that target lower income audiences.
Faced with a small DCA budget when sworn into office in February 2002, current Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs Kate D. Levin said, “It will be my nonstop effort to see that the cultural community is made whole to the extent that it’s possible.” In Levin’s 9 years as Commissioner, the Department consolidated two separate funding streams into the Cultural Development Fund, supported the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s new 82,000 square-foot wing, launched a new program called The Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts aiding art education in public schools, and received the then largest budget in the agency’s history in 2006.
According to a report by the Center for an Urban Future made in 2005, “New York City’s budget for arts and culture nonprofits and individual artists is unrivaled in the country.” In fiscal year 2006, the DCA had an expense budget of $131 million (larger than the National Endowment for the Arts’ annual budget) and an $803 million capital budget for 2007-2011. This June 2011, Mayor Bloomberg initially proposed cuts of $50 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs budget, continuing the trend of the Departments slowly declining share of the city budget. He later restored $30 million to their budget, bringing it to the final $149.5 million.
Out of this budget, the 33 members of the Cultural Institutions group receive $110.2. The remaining 26.3% of the budget is split between the Department’s other two funding divisions, the grants it awards to applicants and the two programs it runs, Materials for the Arts, which provides materials to organizations, and Percent for Art, which supports the creation of public art in New York City.
The Department of Cultural Affairs, in existence in some form since 1869, has a large role in the city’s cultural atmosphere. It serves as a conductor of finances to city-owned and non city-owned institutions and nonprofit cultural organizations across the five boroughs. The amount of funding it receives impacts the support it can give to large establishments and the many small arts organizations throughout New York. The preliminary fiscal year 2012 budget for the DCA is $49 million less than the 2011 budget, coming out to $101.3 million.
In July when Mayor Bloomberg restored $30 million to the 2011 DCA budget, Randall Bourscheidt, president of Alliance for the Arts, said to The Arts Newspaper, “I think that the restoration of the cultural budget is nothing short of heroic and it represents a very strong commitment from the city council and the mayor to the arts in New York.”