What Would it Look Like if NYC invested $50 Million in its Communities?

New York City’s recent capital investment of $50 million dollars in the Culture Shed mega project begs the question – how would a $50 million dollar capital investment in the culture and wellbeing of New York City’s diverse neighborhoods look? 

This investment in our city’s neighborhood cultural hubs and small arts organizations would provide space for artists to rehearse and make new work, develop the creative leadership of young mediamakers, support libraries and schools as cultural centers, develop public art that embraces a full range of cultural practices, and strengthen the cultural networks of immigrant communities. New York City is driven by this diverse cultural expression. It’s where we incubate the city of the future, and strengthen the cultural infrastructure and local leadership that supports us in times of adversity.

In 2010, 40% of all city arts funding went to just five of the largest cultural organizations.[1]  What if public funding recognized that a resilient city and an engaged democracy are rooted in strong and culturally dynamic communities?

At The Future of Education, Arts, and Culture mayoral forum in New York City candidate after candidate spoke about the importance of the arts – for community revitalization, critical thinking, youth development, resilience, and as nourishment for our souls.  Ultimately, however, their message was that in hard times, with austerity budgets, the arts are a luxury. But it is precisely in hard times that arts and cultural are essential; engaging our communities to create the fair and equitable city we all deserve.  

For more about how arts and culture are part of New York City’s wellbeing, see How Arts and Culture Can Advance a Neighborhood-Centered Progressive Agenda, which is part of Toward a 21st Century City for All, a series of working papers that offer a policy framework for governing New York City toward more broadly shared prosperity. Also check out the website for Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York (NOCD-NY), a citywide alliance made up of community based cultural networks and leaders that we co-direct.

Caron Atlas, director Arts & Democracy Project, co-director, Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York (NOCD-NY)

Tamara Greenfield, director Fourth Arts Block, co-director Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York (NOCD-NY) 


[1] The Arts$ Part 1 Man About Town Blog, August 2012