NYC DCA Diversity Initiative Receives Support from Major Foundations

Funding will promote diversity among New York City’s cultural community and facilitate a survey of the arts and cultural field.

By Jenny Clarke

Earlier this year, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner Tom Finkelpearl took the first step in a new initiative to examine diversity in the City’s arts and cultural sector, inviting executive leaders of the City’s major institutions and smaller organizations to participate in a discussion about why diversity matters in our sector.

The DCA recently announced that it has received $150,000 from foundations to support the initiative. The most recent award of $100,000 comes from the Ford Foundation to support the implementation and roll out of the initiative after the agency’s formal survey is completed later this year. Mertz-Gilmore Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund each previously provided $25,000 to fund the design of the survey.

“As our population continues to become ever more multicultural, getting a frank discussion started about the issue of diversity at cultural organizations is absolutely critical to the future of the sector and of the City,” said Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. “We view diversity as a strength and have been committed to finding new ways to cultivate this in a meaningful way to transform institutions, and we are proud to support this work with our colleagues in the City of New York.”

The survey is being designed by consulting firm Ithaka S+R and will capture data on the diversity at cultural organizations, taking into account a number of factors including age, race, ethnicity, disability, and gender. A number of surveys from groups including BoardSource and Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and the Association of Art Museum Directors have found that that people of color and women make up a much smaller portion of nonprofit leadership and staff than their share of the population as a whole.

New York City is incredibly culturally diverse: only 33% of residents identify as white non-Hispanic and nearly 40% are foreign-born and residents under the age of 18 are the most diverse age cohort, pointing to a long term trend. Understanding how New York’s cultural sector reflects these demographics will help the City’s arts organizations position themselves to serve and engage an increasingly diverse city.
Once collected, the data from the survey will better indicate where cultural organizations succeed and where they struggle with the inclusion of underrepresented groups.

Other major cities, including London, have launched programs to address the lack of diversity in their cultural sectors and DCA will consider lessons learned from these efforts. This initiative builds on the de Blasio Administration’s commitment to making New York City a more fair and equitable city for every New Yorker.

Read full release here.

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