Shaun Donovan

12. How can the city play a more active role in reviving jobs in the creative industry and broadening access to the arts in local communities?

Where to begin! My recently released Arts & Culture Platform includes nearly 70 individual policy recommendations, many of which are geared toward not just supporting the arts sector as it recovers from this crisis, but actually addressing longstanding issues that affected the industry prior to the pandemic. At its heart is the acknowledgement that our city is what it is because of the artists who make it a place people want to visit and live in, who strengthen communities, who inspire and motivate us in times of struggle, and who unite us in moments of triumph. And all of this happens often despite the city’s actions, not because of them. At best the city has taken its artists for granted, and at worst, as with our current administration, the city’s views of the arts have bordered on antagonistic. We need to take real action to make it easier for everyone who contributes to the arts, including artists, administrators, and educators, to live, work, and get paid what they deserve in New York City.

As we come out of this pandemic, we will work with experts and arts leaders to reopen arts venues safely and bring audiences back in a way that is clear, enforceable, and takes into account the needs and perspectives of local businesses. Arts & Culture will feature prominently in campaigns that the city will design in partnership with NYC & Company, geared toward getting New Yorkers back to their local businesses and arts venues, and then attracting visitors from across the region, country, and globe. I will set an example, as a candidate and as mayor, by frequently attending arts events across disciplines in all five boroughs.

The city itself will also create more opportunities for artists by partnering with city artists to communicate vital information across our pandemic recovery. And, I will launch a program to utilize empty space for Arts & Culture initiatives to expand work opportunities for artists and access to the arts for communities.

In the longer term, my administration will make getting help and funding from the City as an artist or arts organization of any size as easy and straightforward as possible. And, in an effort to both support arts organizations in all five boroughs and encourage New Yorkers and tourists to experience the great art that’s available in all corners of our city, we will leverage digital tools to create a robust network of organizations and artistic events, promote these, curate specific experiences, and connect them to local businesses through discounts, bundle offers, and other promotional incentives to ensure that the benefits are felt by the entire community.

But economic opportunity is only one of the ways that artists in our city need support. Finding affordable can be a significant challenge for many in our city, including our artists, and I am committed to making housing accessible in all neighborhoods for all New Yorkers. We will look to include studio and rehearsal space in new housing developments and integrate these into existing housing, libraries, and other community buildings to make art spaces more available to artists and members of the neighboring communities. And we will focus on emphasizing diversity of discipline across these spaces so artists can have much easier access to any particular equipment they need to conduct their work and succeed.

Through more flexible zoning, we provide artists with more opportunities to work within their same neighborhoods, reducing the cost and inconvenience associated with committing. We will work with organizations like W.A.G.E. to set standards for compensation and ensure that the City is paying artists fairly—with the expectation that organizations expecting to receive public funds follow similar standards.

Recognizing that often getting paid at all can be a challenge for artists working with the city, we will improve and add accountability to the inefficient contracting and capital grants process, which should also save the city money that could be put toward arts programs. And, recognizing that artists may still fall on hard times now and then, I will use the knowledge of and relationships in the federal government that only I have in this race 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.

And this is just a few of our ideas!

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NYC AiE Roundtable