As an English teacher I understand the central role that the arts have played and continue to play in New York’s history and culture, as well as the economic importance of arts and culture to the city. At the same time artists and arts organizations have economic needs. It is through the economic sphere that public policy can best support artists and the arts.
New York City arts project
New Deal programs like the Federal Art Project and the Federal Theatre Project employed thousands of artists and created a golden era for the arts, exposing many Americans to live theater for the first time and livening many public buildings. (A mural by Daniel Celentano called “Children in Creative & Cultural Activities”, created through the Works Progress Administration, survives in the auditorium of P.S. 150.) We can do something like this again here in NYC. Arts are a significant part of New York’s economy, so it makes sense that a proportionate share of my public service employment program (see the Jobs and the Economy section) should be assigned to the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to expand art and arts education across the city, creating jobs for many artists. These projects may be managed directly by DCLA or funded through its existing grant-making division.
Public rehearsal spaces
Unsurprisingly, the expense of rehearsal space in New York is a real burden for artists and arts organizations. For Covid relief, the City Council recently created the Open Culture program which allows performances, rehearsals and classes in certain streets next summer. This is welcome, but the problem predates Covid and deserves a more comprehensive and permanent solution. There are public outdoor spaces throughout the city that are little used, and commercial spaces that stay empty for months at a time. We should explore options for making some of these spaces available for rehearsals and other creative activities.