Despite its moniker as “cultural capital of the world,” New York City has never had a city-wide cultural plan. We joined leaders in the cultural sector at Dance/NYC’s annual Symposium to explore this issue and discuss opportunities for the field.
In 2015, the New York City Council passed legislation calling for the City’s first ever, comprehensive cultural plan (CreateNYC). The public engagement phase is actively underway, and by July 1, 2017, a final plan will go to city leaders for approval.
Dance/NYC’s Director Lane Harwell has spearheaded the dance industry’s effort to engage in the planning process, and recently presented testimony surrounding five priorities for advancing the art form. A call for equitable city funding had particular resonance against a backdrop of galvanized rebuttal from the national arts community to the NEA’s potential de-funding.
Also a priority: furthering Dance/NYC and Dance/USA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, following the unfavorable findings of a 2016 report on Diversity in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s earlier Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey.
This present reality in the dance field was a theme explored throughout the day-long industry gathering. A panel of esteemed funders—Ella Baff, Sage Crump, Maurine Knighton, and Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer—addressed it in their session, “Increasing Philanthropy’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Knighton noted, “You’re starting to see philanthropy move beyond asking questions. Now you’re starting to see action,” pointing to indicators of the work to remedy inequity within institutional arts funding, such as broadened priorities that welcome diversity-centric initiatives.
So how do we take action and ensure that the needs of our field—including those to promote diversity, among countless others (arts education, affordable workspace, livable wages, etc.)—find their way into the cultural plan?
The New York Community Trust participated with early efforts to attain an illustrative range of city-wide perspective through grants supporting community organization around the cultural plan. This ensures that the important voices of our friends at BRIC, The Center for Arts Education, NYFA, and more, were heard. Many speakers referenced the University of Pennsylvania’s imminent report (published on March 9, 2017) on the social impact of the arts, which, too, will inform the cultural plan. We also have the advantage of leveraging the experience of those cities that have led the cultural planning charge, like Chicago, Houston, Denver, and Boston.
As cultural workers, though, let’s not forget one of our greatest strengths: collaboration. Each of us can, and should, take this opportunity to add our voice. DCLA’s Citizens Advisory Committee Chair Ben Rodríguez-Cubeñas boiled it down to one word, “Participate.” Visit CreateNYC.org. Attend an event. Take a survey. Respond to the forthcoming draft of the plan. And join DUNCH in the continued #CreateNYC conversation on Facebook and Twitter.