Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), stepped down from his position today in an unexpected announcement. No specific reason was given to Finkelpearl’s resignation after almost six years as New York’s top culture official.
“With my great colleagues at the agency, fellow commissioners across City government, and terrific support from the Mayor and the First Lady, we’ve been able to make record investments in our city’s cultural community,” said Finkelpearl in a statement. He added: “We’ve insisted that a more diverse cultural workforce will make stronger cultural institutions. We’ve infused hundreds of millions of dollars in the cultural sector, with a focus on getting more of it to historically underserved areas. And we’ve brought the arts into City government itself, trusting artists to help creatively address civic issues.”
Finkelpearl entered his position at the DCLA in 2014 as an appointee of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Before that, he served as the director of the Queens Museum for 12 years (2002 to 2014), during which he oversaw the museum’s two-year, $68 million renovation.
Finkelpearl had a stormy tenure at the DCLA, muddled in a series of controversies over the funding, selection, and removal of public monuments; the allocation of budgets to culture and art; and issues of diversity and representation.
Recently, the DCLA was in hot water over the selection process of two major public monuments in Central Park. A monument to women’s suffrage at the park was subject to months-long acrimonious debates and recurring hearings until it was finally approved earlier in October. So was the case in the selection of a monument to replace the removed statue of J. Marion Sims, a 19th-century gynecologist who performed brutal and invasive experimental surgeries on enslaved Black women. Artist Simone Leigh, who was chosen to create the new monument by a panel for the commission, withdrew her proposal to clear the way for the selection of Vinnie Bagwell’s proposal, which was favored by community representatives in East Harlem. A hearing for the moment devolved into shouts and tears after the panel members delivered their unpopular vote. Finkelpearl eventually called the panel’s decision “advisory” in an attempt to calm the atmosphere in the room. Finkelpearl was also involved in an ongoing dispute between de Blasio and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo over a monument for the Roman Catholic patron saint of immigrants, Mother Cabrini.
In 2017, Finkelpearl and De Blasio announced the launch of CreateNYC, a 10-year cultural plan to increase access to arts and culture programming in the city’s five boroughs. The plan was publicly contested by the People’s Cultural Plan (PCP), an independent group of artists and cultural workers, who accused the City of touting a “cosmetic and feel-good narrative” without concrete funding commitments and without proposing “adequate anti-displacement policies.” In September of this year, the DCLA announced the 2019 edition of CreateNYC, boasting $1 billion in budgets to arts and culture since 2017 and highlighting programs for diversity and inclusion in the cultural workforce, and the support of the cultural life of low-income communities and underrepresented groups. The PCP continued to criticize the DCLA for lack of transparency, for privileging the interests of the real estate industry, and for making only small, incremental changes toward funding equity.
“Tom has done a remarkable job in creating a more equitable and accessible cultural sector for all New Yorkers,” de Blasio said in today’s statement. “Under his leadership, the Department of Cultural Affairs has invested more than ever before in underserved communities, made cultural access a core benefit of IDNYC, and worked with the City’s beloved institutions to encourage greater staff diversity. He has touched the lives of millions of everyday New Yorkers with the joys of art, history and nature and I thank him for his dedicated service to the City.”
Finkelpearl will officially end his service as commissioner at the end of 2019.
Artist Minouk Lim wants to offer a very different perspective on how one might deal with a grim history whose effects continue to be felt in the present.
This week: Should Washington have a national memorial for gun violence? Have cats used us to take over the world? What is Cluttercore? And more.
Organizers, artists, and land practitioners are holding public events at Iglesias Garden in a hub space supported by the Climate Justice Initiative, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
The artist’s style blends aesthetic and cultural elements from Ghana, London, and New York’s graffiti scenes.
Workers told Hyperallergic that they were tired of meager pay and a lack of job security.
Jo Sandman / TRACES opens with a reception for the artist on June 3 at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Authorities say Jean-Luc Martinez helped facilitate the Louvre’s purchase of objects illegally pillaged during the Arab Spring.
The suspects attempted to take a Basquiat artwork valued at $45,000 from Taglialatella Galleries but instead made off with a half-empty bottle of whiskey.
Funding MFAs and all full-time graduate degrees, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US.
From music and architecture to comedy and horror, these films showcase Ukrainian culture and its long-held ethos of resistance.
The artists showcased in Archival Intimacies examine the colonial trauma’s impact on Asian Americans and search for ways to overcome it.
Eiffel inadvertently paints its protagonist not as a great man worthy of scrutiny or praise, but as the Elon Musk of his day.