BRIC Arts Media House in Brooklyn (via Wikimedia Commons)

Some $51.3 million in grants will go to public cultural programming at 985 organizations across New York City, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) announced today. The grants come from the city’s record-breaking $212 million arts and culture budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

According to the DCLA, funding was set aside for nonprofits that directly support individual artists, collectives, and smaller cultural organizations throughout the city. “As affordability continues to pose major challenges to NYC’s creative community, this funding has become a critical source of support for artists who live and work in the five boroughs,” the department said in a statement today. “This funding has increased fourfold since fiscal year 2015, from less than $1 million to nearly $4 million in fiscal year 2020,” the statement added.

With some of the grants, a group of 12 nonprofits — including Harlem Stage, BRIC, and Bronx River Art Center — will have their energy expenses paid for this year.

The DCLA says that the new grants follow the outlines of the updated 2019 CreateNYC Action Plan announced in August. The action plan pledged unprecedented budgets for inclusion and diversity programs in cultural institutions and boasted allocating $1 billion to arts and culture since 2017.

However, the group People’s Cultural Plan (PCP), which has been critical of the NYC Create since its inception, argued that “the $1 billion allocated for fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019 is actually less than the allocations made in almost any three years under Bloomberg’s tenure.”

While it recognizes some of the DCLA’s accomplishment in recent years, PCP claims that the City’s funding has thus far been skewed in favor of large, established cultural institutions that belong to the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG), a program that funds 33 city-owned, mostly large, institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. The nearly 1,000 smaller institutions that are funded through the Cultural Development Fund (CDF) are left behind, PCP argues.

In this latest batch of grants, more than half of the $51.3 budget ($28.5 million) went directly to CDF recipients through “a competitive, peer panel review process”; $9.4 million more were added by the Mayor and distributed to all CDF recipients, with larger proportional increases for smaller organizations; $3.9 million were given to organizations providing direct support to NYC’s working artists and emerging cultural nonprofits; and $2.5 million went to CDF recipients located in neighborhoods identified by the Social Impact of the Arts Project’s report “Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City.

The DCLA stated that every organization applying for CDF funding “is required to address their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their application materials” in an effort “to ensure that New York City’s cultural community better reflects and engages residents from all backgrounds.”

$5.8 million more from the City Council was allocated to over 260 groups in the form of discretionary awards, and $1.25 million in energy subsidies were given to 12 nonprofits on DLCA-administered property.

“We are honored to announce the recipients of this year’s Cultural Development Fund, a historic allotment of public dollars to support the breathtaking diversity and range of NYC’s cultural sector,” said DCLA’s outgoing commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, who left many surprised when he announced his resignation in October after six years in the job. “This represents another record-setting investment in NYC’s cultural life as part of a budget shaped by our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Viviana Bianchi, Executive Director, Bronx Council on the Arts, said, “This increased funding will also allow us to award more BRIOs (Bronx Recognizes Its Own awards) to even more artists.”

Charlotte A. Cohen, executive director of Brooklyn Arts Council, said that “Through this support, we can ensure that the individual artists and local arts organizations throughout our borough are empowered to create their work, make their visions a reality, and share it with our communities.”

“Arts and culture are worth fighting for,” added New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations. “This funding will keep restaurants and other small businesses that support the arts alive.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...