New York City is often touted as the world’s arts capital, but many of those who help shape its vibrant creative ecosystem remain both under-recognized and under-funded. Arts organizations directed by and serving people of color — Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) communities, and others — face significant challenges in securing funding compared to their white-led counterparts, even while providing vital community services, often beyond arts programming.
That’s according to a “brown paper” published this week by HueArts NYC, an initiative founded in 2020 by the New York-based organizations Museum Hue, the Laundromat Project, and Hester Street. Described as “the only citywide effort to bring greater cultural equity, visibility, and support” for the POC arts community, HueArts NYC is advocating for greater government commitment. On Wednesday, February 16, the group sent a letter to recently inaugurated Mayor Eric Adams calling for the creation of a designated $100 million fund to help POC-led cultural entities “move beyond the persistent mode of survival.”
HueArts NYC also outlines several recommendations, including establishing a line item for POC arts in the city’s annual budget and improving data and metrics collection efforts for these organizations, the dearth of which it describes as “significant and remarkable.”
The letter shares the finding of the group’s research, drawn from surveys, interviews, and conversations with POC arts leaders across the five boroughs conducted last year. While acknowledging a “relatively small sample” of 41 POC entities surveyed, the report reveals both the glaring difficulties facing those institutions as well as their unique contributions to the arts landscape. For example, while respondents produced content in 17 languages in addition to English, 73% of organizations said they lacked the staff capacity to research and apply to grants or cultivate individual donors.
Survey participants included the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, the Asian American Arts Alliance, El Museo del Barrio, the National Black Theatre, and Black Trans Femmes in the Arts Collective.
The study is accompanied by a new, interactive digital map and directory featuring more than 400 cultural organizations in the city founded, led by, and dedicated to POC, including for-profit, non-profit, and fiscally sponsored entities. HueArts NYC is encouraging any eligible institution not included to submit their information to the map, which will be updated bi-annually.
Libertad O. Guerra, executive director of the Clemente Soto and a member of HueArts NYC’s advisory committee, said organizations like hers suffer “not from lack of effort” but from “lack of support.”
“When you consider how much money disproportionately goes to NYC’s predominately white institutions compared to the creative outputs by people of color and our community organizations, you get a better understanding of why our institutions sometimes fail to thrive,” Guerra said in a statement.