Why Cultural Policy is Critical for New York City

Friday, June 12, 2015

by Salem Tsegaye, Program Associate, New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust

In April, the New York City Council passed legislation calling for New York's first comprehensive cultural plan. Weeks prior, the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust—a funder collaborative established to strengthen cultural advocacy, policy, and equity—organized a panel discussion and public dialogue on city cultural planning. 
At this event, New York City Council Member Laurie Cumbo said a "cultural uprising" is sweeping the nation. “This is an opportunity to reset New York City so culture is at the foundation of all we do.” 
New York now joins other cities that have recognized the value of cultural planning, like Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and Boston—our featured cities on the panel. Cultural planning helps sustain the thriving creative communities that distinguish urban centers. It’s also critical to ensuring all residents' access to and participation in cultural activities. 
The City will create a cultural plan over the next two years. If we translate our distinguished panelists’ advice into broad indicators of success, New York will emerge from this process anew, striving to: 
  • Reflect an equitable arts and culture landscape, acknowledging the contributions of cultural producers, participants, and organizations spanning disciplines, demographics, and budget sizes; 
  • Engage creative businesses and unions, embracing New York's thriving for-profit creative companies and the workers driving our creative economy;
  • Integrate the arts into other sectors and City agencies, identifying the field’s unique contributions to housing, health care, education, economic development, and more;
  • Maintain its historically artist-supportive climate, taking care of the individual artists who come here to fulfill their aspirations, rather than stand by and watch them leave for more affordable cities; and 
  • Gain the confidence of City residents, and not just the nonprofit arts and culture groups advocating on their behalf. This will establish the civic leadership needed to sustain culture for years to come, even when administrations change.  
Perhaps most inspiring was hearing our panelists affirm New York’s reputation as the model city for arts and culture. The task: ensuring that we continue to uphold this reputation while adapting our model so it is more inclusive of the City’s diverse population, and more supportive of those who have been marginalized. The New York City Cultural Agenda Fund will continue to support advocates working to advance cultural policy and equity. We encourage you to follow our progress in coming months. 


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