Government officials like studies and plans. From economic impact studies and environmental surveys to community development initiatives and rezoning proposals, these plans and initiatives help our representatives organize complex ambitions and foster inter-agency collaboration. Public officials are always studying our communities and planning our city’s future. Though the arts determine the strength and vibrancy of our communities, the city has at times largely ignored the arts, never mind the future of our cultural environment. This summer, that changed. Create NYC, the city’s first comprehensive cultural plan, was released.
It only takes a cursory glance at our city’s history to appreciate the role that the arts play in our diverse cultural fabric and communities. The arts are part of our common heritage as New Yorkers, and it is well beyond time to ensure that New York City, the cultural capital of the world, strongly encourages and supports a healthy, vibrant and creative environment for artists, performers, scientists, organizations, visitors and all New Yorkers.
Using the best practices learned from similar plans in Boston, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, Create NYC was developed with input from Local 802, artists, cultural leaders, thought leaders, educators, community members, government agencies, students, parents, and most importantly, New Yorkers. Though no planning process and engagement process is perfect, the city’s method was remarkable in scope and ambition and ultimately included more than 400 events and an estimated 188,000 New Yorkers. The Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, must be commended for the scale and reach of this process.
The resulting “cultural plan” is actually a list of recommendations, values and priorities that reflects the needs and desires of artists and New Yorkers and which should guide the future of New York City. While this is an important step for New York and cities looking to this “plan” as a footprint, it is only the beginning. For the cultural community, now the real work begins.
The truth is that Create NYC is not a cultural plan. It is not a slate of explicit legislative proposals, nor is it a budgetary document or a list of administrative changes. It is not a policy paper and it does not take a hard position on some of the fundamental concerns that face our communities, including gentrification, re-zoning or housing.
Instead, the plan is a statement of the city’s values and priorities that will guide the administration and City Council for the next five years. It is a statement of values that the arts community will interpret and use as a tool for policy advocacy to the city’s leadership and beyond. It is a foundation from which the cultural community of New York can build upon to strengthen its advocacy and increase its leverage. It is a reflection of the city’s collective cultural commitment to inclusion, equity, access, accessibility, compassion and opportunity. It is a list of strategies that can be employed to support the city’s goals and meet the needs of artists and communities. It is an acknowledgement that our cultural values are part of our identity. It is a commitment to New Yorkers that our city will be a place that encourages arts and sciences in our day-to-day lives, where artists can make art and a living, where equitable access and opportunity are the status quo and where all New Yorkers have access to the power and potential of artistic expression, exploration and creativity.
The success of these strategies will depend upon the engagement of our City Council and of our elected leaders. Success will also depend upon continued collaborations with artists and arts institutions if the strategies are to be successfully interpreted and implemented in ways that support New Yorkers in every borough, at every income level. As a result, our union and our partners must hold leaders accountable and use Create NYC as a springboard for our advocacy work. It is now up to us to use Create NYC as a roadmap with which we can direct the city and the City Council to better support the arts and sciences in New York City.
This means that New Yorkers who believe artists must be able to make a living if they are to contribute to our cultural environment must use Create NYC to demand that the City Council ensure fair wages and compensation for performances.
Community members who believe our arts and cultural diversity are vital to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods must use Create NYC to support their expectation that city planning, development and zoning policies take the arts, sciences, artists, audiences and community heritage into account.
Institutions that need increased funding to survive must use Create NYC when they approach City Council members and argue that the city has committed to equitable support for the arts in every neighborhood.
Parents who want to ensure their children are given the opportunity to play an instrument, paint, write poetry and visit museums, zoos and botanical gardens must use Create NYC when they call on the Department of Education and school principals to fund and expand arts and science curricula in our public schools.
Artists who need affordable space to live and work must use Create NYC when calling for the City Council and City to prioritize artist housing development and expand the availability of studio, rehearsal and performance space.
In other words, Create NYC is the beginning of a long and important process that will only be successful if it is used to leverage advocacy. The city and our representatives have committed to protecting the artistic life and cultural vibrancy of New York. This is why local politics matter, why voting in municipal elections is vital, and why it’s crucial to hold our elected leaders to their commitment.
LOCAL 802 ENDORSES 15 NYC COUNCIL CANDIDATES
It’s always campaign season in New York City, and municipal elections are just around the corner. Municipal elections have always been extremely important but frequently are overlooked or ignored. However, in today’s political environment and climate, it has never been more important to ensure that our locally elected leaders align with our priorities and values, and that they will advocate for the needs of our families, our careers and our communities.
We are pleased to announce our slate of endorsed candidates for New York City Council. Each one of these candidates, whether incumbent or open seat challenger, has shown leadership, support for the arts and a commitment to advocate for and support our legislative agenda.
The primary is Sept. 12, so don’t forget to vote! You can find your polling location and whether you are registered by visiting the New York City board of elections web site at vote.nyc.ny.us. See our endorsements on our Political Endorsements page.