For the past year, most of New York City’s vibrant arts industry has either disappeared or been put on ice. But now as the city is headed toward the “summer of New York,” officials are trying to offer more reasons to feel hopeful about the resurgence of the its cultural scene. And that includes the fact the city will be actively funding the artists who live here.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday morning that the city is investing $25 million in the City Artist Corps, a new recovery program aimed at hiring over 1,500 artists to create works throughout the five boroughs this summer and beyond.
“We’re going to hire artists, musicians, performers, and they’re going to be out in communities doing public art, public performances, pop-up shows…creating murals, you name it,” said de Blasio. “We want to give artists opportunities, and we want this city to feel the power of our cultural community again.”
Inspired by the New Deal, the program is meant to help artists who were hit hardest by the pandemic and may have been left out of other local and federal funding opportunities; the city estimates they will create over 10,000 jobs with the program. Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals described it as the largest investment in artists in the city in a generation.
“The City Artist Corps is a historic investment in local artists, putting money in their pockets while bringing transformative power of culture to New Yorkers across the city,” Casals said. “A recovery for all has to include culture, which is such an important part of healthy, vibrant neighborhoods.”
Earlier this year, a report from the state’s Comptroller’s Office found that nearly two-thirds of all arts, entertainment, and recreation jobs disappeared during the pandemic, more than the hotel, restaurant, and movie industries. In addition, a survey by nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts found that 95% of artists have lost income since March 2020.
Artists have been “one of the hardest-hit communities during the pandemic,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. “Making sure these essential workers have the support they need to succeed in New York City is inextricably linked to a recovery for all of us.”
The city and state have engaged in other initiatives to help boost arts and culture coming out of the pandemic, including the Open Culture program, which allows artists to perform outside in conjunction with Open Streets, and NY PopsUp, which is aiming to produce 1,000 free events across the state at public places by September.
While details are still being ironed out about how the funds will be distributed, officials hope the first performances or displays involving this program could happen by July 1st, the date de Blasio originally set as his goal for the city’s reopening. (Governor Andrew Cuomo has since moved it up to May 19th.)
De Blasio concluded this morning’s press conference on an optimistic note about what’s coming this summer, and the city’s post-pandemic comeback: “Our City Artist Corps is going to be so exciting, [there’s] the amazing work being done with our vaccination efforts,” he said. “I believe in this city 110%, I believe in the people of this city, I think New Yorkers were heroes in this crisis. Anyone who doesn’t believe in NYC, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”