Arts groups demand greater city funding
By Bill Parry
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and leaders of the arts and cultural community are pushing the city to provide more funds to support New York City cultural institutions.
The city currently allocates one-quarter of one percent of its budget to non-profit cultural organizations—representing about $150 million.
To seek more funding, 245 cultural institutions across the 5 boroughs have joined together to form a group called ‘One Percent for Culture’, with the aim of garnering 1% of the city’s funds for the arts.
The group held an event at PS1 in Long Island City on Tuesday morning to express its goal—which was a press conference and pep rally rolled into one.
The leaders of One Percent for Culture said that the arts community generates nearly $7.6 billion in economic activity for the city, while drawing nearly 24 million tourists and creating 100,000 jobs.
“We are keeping the city running,” Van Bramer said. “No one should doubt the power of artists.”
Sheila Lewandowski, the director of The Chocolate Factory and a member of the group’s steering committee, added: “We need to stop apologizing for being so important to the City of New York.”
“A one percent art tax exists in cities like Austin, San Francisco and Minneapolis,” Lewandowski said, “New York City doesn’t have one. We raise the bar in so many ways: people come from all over the world send their children to college in New York. Why? Because of the arts.”
Van Bramer said, “Culture drives tourism and we need to invest in it.” He cited that cultural tourism increased 11% last year.
Klaus Biesenbach, the director of PS1 and host of the event said, “Non-profit culture is essential to our city’s economy and the vibrancy of our communities.”
More than 25,000 New Yorkers have already signed petitions in support of One Percent for Culture. Van Bramer pointed to a study by Global Research in 2010 that reported that “87% of New Yorkers support increased funding for the arts,” he said, adding that “56% would support higher taxes if it went to art and culture.”
Van Bramer, who is the chairman of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee, told the group to loud applause, “I will be your cheerleader, your fighter-in-chief.”