Comptroller's Report Sees Dire NYC Economic Impact from Federal Cut in aid for the Arts

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Comptroller Stringer discusses the report

If President Trump follows through on his promise to defund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), cultural organizations across New York City would lose millions of dollars of funding, threatening jobs, tourism, and arts education programs, according to a report released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

The analysis, “Culture Shock: The Importance of National Arts Funding to New York City’s Cultural Landscape,” highlights how the NEA supports arts and educational programs across the five boroughs and profiles four neighborhood-based arts groups that would be impacted.

“New York City is the cultural capital of the world, but with NEA funding on the chopping block, hundreds of our cultural organizations — and the children they serve — could suffer. From Broadway to Bed-Stuy, cultural groups add to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods and the fabric of our city. They educate our children, broaden their minds, and teach them to think critically. It would simply be wrong for The White House to make the arts its latest target. Our kids and our communities would be hurt the most,” Stringer said. “While the NEA is just a small share of the federal budget, it has an outsized impact, especially on smaller arts groups for whom these dollars are critical lifelines. We need to stand up for those that receive dollars from the NEA — and the kids they serve.”

According to the report, cultural organizations in New York City received $233 million in NEA funding between 2000 and 2016, including $21 million for organizations specifically providing arts education. Last fiscal year, organizations in the City received $14.5 million. In 2016, this funding touched 419 organizations in the five boroughs, allowing them to expand programs, elevate their profiles and — by leveraging the credibility that an NEA grant bestows — attract more donors and institutional sponsors. Without NEA funding, and the additional resources it attracts, organizations across the city would very likely have to cut staff and reduce programming that often serves young people, particularly in low-income communities.

“Every child, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, deserves not only food, clothing, a home and a quality education — every child deserves the arts.  Poetry, music, theater, visual and digital arts shape us; they give us the skills to collaborate, problem solve and imagine the future; they give us voice and allow us to talk back to the world,” said Tim Lord, Co-Executive Director of DreamYard. “The National Endowment for the Arts' funding levels the playing field in this country.  NEA funding attracts additional funding to quality programs and makes it possible for us to dream of an equitable future for all young people, regardless of race, class or geography.”

Lisa Robb, Executive Director of The Center for Arts Education said, “NEA funding helps to ensure New York City’s public school students and families have equitable access to the power and thrill of art, culture, and heritage education. Hundreds of thousands of our residents benefit from the formal and informal learning that NEA grants support through countless local organizations.”

The analysis also emphasizes the significant economic impact of the broader arts sector in New York City. During 2015, nearly half of all tourists — about 30 million individuals — visited cultural organizations in the City. While in the five boroughs, they spent $4.2 billion on arts, recreation, and entertainment. Overall, the tourism industry sustains more than 375,000 jobs. If the City’s arts organizations suffer, so too will the tourism industry. 

Other findings include:

NEA Funding Accounts for a Miniscule Share of Federal Spending, but Makes a Real Impact

In 1979, NEA funding reached a high of $471 million (adjusted for inflation). In Fiscal Year 2016, the Endowment’s funding was just $148 million.

The NEA today represents just 0.0037 percent of Federal spending, far lower than its 1979 peak of 0.03 percent.

NEA funding makes a real impact because it targets organizations that serve communities in need:        36% of grants go to organizations that reach underserved populations;        65% of grants are for small and medium sized organizations; and        40% of grants fund programs in high-poverty communities.Despite its Size, the NEA Makes a Difference in New York City

Since 2000, organizations in New York City have received $233 million in funding from the NEA. In Fiscal Year 2016, cultural groups across the five boroughs received $14.5 million from the Endowment.

While funding for New York City remained relatively flat between 2000 and 2016— except for a spike as part of the post-recession fiscal stimulus — the number of organizations receiving grants has grown from 272 to 419 over the same time period.

From 2000 to 2016, the number of organizations from Brooklyn and the Bronx receiving grants more than doubled, while the number of Queens recipients increased 43 percent. In 2016, 28 percent of NEA grantees were based outside Manhattan, up from 19 percent in 2000.

Grants have touched every borough, pumping millions into our City between 2000 and 2016:        $189.5 million for organizations in Manhattan;        $34 million for ones in Brooklyn;        $5.6 million for groups in the Bronx;        $3.3 million for organizations in Queens; and        $774,500 for ones in Staten Island.

From 2000 to 2016, the NEA granted $21 million to organizations specifically providing arts education in New York City. A substantial portion of funds that go to other disciplines are also used for educational programs.

Case Studies Highlight how NEA Grants Sustain Cultural Organizations and Serve Youth

DreamYard, an arts education organization in the Bronx, partners with more than 40 public schools, helping them integrate arts and social justice into their core curriculums. It also provides after-school and weekend programming to more than 300 local youth at its Arts Center in Morrisania. DreamYard has received a number of NEA grants, including one that allowed it to quadruple the capacity of its Art Center, extending programming to six days a week.

Arts East New York’s “ReNew Lots Market” transformed an abandoned lot in East New York, Brooklyn into a community space, business incubator, and arts hub. NEA grants contributed to the project by:

        Allowing Arts East New York to substantially expand the size and scope of ReNew Lots;        Raising the program’s national profile, inspiring similar projects in Oakland and Miami; and        Validating the organization’s work, allowing them to attract more funding and recruit two new board members.

The Bronx Council on the Arts has supported local artists and arts organizations in the Bronx, improved access to the arts, and elevated the voices of Bronx residents since 1962. NEA grants have played a role in successful programs including:        The “Longwood Arts Project,” a gallery and residency program which helped launch the careers of two MacArthur Genius Grant recipients;        The “Bronx Trolley,” which provides monthly tours of the South Bronx’s cultural corridor; and        The “Bronx Memoir Project,” which nurtured aspiring young writers and helped local residents share their stories. Proceeds from an anthology created by this program have provided a new stream of income to the organization.

The Laundromat Project works with local artists to host projects and educational programs where community members are — in laundromats, beauty shops, and community gardens. When the project received its first NEA grant in 2012, it had just one staff member — but the increased national profile allowed it to attract more funding and grow seven-fold. Today, the organization has launched projects from Harlem to Bedford-Stuyvesant.

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