For a second consecutive year, New York’s arts and cultural budget will be more robust than its ever been.

At a press conference held today in Queens, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) announced its $212 million budget for fiscal year 2020, which began on the first of this month. The figure marks a significant increase from last year’s $198.4 million budget, which was the previous high mark for the agency, even when adjusting for inflation. The 2019 appropriation for the National Endowment for the Arts, by contrast, is a mere $155 million.

The DCLA also took the opportunity to refresh its CreateNYC initiative, a “comprehensive cultural plan” first announced two years ago this month. The newly updated version, called the “CreateNYC Action Plan,” distills the ninety-plus tenets of the first program—pertaining to topics such public art and diversity in cultural institutions—into five new objectives for the cultural sector: to increase funding, especially in underserved communities; to grow “inclusive practices”; to solidify the relationship with the city government; to tackle the “affordability crisis”; and to improve arts education programming in public schools.

“The cultural plan gave us an unprecedented opportunity to communicate with New Yorkers about how their city has historically supported art and culture, and for them to tell us how we can make things better,” Tom Finkelpearl, the Cultural Affairs Commissioner, said in a statement. “Since 2017, we’ve made major strides in fostering a more equitable, diverse, and vibrant cultural sector that offers broad access to transformative cultural experiences. With the CreateNYC Action Plan, we’re putting a new tool in the hands of residents so they can better understand the work we’ve done to date, and where we’re headed next.”

Tom Finkelpearl, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner attends Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s ribbon cutting opening ceremony at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum on December 12, 2014 in New York City. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

Sections of the new budget are specifically earmarked for CreateNYC projects, such as the city’s CulturePass project, allowing New Yorkers with a library card to gain free entry into museums, and the Language Access Fund, which aims to provide cultural programming to locals whose primary language is not English. Other item lines include support for disability arts, diversity efforts, energy sustainability, and commissioning new public monuments.

The 33 organizations in the Cultural Institutions Group will have access to $10.6 million more in funding than last year, with the smaller organizations in the group being eligible for proportionally larger shares. A dedicated $4 million will be set aside for grants for artists and collectives—a jump up from last year’s mark of $3 million—while the budget for the Cultural Development Fund, which also provides artistic grants—rose by almost $15 million. 

With this new budget, New York City has now allocated over $1.1 billion in arts and culture financing since 2017—by far the largest number for a US city.

“CreateNYC fostered an unprecedented level of public dialogue among residents that surfaced many issues around diversity, equity and inclusion that need to be addressed,” the chair of CreateNYC Citizens Advisory Committee, Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas, added. “The work that has resulted has been inspiring, from a renewed commitment to promoting a more diverse cultural workforce, to investing in a greener, more sustainable cultural infrastructure. There is still much that needs to be done to have a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable cultural sector with access to the arts for all citizens of New York, and I applaud DCLA on putting forward the Action Plan to provide greater transparency on how we can get there.”

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