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New York City is undeniably a powerhouse for arts and culture. But how do the arts fare in the outer boroughs off the island of Manhattan? On March 28th, elected officials and policy makers from New York met in Brooklyn to discuss the role of the arts as it pertains to the economic development in the borough and how to attract and keep creative people in Brooklyn. Headed by Councilmember Stephen Levin, discussion topics ranged from affordable housing programs for artists to the importance of the artist’s role in local politics.
On the panel was the Executive Director of Arts and Business Council of New York (Division of Americans for the Arts), Will Maitland Weiss. He served as the Managing Director of an Off-Broadway theatre and as Vice-president of Development and Communications for the New York City Center. Other panelists included President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Seth Pinsky; Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Kate Levin; Chair of the Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer; President of the Brooklyn Arts Council, Ella Weiss; and MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Award recipient and founder of Streb Lab for Action Mechanics, Elizabeth Streb. The event was held at the Streb Lab in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The panel showed support for more artist friendly programs like Artist as Entrepreneur Boot Camp. Offered in 2010 and 2011, the Boot Camp was a blend of formal classes, networking, and individualized training. Emphasis was placed on financial management, grant writing, creating a sound business plan, and expanding visibility for the visual, performing, and literary artist. The program was offered by the New York Foundation for the Arts with funding from the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Time and time again studies show the arts have a strong economic impact. The arts contributed $21.2 billion to New York in 2005 according to a study conducted by the New York based organization, Alliance for the Arts. With numbers like that, Commissioner Pinsky wondered why politicians have a hard time voting for arts funding. He stressed the community needs to know and share the figures behind the arts because they are not just a form of entertainment, but a source of income. “We need to sell art as an economic help to get funding back,” he noted. “It creates jobs and stimulates the economy and is worth tax money just like the police department, the fire department and the schools.” If you share these views, and are not already a member of the Arts Action Fund, please join today and encourage your friends to do so as well. We need the support of all of our grassroots advocates when working to advance the arts and arts education on the local, state, and federal levels.