Thursday, June 18, 2015

If You Believe...

By Jennifer Wright Cook

You may not know what this is:
You may not care. You may not think it impacts you.
But it does.
It’s your money, your taxes, your city.
And how our city doles out its budget definitely impacts you.
Budgets are moral documents. 

They are moral declarations of what we believe, what we prioritize, what we dream of. 
We each can (and should) participate in our city’s budget: by testifying, by calling our City Council members and advocating, by sending emails to our electeds, and simply by getting informed.

Right now our New York City is in the final stages of adopting our Fiscal Year 2016 budget.  There have been sessions at City Council for the past few weeks where all kinds of New Yorkers stood proudly and asked for money for their programs, dreams and priorities.

I had the deep honor of hearing everyday New Yorkers talk about their local libraries, Access-a-Ride, public school athletic leagues, access to mammograms and more.  It was truly inspiring.  And The Field went, as we always do, and testified on behalf of our artists and the arts sector.  We had the pleasure of testifying with our colleagues, Heather Alexa Woodfield from One Percent for Culture, and Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum and the new head of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIGs)

The Field’s testimony, below, focused on the historic unified message as agreed upon by the CIGs and the Programs Group (all the non-CIGs funded by DCLA): “a $30 million increase in funding for the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), to be divided evenly between the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) and Cultural Development Fund (CDF).”

It’s not too late to add your voice to this vital process. Tell your electeds where you want your money to go and what you want our city to be. 

Jennifer Wright Cook, Executive Director, The Field

Thank you Finance Committee for the opportunity to testify.
My name is Jennifer Wright Cook and I am the Executive Director of The Field.  The Field is a 29-year old arts service organization dedicated to helping New York artists thrive.  The support we receive from the Department of Cultural Affairs CDF is vital to our mission-delivery.  Thank you!
You believe that every New Yorker deserves access to the arts, you must say YES to a $30 million increase for the arts.
You believe that going to a museum, a dance concert, a play or a concert etc should be affordable to all New Yorkers, then you must say YES to a $30 million increase.
You believe that being an artist in New York should not be limited to those who can afford to be an artist, then you must say YES TO $30.
You believe that job opportunities in the arts should be available to all New Yorkers, then invest in our Field Leadership Fund. Say YES TO $30.
You believe that more diverse voices and visions should be added to our cultural economy, then add cash grants to the Community Arts Development Fund.  If you want to truly build their capacity then say YES TO $30.
You believe in the arts, then you must invest in the artistic process, not just the product.  Say YES TO $30 and invest in experimentation, risk, failure and growth. 
You believe in the arts, then invest in the artists.  Say YES TO $30 and increase the Borough Arts Council re-grants to individual artists and small companies*. 
You believe that cultural diversity and equity are VITAL to New York’s health and vibrancy, then you must say YES to $30.  Let’s put our money where our mouths are.  The work of diversity and equity needs funding to be successful. SAY YES TO $30.

What would The Field suggest we do with a $15 million increase to the CDF?
·         Fund new groups – particularly those from under-represented districts.
·         Give more money to current grantees (like The Field!).  We all do more with less.  Help us thrive.

·         Increase money to the Borough Arts Council’s DCA regrant budgets so that more unincorporated artists and companies can make work.  These thousands of unincorporated artists (of whom The Field serves 1,100) are in many ways the movers and shakers, the avant garde, the up and comers that make New York bold, vivacious and provocative.  Their work is seen at many of the DCLA-funded venues but many of them receive no city funding directly – due to insufficient grant dollars at the Borough Arts Councils. The Field specifically requests an increase to the Bronx Arts Council.  This past year the Bronx Council received approximately 300 funding requests totaling nearly $1 million*.  They had only $144,000 from DCA for 56 recipients.  Clearly, the demands and need outpace the supply.

·         Successfully launch our own Field Leadership Fund! A transformative job creation program specifically to address the lack of diversity in arts administration.
·         Increase the arts in education budget and initiatives.

·         Add cash grants to the Community Arts Development Fund. To truly build capacity, arts organizations need funding.

Thank you for your consideration and for the opportunity to testify. I look forward to working closely with all of you on both the budget and cultural issues.

Jennifer Wright Cook, Executive Director, The Field,

* From Ellen Pollan, Deputy Director, Bronx Council.  $144k from DCA split $75k for BRIO Fellowships and $69k for regrants.  250+ requests for BRIO ($3k Fellowship) and 51 applications for regrants totalling $215k.

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