This is a Vision

Art and Culture for a Just and Equitable City

On 7th January 7, 2014 over 100 public, private, and government leaders from across sectors wrote to the newly elected Mayor de Blasio and City Council of New York City calling on them to consider a new vision of arts and culture for their city. It is a brilliant letter outlining four key strategies to reframe the city’s arts and culture policies and practices.

I don’t know if it is ok to do this – but I am copying it here because I think it is brilliant. I have always thought that in order to change perceptions we need to try to get artists into non-arts and non-cultural departments  of the cities where we live.  Into the planning departments, maintenance, the police departments, hospitals, community and social care, everywhere. I believe that Glasgow achieved this for a moment when it was European City of Culture in 1990. But it didn’t last. Maybe the New York experiment will show the way for others.

“Dear Mayor de Blasio, New York City Council Members and Commissioners, 

As we begin an exciting year, we welcome a new administration and city council. We, arts, cultural, housing, community development and civic leaders from across sectors, write to share how arts and culture can and should play a vital role in achieving the inspirational One City Rising platform at this critical juncture. We offer the attached Policy Brief that lays out a vision of Arts and Culture as essential and integral to a more just and equitable city for all New Yorkers. It is rooted in the values of creating a city that cares about our neighborhoods, insists on equality, and embraces civic energy. Below we highlight key time-sensitive strategies the Mayoral team and City Council should consider right now to keep culture at the table:

BIG IDEA #1: CREATE CROSS SECTOR STRATEGIES

Integrate arts and culture across policymaking and practice including, but not limited to: safe streets and transportation, arts education, juvenile justice, early childhood development, education, immigration, sustainability, housing, and community development.

ACT NOW:

The Mayor should require that every city agency designate a staff member responsible for thinking about and integrating arts into their agenda with specific programmatic, policymaking, and funding goals. The Mayor’s Office should create a position to facilitate and support arts-related interagency collaboration.

BIG IDEA #2: INSPIRE PARTICIPATION

Build arts and culture into civic participation across the city to reach those who have been historically disenfranchised and to stimulate civic dialogue and action across difference.

ACT NOW:

The Mayor should establish a citywide Office of Civic Participation and include arts and cultural leadership, methodologies, and partnerships in this office.

BIG IDEA #3: CULTIVATE COMMUNITY CAPACITY

Revitalize New York City from the neighborhood up by supporting community leadership, cultural hubs, and vital social networks.

ACT NOW:

Create a City Council staff position to act as a resource to council members in supporting small organizations and neighborhood-based culture in their districts to ensure that they have the same access to city resources and technical support that larger institutions enjoy.

BIG IDEA #4: FURTHER CULTURAL EQUITY:

Prioritize equitable distribution of opportunities and benefits related to arts and culture.

ACT NOW:

The Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner should prioritize cultural equity in agency goals and programs. Select leadership that reflects the city’s diversity. Develop a cultural plan for NYC that advances cultural equity and participation.

BIG IDEA #5: THE FIELD IS YOUR FRIEND

There is a wealth of resources and allies among the artists, activists, and cultural organizations working for social change.

ACT NOW:

Establish formal mechanisms for practitioners to support and provide advice about the above policy recommendations through advisory committees and working groups.We need to work together and harness every resource that we have at hand – data, policy, community knowledge, civic energy, and creativity – to achieve a fair, equitable, and sustainable city. We need to be able to imagine a city where we can live meaningful lives in thriving communities and build the relationships and public will to get us there. Arts and culture makes a powerful contribution toward these goals. By fully engaging our creativity we can truly become, One City Rising Together.”

The full letter and signatories can be found here  –  Art and Culture for a Just and Equitable City

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