Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a $25 million arts and culture revitalization program, City Artist Corps, which will employ over 1,500 artists by putting them back to work throughout New York City with live performances, pop-up concerts, public art installations, and more.
De Blasio said May 6 that the City Artist Corps is inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Federal Art Project, a part of the Works Progress Administration that came out of the New Deal to revitalize the economy after the Great Depression.
“We want to put artists back to work, so they can go out in every community in NYC and engage New Yorkers in fun and enriching experiences this summer,” said Gonzalo Casals, the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, during a press conference. In addition to providing an economic boost to the city, Casals said “it’s also the presence of arts and culture in our community that makes for safer, healthier, and more cohesive communities.”
The commissioner hopes works unveiled during the pandemic like the Black Lives Matter street murals and the AAPI-focused "I Still Believe in Our City" posters will serve as inspiration for artists in the program.
“These uncertain times require us to find each other in bold, new, healing, and innovative ways to dig deeper and root ourselves in the unimagined possibility of what the future can and will hold,” added Sade Lythcott, CEO of National Black Theatre and Chair of Coalitions of Theatres of Color. “The stories [artists] courageously tell in their mediums...is essential labor and today we recognize, employ, and compensate them as such.”
More details about the program will be announced in the weeks ahead.
While City Artist Corps is a city-level program, the announcement follows a Be an #ArtsHero initiative in which over 100 theatre artists wrote letters to the federal government, asking President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to create an WPA-like arts program that would revitalize the industry on a national scale following the pandemic.
So far, the city’s initiatives targeting the arts community have included the Broadway vaccination center and the Open Culture program, which permits arts and culture institutions to present ticketed events in designated street-level locations across the city. The reopening of theatres is based in part on capacity limits set at the state level by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, but a show's reopening timeline depends on the circumstances of the individual productions. After Cuomo's May 5 statement that he expects certain Broadway shows to reopen at full capacity in September, Six and The Phantom of the Opera announced their returning schedules.