The infamous moniker of “one percent” gained an innovative, positive meaning among the arts community.
At MoMA PS1 on Tuesday, January 8, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer announced his support for the One Percent for Culture campaign, a citywide initiative aimed at increasing funding towards art institutions and impressing upon the city the value of cultural nonprofits. The coalition, containing 245 members thus far, seeks to ensure that nonprofit cultural establishments, responsible for assisting the city to generate billions in annual revenue, are granted one percent of the city’s annual budget.
Currently, arts and culture organizations receive a quarter of one percent of the city’s yearly budget.
“We know that that number and the billions in revenue that get spun off because of that could not happen without culture and the arts,” said Van Bramer. “The economy of the city of New York could not stand without culture and the arts. It simply could not.”
Arts and culture bring in $7.6 billion for the city of New York every year and provide jobs for roughly 100,000 New Yorkers. According to Van Bramer, the tourism boom, recently announced by Mayor Bloomberg, is in thanks to art institutions that entice visitors from all over the world, adding that culture and the arts is one of the few areas of the city budget that generates revenue.
Cultural leaders from across the city joined Van Bramer to announce the initiative and speak on its behalf, including Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 and Eric Pryor, executive director of the Center for Arts Education. Charles Rice-Gonzalez, executive director of Bronx Academy for Arts & Dance (BAAD!) said increased funding for arts organizations creates a symbiotic relationship between culture and community, which serve to nourish and inspire each other.
“One Percent for Culture is about giving this vital segment, the arts of our city, a chance to come up to speed with the rest of the industry,” said Rice-Gonzalez. “We have managed to make a great impact with modest amounts. Imagine what could be done if one percent of the city’s budget is given to culture?”
Sheila Lewandowski, executive director of Long Island City playhouse The Chocolate Factory, said that with extra funding, she could afford to increase wages for the 100 artists on her payroll, purchase better equipment and decrease ticket prices.
“If we don’t value [art], we might lose it,” said Lewandowski. “One Percent for Culture is very valuable to my organization, a small very experimental organization, because it says we’re valuable. It’s the city saying ‘we see what you give back to the economy, to the quality of life, to everything.”
While Van Bramer called the announcement “a very exciting time,” the councilmember added that it was imperative to secure “the expense funding to follow the capital funding.”
“We have to be aggressive as a community. We have to know our value to the city of New York and make sure others know it too. Not everyone knows that we are keeping the city running. No one should ever doubt the power of art and the power of artists.”