BY JENNIFER WALDEN WEPRIN
The unprecedented global health crisis led to unprecedented collaboration among New York City’s cultural nonprofit organizations and advocates. The Culture@3pm group began with the 33 member organizations of the Cultural Institutions Group and quickly expanded to include more than 200 organizations across all boroughs. This daily 3 p.m. call, now approaching #73, became a platform for organized advocacy, best practices, idea sharing, guest speakers and personal support. As New York City begins to reopen, this group continues its work to support arts and culture, the lifeblood of New York City. Here’s what Queens has to say…
The Queens Cultural Community loves New York. In fact, we are New York. In Queens, we hail from over 135 countries and speak over 120 languages. Life is authentic in Queens. We share our food, our dress, our art and culture, our religion and we live and work side by side (socially distanced now, of course). Our young and newest residents can see their culture is celebrated here and that they are welcome.
We are museums, theaters, performing arts centers, music, dance, fine arts, folk arts, culinary arts, opera, the spoken word, the written word, historic houses, gardens, parks and farms. We pop up in every neighborhood in the borough in historic buildings, new spaces, houses of worship, community centers, libraries and open spaces all across 109 square miles.
We enrich the lives of all who come through our doors and across our grounds and connect with those who cannot.
The COVID-19 public health crisis has grounded life in our city to a halt. We have stumbled, we are hurt and we are picking ourselves up together. In times of crisis, art and culture has brought New York City back to life from the economic crises of the 1970s, 2008 and 9/11. It is the connective tissue of our economy and our communities. It is our humanity.
As our leaders in government and public health work around the clock to guide us through this crisis and restart the economy, we want to let them how much we love New York and that we are New York.
Before the COVID-19 health crisis, the arts and culture community in Queens aggregated over a $58 million operating budget and welcomed over 2.5 million visitors/audience members. It directly employed over 1300 New Yorkers.
Queens County represents 20 percent of New York City regional tourism sales with $9.4 billion in traveler spending, according to 2018 New York State tourism data presented in the Tourism Economics Report: The Economic Impact of Tourism in New York, Calendar Year 2018. Also highlighted in the 2018 report, the unemployment rate in New York State was 4.1 percent. The report estimated that if the jobs sustained by tourism were eliminated, New York state unemployment rate would rise to 12.5 percent.
Since the COVID-19 health crisis, Forbes Magazine reported on April 28, 2020, that New York state’s unemployment rate was about 13 percent, the highest level since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate among the cultural sector ripples through our economy with both direct and indirect negative consequences. Queens arts and culture organizations suffered over $12 million in lost income over the first three months of the crisis. Space-based residencies are in danger of closing permanently and NYC students have lost tens of thousands of hours of enrichment and arts/STEAM education.
The Queens Cultural Community will connect our borough and city again. We are creative, nimble and think outside of the box — exactly who you need on your team in a crisis. We will engage youth and vulnerable communities and give them hope as they see themselves in our work. We are safe places for thought and gathering. We have developed our social distancing plans, we are ready to reopen. Take a look at New York City streets, parks and outside restaurants and bars, New Yorkers are looking for something to do. The cultural community is that outlet. We will need discretionary funding and capital support as New York City invests in itself so that we are here for all New Yorkers.