Queens councilman proposes making city Open Culture initiative permanent

The city’s Open Culture initiative would become permanent under new legislation introduced by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. (QNS file photo)

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer introduced legislation (Intro. 2398) that would make the temporary Open Culture permit program permanent and year-round.

More than 220 Open Culture permits have been granted since the program’s inception, with more than 450 outdoor performances and rehearsals taking place across the five boroughs so far.

The program was created in response to traditional performance venues closing their doors in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its launch, the Open Culture program has become a vital tool for cultural institutions, performance venues and artists to share their work with the public, earn revenue and activate city streets with music, dance and performance art.

“By making the Open Culture program a permanent fixture in New York City, we will not only provide an additional lifeline for our artists, performers and vital cultural organizations, it will also create an exciting new norm for diverse performances throughout the city,” Van Bramer said.

In addition to making the Open Culture program permanent, his legislation will expand eligibility requirements to allow more arts organizations and artists to apply, and will also increase the number of available streets for permits.

The bill also creates a new annual reporting requirement, evaluating benefits and challenges of the program, potential funding, and production support from the city, as well as reviewing applicant feedback.

“Open Culture is an important first step using streets in every neighborhood for culture of every kind,” New Yorkers for Culture & Arts Executive Director Lucy Sexton said. “With more support for the artists bringing music, dance, words and art to our neighborhoods, the program could show the world that NYC prioritizes culture and community.”

Aimee Todoroff, Managing Director of The League of Independent Theater, said the program became vital during the lockdown.

“The Open Culture program has been a much-needed lifeline, not just for the smallest performing arts organizations and the independent artists of this city, but for the communities they serve who found a safe respite, an opportunity for joy and a space for connection through the live arts of the Open Culture program.” Todoroff said. “It is imperative that the Open Culture program is made permanent, is expanded and is supported by robust city funding and outreach.”

Robin Schatell, the Co-Founder/Producer of OpenCultureWORKS, also endorsed the legislation.

“The city’s Open Culture initiative paved the way for NYC’s performing artists and cultural workers to continue to be a vital and integral part of our city’s health and well-being throughout the pandemic,” Schatell said. “With Open Culture permits, we worked with over 80 performing artists and arts groups this past summer to bring our artistic visions to barren and deserted city streets, and safely and inclusively turn them into cultural oases.”

The bill is currently referred to the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations.