EtM Testimony for the City’s Executive Budget Hearing

David Johnston

New York City Council

Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations Committee

Council Chambers – City Hall

Executive Budget Hearing Testimony FY18

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Submitted to the Committee

My name is David Johnston and I am the Executive Director of Exploring the Metropolis.

Since 1982, Exploring the Metropolis (EtM) has focused on solving the workspace needs of New York City’s performing artists.  Currently, we administer the EtM Con Edison Composer Residencies, the EtM Choreographer + Composer Residencies in partnership with the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, and the Ridgewood Bushwick Composer Residency. For these programs, we match artists who need space with facilities that have underutilized space.

Since 2009, EtM has supported nearly 70 composers, choreographers and performing artists, providing them with more than $650,000 worth of no-cost rehearsal space and cash support.  In addition, EtM has provided more than $110,000 worth of support to NYC’s nonprofit cultural and community centers to maximize their space usage, and supported more than 60 free public programs for New York City audiences, ranging from new music premieres to work-in-progress dance showings, composition workshops for visually impaired students, and even a new children’s opera.

Why is workspace important for performing artists in New York?  Clearly, in the preliminary recommendations that have just been released for the New York City Cultural Plan, affordable workspace is a priority.  Workspace recommendations at this time include: preservation and development, connecting cultural organizations to developers and creating more opportunities for cultural organizations to operate or rent City-owned space.

While the preliminary recommendations are a start, more needs to be done to support organizations that are already working to provide affordable – or free – workspace to artists of all disciplines, genres and career stages.

Here are a few examples of the need for affordable workspace that we have observed recently at EtM.

For our Jamaica program in 2016, applications tripled in the second year.

For the deadline that just passed for our Con Edison Composer Residencies, we received more applications than ever in the near-decade of this program – over 100 applicants for 5 residency slots.

And it’s not just emerging artists.  Artists at all career stages in NYC need this support. We are seeing applications from artists at all career stages.

We’ve supported artists like Pam Tanowitz and Christopher Williams (Bessie winners), Richard Carrick (Guggenheim) and Jen Shyu (Doris Duke Performing Artist).  We are seeing that workspace can be prohibitively expensive even for those working at a master or established level.

As space for artists to work becomes less and less affordable, demand for these services is increasing.

EtM is joining with other members of the cultural community, to ask for a 40 million dollar budget increase for the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) for the City Cultural Institutions Group and the Cultural Development Fund (CDF.)

An increase in our DCLA funding would allow us to expand opportunities for artists and audiences in the communities we are serving, like Flushing, Jamaica, Bushwick and Corona.

It would allow us to serve more artists, more arts facilities and make sure all NYC communities have access to top notch arts programming.

Cultural organizations and artists are essential to our economy, and they contribute to our city’s cultural vibrancy which serves all our citizens. It is vital that the city continue to support the full scope of nonprofit culture.

We strongly advocate the 40 million dollar increase to the City Department of Cultural Affairs.

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