Read Our Executive Director’s City Council Testimony

David Johnston

New York City Council Finance Committee
Executive Budget Hearing Testimony
Friday June 6, 2014 4 PM

I am David Johnston, Executive Director of Exploring the Metropolis, Inc. Since 1982, EtM has focused on solving the workspace needs of New York’s performing artists. Currently, we administer the EtM Con Edison Composers’ Residency, now starting its sixth year. And we will soon be releasing the findings of our performing artists workspace needs assessment for the borough of Queens, the Queens Workspace Initiative. Both of these programs are supported in part through the Cultural Development Fund (CDF) of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

We do not believe that the arts are a privilege. We believe that they are the right of every New Yorker.

First, we want to thank the Mayor and the City Council for recognizing the value of culture by baselining funding and ending the budget dance. This vital step continues to demonstrate that you understand that a sustainable funding model for culture allows cultural organizations to better serve our great city. Cultural organizations and artists are essential to our economy, they provide supplemental education to our children, and they contribute to our city’s cultural vibrancy which serves our citizens. It is vital that the city continue to support the full scope of nonprofit culture which includes organizations of all sizes, all disciplines, and in all neighborhoods whose collective work support and serve communities throughout our city. That is why a diverse range of cultural organizations are joining together and taking the first steps toward developing common language and shared goals.

The Cultural Institution Groups (CIGs) are essential to our communities playing a distinct and important role in community development. We particularly saw this in our work in Queens – seeing up close the work of CIGs who are so rooted in their communities, and serving such unique and indispensable functions.

We ask that you continue to baseline the funding for both the CIGs and the Cultural Development Fund (CDF) which supports the Program Category. The importance of this stability in public funding cannot be overemphasized for these cultural organizations. We also ask that you support the $6 million increase to the CDF which the New York City Arts Coalition requested in the Preliminary Budget Hearing in order to provide an opportunity to fund newer groups and increase funding for those which are underfunded.

As you know the Mayor’s Executive Budget includes $23 million dollars in new funding for Arts Education in the Department of Education’s budget. We commend the Mayor and the City Council for creating this new funding pool. A recent report from Comptroller Stringer’s office identified that 244 of our schools do not have a partnership with a cultural organization. We in the cultural community want to ensure that this number decreases because all NYC students deserve the opportunities that cultural partnerships provide. We are therefore asking that additional new funding be added to the Department of Cultural Affairs budget to help cultural organizations create partnerships with these schools.

Finally, as we look forward to the budget cycles of 2016 and beyond, we want you to be our partners in creating a sustainable funding model for New York City culture and move closer to the goal of increasing funding for culture to one percent of the municipal expense budget, which 75% of City Council Members have indicated they support. We recognize that this kind of increase cannot happen rapidly, but in order for culture to continue serve our city’s communities, we must make steps toward this goal.
We thank you for your time in listening to us today and in the many meetings you have had with us individually. We look forward to continuing to build partnerships and collaborations between city government and the cultural community in order to better serve all New Yorkers.

David Johnston
Executive Director,
Exploring the Metropolis



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