EtM’s David Johnston Gives Testimony at NYC’s City Hall for $40 Million Increase for Arts and Culture

David Johnston

New York City Council

Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations Committee

Council Chambers – City Hall

Preliminary Budget Hearing Testimony FY18

Wednesday March 8, 2017 1 PM


My name is David Johnston and I am the Executive Director of Exploring the Metropolis. I would like to thank Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and the Cultural Affairs Committee for the opportunity to testify today.

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 Choreographer + Composer Residency in partnership with the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, and the Ridgewood Bushwick Composer Residency.

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? Why is this important to New York City?

For our Jamaica program, applications tripled in the second year. We were anticipating an applicant pool more geared towards emerging artists. But since beginning the program, we’ve had artists like Pam Tanowitz and Christopher Williams (Bessie winner), and Jen Shyu (Doris Duke Performing Artist).

Other EtM Artists have won awards, recognition and commissions from the Pulitzers, the Jerome Foundation, the Kleban Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Kronos Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, New Music USA, the MAP Fund, Latin Grammys and the Doris Duke Foundation.

Artists at all career stages in NYC need this support. It’s not just emerging. Workspace can be prohibitively expensive even for those at a more advanced level.

There’s the impact on communities. We have artists like Randy Woolf, a Guggenheim fellow, is now in residence in a senior facility in Bushwick. Randy has a PhD from Harvard in composition and has worked over the last 30 years with artists like John Cale, Maurice Sendak and Heidi Latsky. He needed a quiet space to work because his wife teaches piano in their home during the day. We’re matching these amazing artists who need space with communities that want the arts.

I am here today, to join with other members of the cultural community, to ask for a 40 million dollar increase to the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) for the City Cultural Institutions Group and the Cultural Development Fund (CDF.)

Workspace for artists has been emerging as a vital issue in the City Cultural Plan. An increase in our DCA funding would allow us to expand opportunities for artists and audiences in the communities we are serving, like Flushing, Jamaica, Bushwick and Upper Manhattan. It would allow us to plan and implement a city wide residency network, utilizing community and cultural centers with available space, making these residency and workspace opportunities available for dance, theater, music, to create and develop new work for any genre, for performing and creating artists at any career stage in any community in the City, from Corona to Bushwick to Mott Haven to St. George.

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 and we hope that the upcoming Cultural Plan will reflect this scope.

Thank for you opportunity to testify today.

David Johnston

Executive Director, Exploring the Metropolis


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