David Testifies at City Hall for a Budget Increase for NYC Arts & Culture

David Johnston


New York City Council
Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations Committee
Council Chambers – City Hall
Preliminary Budget Hearing Testimony FY19
Friday March 16, 2018 1 PM


My name is David Johnston and I am the Executive Director of Exploring the Metropolis. I would like to thank Council member 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 EtM Ridgewood Bushwick Composer Residency.

Since 2009, EtM has supported more than 80 composers, choreographers and performing artists.

By mid-2019, EtM will have provided over one million dollars’ worth of no-cost rehearsal space and cash awards to New York City artists.

In addition, EtM has provided more than $130,000 worth of support to NYC’s nonprofit cultural and community centers to maximize their space usage, and supported more than 70 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.

In the past nine years, previous EtM Artists-in-Residence have gone on to win recognition from the Jerome Foundation, the Kleban Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, Baryshnikov Arts Center Cage Cunningham Award, American Composers Orchestra, New Music/USA, MacDowell Colony, Larson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

  • Chris Cerrone, a 2013-14 Composer-in-Residence, was named a Pulitzer finalist for “Invisible Cities,” a work he developed during his EtM residency.
  • Jen Shyu developed “Song of the Silver Geese” with choreographer Satoshi Haga while in residence in Jamaica in 2015-16; the recording of this work was named one of the New York Times Best Albums of 2017.
  • Choreographer Pam Tanowitz used her time in Jamaica in 2015-16 to prepare for her season as the Joyce Theater.

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.

On Tuesday the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released data that showed the arts and cultural sector contributed over $763.6 billion to the American economy in 2015—more than the agriculture, transportation, or warehousing sectors.

Last year, we were happy to receive an increase in Cultural Development Fund awards from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. Stable funding sources are crucial for this field and the constituents we serve.  I am here today to ask for CDF and CIG funding to be held level in FY19 for the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA).

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



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