Cool Culture

Advocating to Address Inequity in NYC’s Cultural Funding


As part of Cool Culture’s advocacy work, Executive Director Candice Anderson testified at a City Council hearing on CreateNYC hosted by The Committee on Cultural Affairs. She urged the city administration and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to more actively redress historic inequities in government funding, and to support BIPOC organizations.


CreateNYC, the city’s first-ever comprehensive cultural plan, was created with several city agencies and public input from nearly 200,000 New Yorkers to provide “a long term framework for promoting greater equity, access, diversity, and expanding opportunities for all residents to participate in the City’s vibrant cultural life.” The hearing addressed CreateNYC’s benchmarks and the lack of momentum and accountability to the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who named cultural equity and inclusion in their top priorities.


In her testimony, Candice emphasized, “Arts and cultural resources are essential to healing and recovery from the intersecting impacts of systemic racism and the pandemic.” Citing two studies underscoring the importance of cultural equity and access, she shared that, “Cultural resources are significantly linked to a higher quality of life, particularly in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods across NYC that have the least cultural resources” and, “Initiatives led by small arts organizations connected to local social networks significantly impact the wellbeing of communities.”


However, according to a 2017 report from cultural equity research group Helicon Collaborative, a majority of funding (82%) continues to be allocated to the largest 139 cultural groups while another 1,807 organizations with smaller budgets received only 6 percent of the funds. “The reality is that the hardships faced by BIPOC families and communities are most frequently met by the many creative responses we have generated from our own cultural practices and artistic traditions; and the networks, organizations and institutions we have created,” Candice said in her testimony. “Unfortunately, these organizations and institutions lack adequate funding to fully realize solutions to the challenges faced by BIPOC communities.”


While funding to smaller arts and culture organizations has increased marginally since the development of CreateNYC, Candice petitioned the City Council to take bolder action to address the extreme disparities and racial inequities reinforced by the current funding model. In addition to radically reimagining  the way government distributes the budget, our executive director also advocated for expanding grants, reducing delays in funding release timelines, and investing in capacity by prioritizing support for BIPOC organizations through city fellowships and internships and by increasing staffing and funding for DCLA.


Cool Culture continues to be in conversation with council members, foundations, and sister organizations in the arts and cultural space to explore collaboration around the issue of funding and working with the NYC Independent Budget Office to collect data on cultural funding. Candice summarized in a statement to our board of directors, “We believe Cool Culture and its partner families and educators have much to contribute: a tangible vision of community healing, health and increased vitality—made possible by a new approach to funding arts and culture in NYC.”