It is a privilege to serve the City of New York as Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
This administration recognizes the critical role that culture plays in defining the City for both New Yorkers and for the rest of the world. New York’s vast and diverse non-profit cultural community is an economic engine that transforms our neighborhoods, is the backbone of tourism and a magnet for students, businesses and new residents, and has perhaps the widest and broadest reach of any industry, enhancing quality of life at every level and in every neighborhood.
This is why DCLA is the largest funder of culture in this country. The scope of the community we serve is dazzling, not only because of its quality, but also because of the diversity of artistic discipline and scale. For example, we fund the world’s largest zoological society and some of the smallest startup dance companies in New York City.
In Fiscal 2007, Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn announced a sweeping overhaul of the agency’s expense budget that dramatically expanded merit-based funding and created new fiscal stability for the 33 City-owned cultural facilities (CIGs). Our goal was to reward excellence, create access, and ensure accountability across the board. We are now entering the fifth year of this new process, and today the agency today provides $27 million in support to programs at 881 organizations from an expense budget that is $141 million.
The agency is always looking for opportunities to promote the City's creative community. In 2005, we developed a unique partnership between the City of New York and 96.3 FM WQXR, New York's classical radio station, to promote non-profit cultural organizations throughout the five boroughs. As part of this partnership, WQXR runs a series of 20-second promotional spots highlighting specific cultural events that air daily in regular rotation. To date, hundreds of cultural organizations have received on-air publicity, and we continue to feature new organizations every week. DCLA, along with the Mayor's Office of Film Theatre and Broadcasting, the Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Department of Records and Information Services continue to work with WQXR to create special ongoing features and programming that thus far have succeeded in boosting attendance at participating cultural organizations throughout the five boroughs, and has proven particularly meaningful for smaller and mid-sized cultural attractions. Moreover, DCLA is fortunate to have the leadership and expertise of the distinguished Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission. Under the chairmanship of Agnes Gund, the Commission has spearheaded a number of important projects and offered guidance on issues relating to the City’s cultural life, including marketing, arts education, capital financing, and management and board development.
These are just a handful of the ways in which this administration is working to support and nourish the City’s cultural life. Our major investment of time and money not only acknowledges the intertwined roles of culture, economic development, education and almost every other facet of City life, it also sets an enormously important precedent for government’s role in making New York a better place for everyone.
Kate D. Levin