THE BLOG
10/03/2013 01:45 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

One Percent for Culture: Expanding the City's Cultural Footprint

Culture and the arts are essential to what makes New York City thrive. With over 1,300 nonprofit cultural organizations and thousands of individual artists across all five boroughs, the City's nonprofit cultural sector stabilizes our economy, nurtures our children, and enriches our daily lives.

The tourism economy is booming throughout our City. Culture and the arts are at the center of this boom. People come to see not only the treasures of the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA & New York Botanical Garden, but more and more, people are frequenting smaller cultural venues like the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City, which develops experimental dance performance work, Staten Island's Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibet Art, and the Issue Project Room, an experimental arts space in Brooklyn. For more than 130 years, the city has supported non-profit culture through two world wars and 26 mayors. The reason is simple: culture stimulates our minds, feeds our souls and grows our economy.

I am proud to have helped pass the third highest budget in City's history for cultural organizations in the City's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget; however, it is still not enough. The cultural sector continues to face the threat of funding cuts year after year. This volatility weighs on these institutions which cannot rely on stable streams of funding. The City must solidify and increase funding of culture and the arts to sustain and grow this vital sector.

We have made a significant investment in the infrastructure of cultural organizations in the last decade, yet funding for operating expenses is constantly threated with cuts. This coincides with the sectors declining revenues from fundraising and donations, and thus many institutions are struggling to survive.

We must continue to invest in nonprofit culture. The nonprofit cultural sector receives only 0.22 percent of the City's expense budget, yet it proves a tremendous return on investment. The funding of culture and the arts spurs local economic activity and draws tourists from around the world. In 2011 over 24 million tourists attended cultural events and venues and this number continues to grow.

That is why I am proud to support One Percent for Culture, a coalition of cultural groups and businesses along with nonprofit and civic organizations -- including leaders from these sectors --advocating for an increase in city funding for culture to one percent of the municipal expense budget.

One Percent for Culture boasts a coalition of over 533 members and an advisory council of 56 notable New Yorkers - including Sigourney Weaver, Hakeem Nicks, and John Turturro - as well as 25,000 city residents who have signed an appeal supporting this funding increase.

As we continue to work ourselves out of the recession, investment in our cultural community makes sound economic sense. The nonprofit cultural sector expends $3.9 billion in New York City but generates $8.1 billion in economic impact. Additionally, our small businesses and merchants benefit from direct expenditures by cultural organizations and from arts patrons who shop at local business establishments.

The City's nonprofit cultural organizations generate over 120,000 jobs, employing administrators, service employees, and artists. Nonprofit culture sustains other industries as well by creating positions in sectors like business and professional services, finance, and hospitality. Our growing, creative economy makes New York an attractive location for new and expanding firms.

Our cultural organizations also inspire children and teach them about art, music, dance, performance, and science. School group visits total 120,000 every year - that's 10 million individual visits by children. Engagement with arts and culture boosts self-esteem and helps keep children engaged in school. Increased funding for culture will help bring new opportunities for programs for the nearly 250 New York City public schools which currently have no cultural partnerships.

What we as a city invest in culture is returned so many ways. Cultural organizations unite us as a society, improve the quality of our lives, and provide activities and opportunities for New Yorkers of all ages, ethnicities, and income levels. Well over half of the offerings of cultural organizations in our City are provided free of charge, with 66 percent of visitors attending live events, classes, and arts venues for free. Many of these programs depend on public funding. Increased investment in culture is not just the right thing to do. It is a smart, fiscally responsible way to invigorate our City.

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Jimmy Van Bramer is the Chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee and represents the 26th District in the Council.