Everything to know so far about Cuomo’s ‘New York Arts Revival’ plan

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“What is a city without social, cultural and creative synergies?” 

It’s a powerful question – one that highlights the hardship currently faced by our treasured metropolises around the globe. It came as part of the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo’s recent State of the State Address, in which he announced plans for a ‘New York Arts Revival’ initiative designed to save the livelihoods of professionals and venues in NYC, alongside the city’s own beating heart.  

“Cities are by definition centers of energy, entertainment, theater and cuisine. Without that activity and attraction, cities lose much of their appeal,” Cuomo declared, going on to speak a simple truth – that “New York City is not New York without Broadway.”

Here’s what we know so far about his plan to bring NY back to life. 

What exactly is the New York Arts Revival initiative going to involve?

Cuomo has described how the initiative will see a series of statewide pop-up concerts and performances taking place, involving over 150 artists. These will include mega-names like Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Renée Fleming and Hugh Jackman; as well as the Ballet Hispanico, Ars Nova, Albany Symphony Orchestra, and National Black Theatre.

Performances and exhibitions will be held outdoors across the city and state, including at state parks and other state properties.

Cuomo also talked about how a pilot program will be developed to explore how socially distant performances could potentially be held safely in venues where seating isn’t fixed. But it’s not yet clear exactly what these performances will look like.  

It’s likely the case that they won’t be publicized too far in advance, though, for fear of too large crowds turning up. 

Finally, Cuomo announced that part of the initiative will involve partnership work with the Mellon Foundation to distribute grants to artists and community arts groups. These, he said, should help get over 1000 artists back to work, while also funding dozens of the arts groups that are so vital to New York City.

When’s the initiative going to start?

During his State of the State Address on 12th January, Cuomo said that the New York Arts Revival scheme would start from 4th February. Things have gone a little quiet now, though, and as NYC is currently in an official state of emergency due to a snowstorm, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any action just yet. 

Having said that, Cuomo’s intention for getting things underway as a matter of urgency is crystal clear:

“We cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on for the arts and provide a living wage for artists. We will not let the curtain fall on their careers or on the future of our cities,” Cuomo said during his address. 

How long will the initiative run for?

The plan is that the initiative will run from now-ish through to the summer, culminating with two landmark events – the opening of Little Island, the innovative performance space pier being built downtown in the Hudson River by Barry Diller (as a “gift to New Yorkers”), and the Tribeca Film Festival’s 20th anniversary in June.

What does ‘public-private partnership’ actually mean?

It just means that the initiative will be a joint effort between the state of New York and some philanthropic partners. 

For example, “staffing support, marketing and access to world-class open air and spacious venues” will be provided by the state, but there’ll also be funding provided by private stakeholders. 

Cuomo’s made it clear that “all events will follow state guidelines serving as a model for safely reopening the arts across the state and the country”. 

How is Cuomo going to make sure all of this is possible? 

Cuomo has expressed hopes for expanding rapid testing at pop-up sites with the aim of making it easier for people to be tested before visiting theaters and hospitality venues – but only in areas with low-enough rates of the virus. He talked positively about New York’s experiment in early January at the Buffalo Bills game, where nearly 7,000 fans were tested. 

While the US has been struggling with momentum vaccination-wise, Cuomo says that this cannot get in the way of providing much-needed aid to New York’s hospitality and performing arts scenes.

“We’re looking at months of shutdowns,” he said. “We need to begin to act now. We can’t float along letting pain, hardship and inequality grow around us.”

Keep an eye on Cuomo’s Twitter account and official website for further updates on the initiative.