Building a New York City Where Arts and Culture Can Thrive

Rebuilding the Right Way

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on New York City’s arts and culture. Workers suffering from prolonged unemployment are unable to pay for rent and bills, and other common income streams for artists, like retail and service industry jobs, have disappeared. What’s more, the pandemic has exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities, and marginalized and underrepresented groups in the arts have suffered the worst consequences.

We must rebuild this city with the goal of addressing long standing issues, so arts and culture can truly thrive. We must make this city not just hospitable — but a haven — for musicians, artists, and creatives. This means focusing support and resources on community arts spaces and independent venues rather than highbrow institutions with wealthy donors. This means fighting for social justice, inclusion, and representation — not just on stage but behind the scenes and in leadership. It is imperative that we push elected officials to recognize the essential nature of creatives in New York City and elevate arts and culture in the allocation of budget dollars and Covid-19 relief.

A strong recovery with transformative change will require creative solutions from working people who are most connected to the issues, as well as funding and resources from the city, state, and private sector. During this process, we cannot forget the everyday people that make up our city. Brandon West is running on a people’s budget to create a more equitable and diverse arts and culture industry that can not only survive but thrive in the years to come.

Policy Priorities

  1. Prioritize music and the arts, a vital part of New York City culture, by investing in city-sponsored arts education, programming, and resources.

    • Reallocate city arts funding to support struggling independent artists, cooperatives, and collectives — not just large nonprofits. Emphasize arts and music (often deprioritized) in the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and the Department of Cultural Affairs.
    • Democratize the board of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs to include independent, working-class artists and give them a say in funding and land use decisions. Create a Committee of Arts and Culture in the City Council.
    • Empower and enable low-income New Yorkers to pursue a passion for music by expanding the Brooklyn Public Library’s musical instrument checkout program and funding free music lessons. Replicate this program across the New York Public Library system.
    • Fund city-sponsored arts and culture festivals that center local performers and businesses, providing paid opportunities.
    • Provide free or subsidized spaces for local artists to work, creating opportunity and reducing the financial burden of pursuing a career in music or the arts.
  2. Boost economic sustainability for New York City arts and culture venues by implementing commercial rent stabilization and creating land use opportunities.

    • Protect arts and culture spaces through commercial rent stabilization and ensure a sustainable, long-term vision for New York City’s music and arts ecosystem.
    • Dedicate vacant, city-owned spaces to artists, collectives, and cooperatives by increasing city funding for Community Land Trusts (CLTs) and exploring alternatives land use models.
    • Mandate that a percentage of DCLA capital allocations and Department of Nightlife funding is dedicated to establishing CLTs that distribute land to arts and music performance and practice spaces.
    • Fight for commercial rent relief for small New York City artist collectives and cooperatives.
  3. Fight for social and economic justice in New York City’s arts and culture industry. Rebuild the industry in a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive way.

    • Ensure equal access for people of color and other underrepresented groups in the industry. Fight against discrimination in hiring and pay. Support fair royalties and protections against discrimination and harassment.
    • Advocate for fair working conditions for workers in music and arts venues and recorded music settings; e.g. fair contracts, contracts for all, minimum pay rates, fair pay for venues that stream gigs.
    • Mandate that venues meeting at least one of the following three criteria pay a minimum per musician on a sliding scale:
      • Capacity (over 500 capacity)
      • Ownership of any entity over certain capitalization ($20M stake)
      • Public subsidies (less than $250k in public subsidies in the last 3 years)
    • Develop funding streams for musicians and music collectives, with priority given to working-class artists of color, with a target of $100M annually in direct funding to artists across New York City.
  4. Support music, arts, and nightlife venues in ensuring compliance and safety rather than bearing down with overzealous law enforcement actions.

    • Abolish Multi-Agency Responses to Community Hotspots (MARCH) law enforcement, and make late-night, surprise raids illegal. These have routinely shuttered cherished neighborhood venues, art spaces, and restaurants.
    • Replace MARCH with holistic guidelines through which the city can work with small business owners to make their spaces safer and up-to-code. Share a clear and understandable safety checklist with music venues and art spaces, as well as restaurants and bars.
    • Establish free programs to educate venues on procedures, codes, and standards needed to stay open and safe. Offer free compliance clinics and walk-throughs for arts and culture spaces to ensure they are meeting city and state standards for building safety and health codes. Host fire safety training for owners and staff to access.

Our Demands

  • Rebuild the arts and culture scene in District 39 and beyond in an intentional way, to help workers to get back to doing what they love.
  • Make sure New York City remains the country’s artistic, creative, and cultural hub.
  • Focus support and resources primarily on the working class, people of color, and underrepresented groups throughout the recovery.
  • Lobby the state and federal government, as well as the private sector, for monetary relief.
  • Direct vulnerable populations in the arts and culture industry toward the resources they need.
  • Fight for social justice, inclusion, and representation in the arts, not just on stage but behind the scenes and in leadership.
  • Ensure benefits and fair protections for all arts and culture workers, including freelancers and gig workers.
  • Focus support and resources on community arts spaces and independent venues rather than highbrow institutions with wealthy donors.
  • Help art and culture workers pay their rent, bills, and living expenses following a long period of unemployment.
  • Make living in New York City more affordable (and sustainably so) for artists.
  • Support the formation of new community arts spaces and help existing community arts spaces stay open.
  • Ensure that New York City schools have the funds to educate a new generation of artists and performers.
  • Elevate the contributions of people of color at every turn, and make sure their past work is recognized, not erased.
  • Ensure that independent and freelance artists are represented on the city’s arts and culture decision-making committees.