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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia Commons.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia Commons.

New York City Launches $25 Million Effort to Put Artists Back to Work

New York City officials on May 6 announced the $25 million City Artist Corps, which will create jobs for 1,500 artists and is inspired by the Works Progress Administration effort that characterized Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal administration during the Great Depression. The city’s arts and recreation sector were hard hit by the crushing Covid-19 pandemic, sustaining a 60 percent drop in employment between February and April of last year alone, according to a recent report from the state comptroller’s office, which additionally showed that immigrant artists were disproportionately affected.

“Art and artists make New York City the cultural capital of the world, and the artistic community has an essential role in building a recovery for all of us,” said New York mayor Bill de Blasio in statement. “The City Artist Corps will tap into our greatest resource—New Yorkers’ boundless creativity—to create jobs and make our city more beautiful and vibrant than ever.”

The federally funded effort, the details of which have not yet been released, comes as officials attempt to bring the city roaring back to life in the wake of the worst of the pandemic, with 24/7 subway service to resume this month, and capacity restrictions on the city’s museums, restaurants, and cultural venues lifted shortly thereafter. The program has already met with criticism in widely disparate quarters, with Hyperallergic pointing out that the number of artists who will benefit directly from it represent a fraction of the 56,000 residing in the city at last count in 2015, and the New York Post noting that others have groused that the money could better be used to “bolster city reserves.”

“A recovery for all has to include culture, which is such an important part of healthy, vibrant neighborhoods,” said NYC cultural affairs commissioner Gonzalo Casales in a statement. “Building on efforts to lift up all residents and spur New York’s recovery, the City Artist Corps will bring public spaces to life in all five boroughs and make sure the Summer of New York City is a Summer of Art.”