Council Members Cumbo, Van Bramer, Harlem’s Mark-Viverito And Others Pass Historic Arts Package

The arts has been a huge part of the history of Harlem. Today, the New York City Council passed a package of legislation introduced by Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo to modernize the Percent for Art program.

The program, administered by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, requires the allotment of one percent of the budget for eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on artwork for City facilities. Since its inception, nearly 300 projects have been completed with accumulated art work commissions of over $41 million. Currently, more than seventy artist commissions are in progress.

Since her freshman year as a legislator, Council Member Cumbo has worked on this package of legislation to foster an artistic community within the City of New York that is inclusive and accessible to people of all backgrounds.

“The 35th Council District, which I proudly represent, is home to artists of all backgrounds whose inspirational work continues to explore different ideas, perspectives, and societal issues. My legislation – Intros 1295, 1296, and 1297 – is an opportunity to diversify participation within the Percent for Art program and expand our city’s investment in artists who can transform public spaces into canvases that will showcase their creativity and beautify our neighborhoods,” Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues and member of the Committee on Cultural Affairs.

Despite its continued growth, funding for this program has not been increased in the past three decades to meet current inflation. Through the passage of this legislative package, the expenditure for works of art for any capital project will increase from $400,000 to $900,000 and the expenditures for works of art in any fiscal year will increase from $1.5 million to $4 million.

“This unprecedented increase in the Program’s 35-year history is momentous and an incredible victory for our city. I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, Harlem Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Cultural Affairs Committee Chair Jimmy Van Bramer, and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl for their continued advocacy and support towards the cultural enrichment of all New Yorkers,” Cumbo continued.

Intro 1295 would require the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (the Department) to publish on its website information about all works of art in the Percent for Art program. The Department would also be required to publish on its website aggregated demographic information about the artists whose works of art are in the Percent for Art program, to the extent such information is provided to the Department. Percent for Art refers to the law that requires that one percent of the budget for eligible City-funded construction projects be spent on artwork for City facilities.

Intro 1296 would provide that at least one percent of the first 50 million dollars of capital funds appropriated by the city for a capital project be allocated for works of art. This bill would raise the threshold for the expenditure for works of art for any capital project to 900,000 dollars. This bill would also raise the threshold for expenditures for works of art in any fiscal year to 4 million dollars.

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Intro 1297 would require the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to engage in outreach and educational efforts regarding the opportunity to submit works of art for the Percent for Art program. Outreach and education would include information sessions in each borough and the development of written materials containing information on the submission and selection process for works of art in the program. DCLA would be required to make these materials available to arts and cultural organizations, community-based organizations and colleges/universities, and to make them available in the seven most commonly spoken languages in New York City, as determined by the Department of City Planning.

“City art programs are a valuable tool in engaging constituencies and creating collaborative opportunities among our communities,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This package of legislation will help to ensure that New Yorkers are kept up to speed about our public art programs – from capturing data on program funding and participation to enhancing reporting on the art displayed around the City. These bills will also help to remind us of the remarkable creativity and artistry throughout New York City. I thank Cultural Affairs Committee Chair Jimmy Van Bramer and Council Member Laurie Cumbo for their work on these initiatives.”

“Today we passed the largest package of bills ever in the history of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, and the first reform to the Percent for Art program since it was created under Mayor Koch. These pieces of legislation will bring more transparency and accountability to the public art process and strengthen the programs that help make our city the cultural capital of the world,” said City Council Majority Leader and Cultural Affairs Committee Chair Jimmy Van Bramer. “These bills will increase community input in the Percent for Art program by requiring community members to sit on Percent for Art panels, requiring the DCLA to collect data on who receives commissions, and mandating that outreach to artists is conducted in multiple languages. They will also strengthen Percent for Art by increasing the amount of money that can be spent on these important public projects. This package also contains legislation requiring reports from the Arts Commission and the Cultural Institutions groups, bringing more transparency to the institutions that literally shape the face of our city. New York City is better with more public art, more ambitious public art, and public art in every neighborhood. That is what this package will accomplish.

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