Arts groups seek $1 million rescue fund
White Plains, N.Y. (March 1, 2021)—Arts groups in Westchester and Rockland counties have asked state lawmakers to set aside $1 million in COVID-19 recovery funds for local artists and arts organizations devastated by the pandemic.
“ReStart the Arts” in Westchester and Rockland Counties is an effort led by the Affiliate Committee of ArtsWestchester, a group of arts leaders who serve as ArtsWestchester board members.
“Our arts programs, which are vital economic stimulators, have been dormant for more than a year, operating virtually, and now require an enormous effort to restore, revive, and reopen,” said Laura deBuys, CEO of The Picture House Regional Film Center in Pelham.
Any funds allocated by state lawmakers would be distributed by ArtsWestchester through a call for proposals focused on an organization’s needs to restart their in-person arts programs.
“The arts in Westchester pre-COVID produced a $172 million economic impact, in which 5,200 jobs were actualized,” according to ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam, citing the 2017 “Arts & Economic Prosperity 5” report by Americans for the Arts. “Far from being a handout, the arts in Westchester return $25 million in taxes to state and local governments annually.”
Waddell Stillman, President and CEO of Historic Hudson Valley says, “In addition to the economic impact, the arts also have the power to educate and to heal. The pandemic has taken a toll on our residents’ mental health, particularly our children, seniors, and those living in isolated circumstances. Through the wealth of virtual programming created in the past year, cultural groups and teaching artists have kept populations engaged and provided an outlet during challenging times.”
A 2020 survey completed by ArtsWestchester found that 87% of responding arts groups reported that they were not faring well through the pandemic and two-thirds of local artists were unemployed. The national creative worker unemployment rate is estimated at 63%.
“The pandemic has put Westchester arts on life support. We need to pump State money into Westchester arts so they continue to inspire and drive the economy of our community,” said Assemblyman Thomas J. Abinanti.
Dave Steck, founder and executive director of the Yonkers-based YoFi Fest explains, “Right now there is a critical need for assistance, specifically for Westchester and Rockland Counties arts communities, which represent one of the State’s most artistically vibrant areas outside of New York City. Westchester and Rockland’s economy cannot recover unless we restart the arts.” The committee acknowledges that federal PPP and Shuttered Venue funding will help address payroll, leases and utility costs but won’t revitalize the cultural sector programmatically.
Says Genia Flammia, Board President of Youth Theater Interactions in Yonkers, “Organizations need to reconfigure and rebuild spaces, rewrite curricula, re-connect with audiences and artists and develop new content and presentation models that responds both to social distancing and social justice.”
Eligibility for “Restart the Arts” would be open to more than 150 arts organizations and artists who operated in Westchester or Rockland counties prior to March 1, 2020, and who have received ArtsWestchester funding over the past five years. Applications will assess need, viability/sustainability and previous disaster funding received.
“I strongly support ArtsWestchester’s “Restart the Arts” initiative and am fighting to see that it is funded,” said state Senator Pete Harckham. “Investments in the arts have an enormous economic multiplying effect, creating jobs and lifting communities.”
To help in the effort to “ReStart the Arts,” visit https://artswestchester.org/speak-up-for-arts/
About ArtsWestchester: For more than 50 years ArtsWestchester has been the community’s connection to the arts. Founded in 1965, it is the largest private not-for-profit arts council in New York State. Its mission is to provide leadership vision and support to ensure the availability accessibility and diversity of the arts. ArtsWestchester provides programs and services that enrich the lives of everyone in Westchester County. ArtsWestchester helps fund concerts, exhibitions and plays through grants; brings artists into schools and community centers; advocates for the arts; and builds audiences through diverse marketing initiatives. In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue which has since been transformed into a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations and the community. A two-story gallery is located on the first floor of ArtsWestchester’s historic building on Mamaroneck Avenue. artsw.org
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Contact: Ernie Garcia, 914-844-3780