U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood in front of the iconic Public Theater to announce the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, recently introduced legislation that would boost and reinvigorate the creative economy by creating a workforce grant program to employ artists and writers to create publicly available art. The senator was joined by U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney; NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera; Commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Gonzalo Casals; Artistic Director of The Public Theater Oskar Eustis; Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jennifer Egan; CEO of PEN America Suzanne Nossel; Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Anne del Castillo; New York State Senator Brad Hoylman; and Saheem Ali, theater director and Associate Artistic Director of The Public Theater.
Inspired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Creative Economy Revitalization Act would create a competitive workforce grant program within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; administer grants to eligible government, non-profit, and for-profit organizations and state and local workforce boards through the Department of Labor in coordination with the National Endowment for the Arts; and require that grantees create art that is accessible to the public, such as free concert series, large-scale murals, photography exhibits, published stories, or dance performances.
Before the pandemic, NYC’s arts, entertainment, and recreation sector employed nearly 100,000 people, generated $7.4 billion in wages, and helped draw 67 million tourists and generate $70 billion of economic activity. New York was one of the hardest hit in terms of absolute losses to the arts sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jobs fell by 66% in 2020, the largest decline among NYC’s economic sectors. 59% of arts and entertainment businesses have shut down altogether.
“The Creative Economy Revitalization Act would create a Works Progress Administration for today’s artists and help reinvigorate the creative economy by providing funding opportunities to hire local artists and writers to create publicly available art,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It would make 300 million dollars of grant funding available to government, non-profit and other groups to create everything from free concert series, dance performances and photography exhibits to murals, poetry, plays, and stories. These works would help us tell the full American story – the arts are some of our best tools for preserving folk traditions and highlighting communities whose narratives have been marginalized or erased. These projects would help us reinvigorate the struggling arts sector, create arts jobs, and make art and culture accessible to everyone.”
“Last year, when creative institutions were ravaged by closures, it was the workers: musicians, artists, actors, dancers, stagehands, and so many others that were hurt the most,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “I worked with my colleagues to get this industry the help it needed, and am proud that we created the Save Our Stages grant program and provided more funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Humanities, but this industry and these workers need more support and they need it NOW. Not only will these grants help our arts community, but it will bring new creativity to our city and cities around the country.”
“The arts — and the organizations, venues, artists, and workers who make them possible — are integral to the fabric of New York City. The creative arts are vital to our economy, but they contribute so much more than that to our pandemic recovery: they are critical to our collective healing,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “I am grateful to our congressional colleagues for their work in support of the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, which will deliver necessary aid to our beloved arts and cultural industry so that our artists — and all New Yorkers — can continue to thrive.”
“I appreciate Senator Gillibrand’s leadership on this legislation. It’s very good to have a focus on the creative arts that struggled during the pandemic, and the many venues that had difficulty getting assistance. Performing artists of all stripes were challenged in maintaining their craft, and I am heartened to see support for this industry and artists who are so vital to the cultural life of the city,” said Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick.
“I want to thank Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues for introducing the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, which would provide critical resources to the creative economy and theaters like The Public to support our efforts to bolster our workforce, including hiring and training artists, writers, technicians, carpenters, accountants, designers, and many others. As a member of the Professional Non-Profit Theater Coalition, I have been working with my colleagues across the country in the non-profit theater industry to explore what resources are available to support our workforce development efforts. The pandemic has been the most challenging crisis for the arts and those who’ve dedicated their careers and passion to it, but with the Senator’s support and vision, we’ll be able to come back stronger and better,” said Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater
“Art and culture are essential to a healthy, vibrant society and a robust economy, and the artists and workers who create our culture have been devastated by the pandemic,” said NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. “In New York, we launched the City Artist Corps with federal relief funds to support working artists while creating free opportunities for residents to experience culture. Now, public exhibitions, workshops, installations, classes, murals, and performances are enriching every corner of NYC as we continue to reopen and recover. With the Creative Economy Revitalization Act, we applaud our federal partners for recognizing and investing in the critical needs of cultural communities across the country.”
“At a moment when our nation is engaged in a tumultuous debate over expression, speech, and identity, literary communities have a crucial role to play in advancing free expression and civil rights, while also ensuring that worthy new voices find an audience. The potential impact of CERA is thrilling. Like President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, CERA will galvanize free expression, revitalize our cultural economy, and enrich all of us with the work of new writers and creators—and thereby, new ideas,” said Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.
“Prior to the pandemic, NYC’s arts and entertainment generated more than 500,000 jobs and $150 billion in economic activity and defined our city as a global capital. The Creative Economy Revitalization Act will provide critical support for these industries, which were among those most severely impacted by the pandemic and essential to our city’s recovery,” said the Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Anne del Castillo.
“As our nation considers how to build back better and revitalize critical infrastructure, writing, creating and thinking represent essential struts and joints without which our democracy and society cannot thrive, and may not survive. We support this legislation as a vital investment in the artistic lifeblood of our communities and one that can help foster a sense of connection and community across America,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America.
“We commend Senator Gillibrand for prioritizing the dire needs of creative workers and recognizing their importance to our economy and culture, and we look forward to working with her office on CERA’s passage into law,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild.
“The average nonprofit arts attendee spends another $31.41 per person per show, beyond the cost of admission, on everything from dinner and drinks to childcare, travel and parking,” said Sandra Karas, Secretary-Treasurer of Actors’ Equity Association. “Arts funding bills like the Creative Economy Revitalization Act are good for everyone, because they not only mean good paying jobs for arts workers, but also more money spent in cities and towns across the country as people enjoy and experience the arts. The creative economy was among the hardest hit by COVID and we are tremendously grateful for Sen. Gillibrand’s leadership in introducing the Creative Economy Revitalization Act to help us recover from the pandemic.”
“Senator Gillibrand is a true #ArtsHero for co-sponsoring the Creative Economy Revitalization Act,” said Carson Elrod, Co-Founder of Be An #ArtsHero. “She understands elementally that our creative economy is crucial to the overall health of the American economy. Arts workers and arts institutions anchor dynamic local economies, providing jobs and socio-economic benefits that strengthen our communities. This legislation brilliantly harnesses the unique skills and talents of America’s distressed arts workers and directs them towards public projects that will enrich communities while also stimulating local economies across the nation. With this co-sponsorship, Senator Gillibrand is helping change the conversation in Washington about the country’s creative economy so that Congress can understand that Arts & Culture are an industry, not a cause, and are just as deserving of support, subsidy, and stimulus as any other great industry.”
According to a recent survey of New York City-based arts organizations by the Center for an Urban Future, these groups saw a decline in income of nearly $1 billion ($924.6 million) over the course of the pandemic. As venues closed their doors to keep audiences safe, ticket sales dropped dramatically: the arts and culture sector experienced a total attendance loss of 35,107,123.
The Creative Economy Revitalization Act would:
- Get creative workers back into jobs by creating a competitive workforce grants program within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
- Administer grants to eligible government, non-profit, and for-profit organizations, as well as state and local workforce boards through the Department of Labor in coordination with the National Endowment for the Arts;
- Require that grantees create art that is public and accessible to the public such as free concert series, large-scale murals, photography exhibits, published stories or dance performances.
Read the full text of the bill here.