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NYC museum subsidies could be tied to staff diversity, de Blasio says

Subsidies for New York City museums may be

Subsidies for New York City museums may be tied to staff diversity as part of a new program announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Above, hundreds of people walk through the Great Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) on July 30, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The racial and ethnic diversity of those who staff and manage museums, galleries, concert halls and other cultural institutions could soon help determine how much taxpayer subsidies these venues receive from the New York City government.

“CreateNYC: A Cultural Plan for All New Yorkers,” announced Wednesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, aims to spread funding beyond blockbuster Manhattan institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Hall and to the outer boroughs like Queens and Bronx.

“There’s a lot of organizations that feel there wasn’t equality of treatment based on geography, even though the vast majority of New Yorkers live in the outer boroughs,” de Blasio said at a news conference in Queens. “Culture takes many forms. It has to reach people where they live.”

Many of these institutions’ board members and curators are white, a status quo the de Blasio administration hopes to diversify.

The nearly 1,000 institutions in New York City that compete for dollars will need to supply demographic information about staff and board membership as well as a plan to address “equity and inclusion” with measurable goals, according to Tom Finkelpearl, de Blasio’s commissioner of cultural affairs.

In 2015, Finkelpearl told The New York Times that he had no intention of tying subsidies for the arts based on diversity.

The budget passed for the current fiscal year provides nearly $200 million for the arts.

Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), the city council speaker, said: “As a Latina, as a Puerto Rican, arts and culture allows me to feel validated, it allows my history to feel validated. It exposes others to that reality.”

She said she predicts that foes of the plan, whom she declined to name, will “resist,” “resent” and “obstruct.”

A representative of the Met and others of the city’s biggest arts institutions did not return messages seeking comment on Wednesday.

De Blasio said some museums and institutions have been “elitist.”

“There’s still the assumption among many New Yorkers about where they belong and where they don’t belong,” de Blasio said.

Neither de Blasio nor Finkelpearl would say whether they anticipated that institutions like the Met would receive less, more or equal funding under the plan, which de Blasio’s staff developed based on surveys or interviews with close to 200,000 respondents.

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