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Anti-Trump ‘resistance art’ receives a City Hall showcase

Some of the art considered at a committee oversight hearing was funded from the $180M cultural affairs budget.

A City Council committee on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, examined "Art as Resistance State in Trump's America," as lawmakers examined work created in the aftermath of the 2016 election -- nearly all of which is critical of the 45th president. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

Thousands of Post-it Notes stuck on the Union Square station as “Subway Therapy” to cope with Donald Trump.

The Museum of Modern Art highlighting art from Muslim-majority nations subject to the president’s travel ban.

And an outlier: A pro-Trump painter depicting a snake-stomping president surrounded by a young family, cops, miners and the military.

A City Council committee on Wednesday examined “Art as Resistance State in Trump’s America,” where lawmakers are showcasing work done in the aftermath of the 2016 election — nearly all critical of the 45th president and some funded by taxpayers.

“At a time when the current resident in the White House seems hellbent on dividing this beautiful country that I grew to love as an immigrant girl, I know for sure that it will be the dancers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, photographers, painters, sculptors and poets who will make sure we continue to rise,” said Debbie Officer of Brooklyn, an editor for African Voices magazine.

Some, but not all, of the art discussed Wednesday at City Hall was funded from the city’s more than $180 million cultural affairs budget, which is charged with distributing taxpayer dollars without regard to politics.

Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl told lawmakers that “following the 2016 presidential election, many nonprofit cultural organizations expressed a need to offer support to their communities and advocate for themselves.”

Last year, his department helped convene a panel for arts and cultural nonprofits to discuss the legal rules on political activities.

“What constitutes political activity?” was one question, he said. “Is it permissible for a nonprofit to be involved in electoral politics?” was another.

Finkelpearl said his department does not track the political leanings of artists the city funds.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), who chairs the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, which held Wednesday’s hearing, said art is especially important in contemporary America. “This can be a scary time for a lot of people in this country,” he said.

But one of three Republicans on the 51-member council, Joe Borelli of Staten Island, wasn’t impressed.

“I think oftentimes, art represents the avant-garde of society, but from this hearing, it seems like the New York City art scene is an echo chamber,” said Borelli, who wore a Trump pin on his lapel. “You’re using poetry to bash the Trump administration. How original.”

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