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Opinion

Culture and arts funding pays off for NYC

Sixty-two million people visited NYC last year. Did you know that 20 million went to a museum, 13 million saw a Broadway show, and 3 million spent time at a zoo or botanical garden?

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts remains

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts remains one of NYC's best known cultural and arts centers. Photo Credit: The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts remains one of NYC’s best known cultural and arts centers.

Amar Ramasar grew up in the South Bronx dreaming of dancing for George Balanchine. At age 11, Ramasar had been exposed to the work of the master choreographer and director of the New York City Ballet while participating in the nonprofit Tada! Youth Theater as a dance student at the nonprofit Henry Street Settlement House. For each class, he’d take the subway from the Bronx to the Lower East Side.

Cut to 2009, when Ramasar became a principal dancer at the City Ballet. His exposure to Tada! helped a kid from the Bronx make it to the stage of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Ramasar’s story is uplifting, and it reminds us that with each generation, NYC produces acclaimed artists and performers — along with curators of museums, zoos and gardens — with the unwavering support of the city they make proud.

To advance the tradition, New Yorkers for Culture & Arts works to ensure a vibrant future for culture and arts that advances equity and inclusion. That is why we call on the City Council to dedicate an additional $30 million in the 2019 budget to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

It is hard to overstate the importance of nonprofit culture to our city. You may have heard that a record number of tourists visited NYC last year — 62 million. But did you know that 20 million went to a museum, 13 million saw a Broadway show, and 3 million spent time at a zoo or botanical garden?

Myriad organizations large and small serve millions upon millions of people who are inspired, educated and transformed by culture every day. Research conducted from 2014 to 2016 by the University of Pennsylvania indicates that cultural resources are significantly tied to better health, schooling and security — including a 14 percent decrease in child abuse and neglect and an 18 percent increase in the number of kids scoring high on English and math exams.

None of that would be possible without support of culture by our city. The investment addresses the economic, civic and emotional life of our residents. Julia Wijesinghe, a Staten Island teen who has built a Sri Lankan museum in her parents’ basement, explains it this way: “I have 100 percent New York pride, too. I got inspiration for my museum from going to MoMA.”

NYC’s culture budget is a great investment in our city and its people. Let’s continue to support these organizations that enable our kids and ourselves to dream big and fly high.

John Calvelli is executive vice president of public affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society and co-chair of New Yorkers for Culture & Arts. Andrea Louie co-chairs New Yorkers for Culture & Arts and led the Asian American Arts Alliance.

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