Cultural Institutions Group

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One hundred and thirty years ago, New York City and dedicated groups of private citizens established a new pattern of public-private partnerships that would prove to have an enormous impact on the future growth and reputation of the city. These partnerships were not for investment purposes, real estate development or industrial acquisitions. They did not involve large sums of money, nor were they heralded publicly as major new initiatives. There were only a handful of prototypes for these partnerships in the late 19th century, and today, after more than a century of expansion, there are 34 examples throughout the five boroughs of the city. The list of New York City's partners in this historic venture is a familiar one:

These private organizations comprise the cultural backbone of New York City. They and the city are linked through formal partnership agreements which have guaranteed a measure of public funding to the institutions. In return, the cultural organizations have produced a diverse array of public services and amassed world-famous collections ranging from rare art and specimens to endangered plants and animals.

About the CIG[edit]

The basic framework for the public-private partnerships between New York City and its 34 cultural institutions was established in the 19th century. The original concept of the partnerships has succeeded beyond its founders' most ambitious expectations. And it has created a mutual dependence: New York could not be a world-class city without the institutions, and the institutions could not survive without the city.

The History of the Cultural Partnerships[edit]

1877-1945: The Original Partnerships[edit]

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the City of New York began a comprehensive planning effort to cope with its rapid growth and to establish itself as a major world city. The State of New York passed legislation that incorporated the institutions and authorized the city to build facilities and lease them and the city-owned parkland on which they sat to the new private institutions. The partnership stipulated that the city would provide these institutions with land, facilities and funds for maintenance and security. The private institutions in turn would develop specialized cultural services and collections which would be available to the general public. The model married the traditions of European subsidy for the arts with American independence and capitalism. The pattern was established with the American Museum of Natural History in 1877, followed by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1878; New York Botanical Garden, 1891; Bronx Zoo, 1895; Brooklyn Museum, 1897; Brooklyn Children's Museum, 1899. After the turn of the 20th century, four additional organizations negotiated agreements with the city (Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, 1908; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1909; Museum of the City of New York, 1922; Staten Island Zoological Society, 1936).

1945-1960: Conflict and Resolution[edit]

From 1952 to 1967, an additional five organizations would begin to receive regular city support (Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1952; Queens Botanical Garden, 1962; New York Hall of Science, 1965; Wave Hill, 1965; Staten Island Historical Society, 1967).[1] In the 1950s the city and the cultural organizations engaged in protracted discussions over the issue of wages and working conditions of employees who were city reimbursed. Following a strike action against eight of the institutions in 1958 and 1959, the institutions met in 1960 in an informal organization which came to be known as the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG). The labor settlement that was eventually reached was an unconventional one that involved "tri-partite" bargaining and obligated the institutions and the City of New York to negotiate (and the city to pay for) wage and benefit increases, while working conditions were negotiated between the union and the individual organizations.

1960-1976: In Search of a Cultural Policy[edit]

Having recognized a valuable community of interests, the CIG continued to meet to address other issues. In 1962, Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. established a mayoral Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) that pre-dated the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1967, Mayor John V. Lindsay moved the OCA functions into the newly titled Department of Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PRCA). Program grants expanded considerably, and a number of newer organizations began to make the case for city operating support including Bronx County Historical Society, Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Jamaica Arts Center, Queens Theatre in the Park, Queens Museum of Art, Staten Island Children's Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 1974, Mayor Abraham D. Beame appointed the Committee on Cultural Policy, which recommended removing cultural affairs from PRCA and that the city concentrate its funding in the areas of facilities and basic support.

1976-1990: New Institutions, DCA and Budget Cycles[edit]

Enabling legislation for a Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) was passed in 1975, and the new department began to operate in 1976. In 1978, Mayor Edward I. Koch took office as the city began to climb out of its fiscal crisis. He agreed that the seven newer organizations and the New York State Theater should receive regular city support for operating expenses. And seven cultural organizations would also begin to receive this category of support including Snug Harbor Cultural Center, 1981; Museum of the Moving Image, 1982; Institute for Contemporary Art P.S.1, 1982; The New York Public Theater, 1982; New York City Center, 1981; Staten Island Botanical Garden, 1983; and Carnegie Hall, 1986. A new budget scenario developed in the early 1980s and became more refined each year: the city administration recommended a budget for DCA which was less than it eventually expected to approve. Eleventh hour negotiations produced budget restorations.

DCA worked closely with the institutions to achieve increased equity and consistency in heat and energy allocations, health benefits, and pension coverage. The Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission supported and lobbied for the larger institutions in getting permission to perform major capital projects in a "pass-through" mechanism which by-passed some of the obstacles of the city bureaucracy.

1990-2006: Government Transitions and the Budget Dance[edit]

By the 1990s, two new organizations had joined the ranks of the CIG: Flushing Town Hall and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. With a new city charter redistributing budgeting powers from the Board of Estimate to the Mayor and a larger City Council and the implementation of term limits in 2001, the tentative pas de deux of the 1980s budget negotiations became a full-fledged ballet in the 1990s. Between 1980 and 2007, there were only two years when the proposed Executive Budget and the Adopted Budget for the Department of Cultural Affairs were the same.

2007: End of the Dance?[edit]

Admirably, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn closed the curtain on the annual budget dance on January 24, 2007 by jointly announcing a preliminary budget for 2008 that established a new base level of funding for cultural organizations.[2] In addition, the administration brought new reforms to the city’s approach to cultural funding. The agency increased its competitive Cultural Development Fund nearly tenfold to $30 million to support non-CIG organizations. It was only appropriate that DCA support the host of cultural organizations that had developed and flourished in New York as a direct result of the city’s decision 130 years prior to invest in the cultural partnerships that became the foundation of its cultural policy.

The State of New York's Cultural Partnerships[edit]

The Original Concept[edit]

Since the American Museum of Natural History entered into its historic agreement with the City of New York in 1877, the concept of public-private partnerships between the city and its 34 cultural institutions has remained elegant in its simplicity and effectiveness. The basic tenet of the relationship has consistently been that the city will provide facility and operating support, while the institutions will assemble the expertise and private funding necessary for the management of their collections, performances and public education programs. This fundamental division of responsibility has not changed in 130 years, and it has continued to produce a combination of professional excellence and institutional dedication to the public.

Measuring the Achievements[edit]

No other city in the United States, and few in the world, can boast of a group of cultural organizations that even approach the New York institutions. The CIG includes museums for children, art, "living" collections (zoos and botanical gardens), history and natural history, science, and centers for performing arts and film. The sheer scale upon which these organizations operate is phenomenal: • 18.3 million people attend each year, including 2.3 million children.

• Collectively, the institutions (many of which are in landmarked facilities) occupy over 258 buildings, comprising over 4,000,000 square feet (370,000 m2) of exhibition space, close to 20,000 theater seats and 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) of zoos and botanical gardens.

• Their operating budgets exceed $830 million, leveraging an additional $7.30 in support for every $1 provided by the city.

• Nearly 11,000 people are employed by the institutions, including 6,205 full-time and 4,559 part-time employees in positions that include curators, educators, food service workers, fundraisers, guards, janitors, marketers, and retail clerks, among many more.

The Dynamics of the Partnership[edit]

New York's position as the first city in the nation is considerably dependent on its dominance in such opinion setting and culturally-related industries as communications, media, publishing and fashion. Together with the cultural institutions, these industries form a critical mass which creates an intangible, but powerful, aura around New York. Government could not and would not accomplish this alone. The private nature of the cultural institutions is what makes the partnership work. But the partnership is a symbiotic relationship, and these private institutions could not sustain their work without the investment of the public sector.

Extraordinary Public Service and Collections[edit]

The CIG institutions include national and international leaders in their fields.[3] Collection based institutions include international repositories for significant collections of art, rare objects, artifacts and endangered species of plants and animals. Performing arts organizations present local, national and international music, drama, and dance companies. Extensive public service programs are provided by the CIG institutions, including education programs which last year involved more than 2.3 million children. But these institutions do more than provide a resource for New York’s schoolchildren. They also generate regional, national, and international tourism to the city and generate important tax revenues.

The Future of New York’s Cultural Policy[edit]

The philosophy behind the city’s relationship with the city-funded cultural institutions is based on the premise that these institutions are public facilities established and maintained as part of DAC's Charter mandate to “plan, acquire, design, construct, improve and manage facilities for the conduct of cultural activities by the city.” [4] As the cultural institutions mark the 130th anniversary of their partnership with the City of New York, now is the time to renew and celebrate a commitment that ensured that this city would become a global cultural destination. The future health of the cultural partnerships is a central and indispensable feature of the government’s support of the arts. A cultural policy of the City of New York does not end with its cultural institutions—it begins with them.

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

New York State Theater:

WCS: