Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has been a leading voice for arts and culture Downtown and throughout New York City for nearly 40 years, producing cultural events and promoting the arts through grants, services, advocacy, and cultural development programs.
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council is dedicated to making Manhattan a thriving center of arts activity with relevance to Downtown residents, workers, and visitors, as well as to the arts community worldwide. It does this through a range of grants, cultural programs and advocacy. The Council believes the arts play an important role in the economic vitality in Lower Manhattan, a model that can be replicated in neighborhoods throughout the borough. It also focuses on the unique and increasing challenges faced by individual artists, emerging artists, and small arts organizations by supporting all artistic disciplines in alternative, free-to-the-public settings.
Flory Barnett, a savvy fundraiser with a penchant for the arts wanted to humanize the Financial District. Shortly after the completion of 1 World Trade Center in 1972, she started an arts council, giving workers in the area reasons to leave the office for lunch. In 1973, with generous support from David Rockefeller through Chase Manhattan Bank, and the New York State Council on the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council was born into the non-profit world.
LMCC grew with the Financial District, cultivating art and culture in and around the World Trade Center. From lunch time concerts and evening performances on the plaza, to installations in the lobby windows of banks (the Art Lobby project), to outdoor sculpture exhibitions, the Council transformed Lower Manhattan into a cultural destination more important than the sum of its parts.
Through a variety of Manhattan arts grants, LMCC expanded its reach throughout the borough. Manhattan Community Arts Fund began in 1984; The Fund for Creative Communities began in 1998; and Creative Curricula began in 2003.
By the end of the 1990s, the Council had not only moved its offices into the World Trade Center, it had transformed the space into a cultural anchor: World Views offered studio space to artists in the upper floors of the North Tower; Evening Stars brought free dance to the WTC Plaza; and exhibition spaces throughout the complex showcased the work of artists of all disciplines.
September 11, 2001
On September 11, LMCC lost its home, performance venue, studio and exhibition spaces, and nearly 30 years of archives when the World Trade Center was destroyed. Most significantly, an artist-in-residence at the time was lost; Michael Richards perished along with thousands of others. The World Views residents were nearing the end of their session, and had been working feverishly towards the culminating open studio event. Michael had spent the night working his 92nd floor studio, where he was creating a sculpture inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, which bore an eerie resemblance to that day's tragedy.
What Comes After
Without a permanent office, LMCC moved nomadically for the next several years before finally finding a new home at the current address on Maiden Lane.
With its residency studios destroyed, the Council was fortunate to receive an outpouring of generosity following the attacks. Donations from real estate owners funded the creation of New Views, a site-specific residency in DUMBO, Brooklyn and at the World Financial Center. And the City of Paris helped establish a special six-month residency in Paris, France for New York City-based visual artists, a program that continues today.
In addition, several exhibitions were mounted, and a book was published, featuring artists who participated in LMCC's residency programs in the World Trade Center to honor, celebrate, commemorate, and archive their work. From December 2001 to January 2002, the New Museum presented World Views: Open Studio Exhibition, a group show of work by the Summer 2001 World Views artists-in-residence. And in 2002, a non-traditional, hands-on exhibition titled Microviews: Artists’ Documents of the World Trade Center focused on everyday documents of the World Trade Center architecture and environs taken by artists during their residencies. In 2004, LMCC published Site Matters: The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s World Trade Center Artists Residency, 1997-2001, a book that chronicles the residency programs in the World Trade Center and includes documentation of work by the more than 130 artists who participated from 1997-2001.
The losses directly affected the focus of LMCC’s other new programs. The Michael Richards Fund provided support for emerging visual artists from the Caribbean or of Caribbean descent. Cities, Art, & Recovery considered how people remember and rebuild after tragedy and how the arts have been crucial to such recovery. The Gulf Coast Residency offered a temporary residency in Lower Manhattan for 15 artists displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
In 2005, LMCC received a $5 million grant over 3 years from The September 11th Fund to support and sustain the arts community in Lower Manhattan. With this support, the Downtown Cultural Grants initiative was launched. It consisted of six new programs providing grants to support arts and culture south of Canal Street and in Chinatown. These programs proved critical to the ongoing recovery and growth of the Lower Manhattan cultural community.
Through all of this change, LMCC’s belief remains consistent; that the arts and artists play a vital role in maintaining the spirit of Downtown. The spirit of World Views lives on in the Workspace and Swing Space programs and more than $550,000 is distributed to artists and organizations through the LMCC’s Manhattan arts grants. Furthermore, the Council’s diverse public programming continues to stoke the cultural life of the city; while Training, Networking, and Talks offer professional development programs to artists and arts groups.
For the tenth anniversary of 9/11 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) presented InSite: Art + Commemoration, an initiative that invited artistic response to a decade of recovery and change in Lower Manhattan through exhibitions, performances, poetry and ideas.
The Present and Future
In February 2011, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) announced that it took over as the lead partner of The River To River® Festival, assuming responsibility from the Alliance for Downtown New York for producing the annual free summer arts festival in Lower Manhattan.
Along with original partners the Alliance for Downtown New York and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the festival was conceived as a way to revitalize Lower Manhattan after 9/11. Over the past nine years it has become a cultural institution, drawing over 100,000 people each year to venues in Lower Manhattan.
LMCC remains committed to being the leading voice for arts and culture Downtown and throughout the borough.
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