New York City’s Culture Plan

On July 19, 2017, the City of New York released CreateNYC, New York City’s first-ever cultural plan. To shape the plan design, the city worked with dozens of local organizations, which helped gather feedback from nearly 200,000 residents. Among those many partners was the Asian American Arts Alliance (A4), which was committed to ensuring that the voices of NYC artists & residents in the AAPI community were included in the planning process.

In February 2017, I worked with the amazing Andrea Louie, Anjali Goyal, and Ariel Estrada of A4 to create an interactive workshop and online survey infused with a social practice artist’s spirit, to delve into what A4’s community believed was and wasn’t working when it came to arts and culture in New York City. About 50 people attended the workshop at Elmhurst Library in Queens, and 70 additional people participated in the online survey.

Over and over again, we heard that city’s arts & culture needs, challenges, and plans must be intrinsically connected to the other critical challenges facing the city, including affordable housing, arts education, and fostering a more compassionate and equitable culture. As sharers moved fluidly between social issues, economic issues, and recommendations specific to makers and arts & culture institutions, they emphasized that mindset shifts were needed, not just completing a set of tactics.

“Help us control the out-of-control rents in New York City,” shared one survey respondent. “It is choking everyone on all levels. The biggest expense for artists, especially performing artists, is space. When artists cannot afford space, no art will be created. For communities, the struggle to afford rent has a hugely negative impact on our quality of life, our ability to progress in our career endeavors, and how we spend our time and money… The arts are leaving New York City because it is simply impossible to survive here.”

If we want to protect the future vibrancy of the city, then we must see the arts as integral to health and development, supporting STEAM from the beginning of education; if we want arts and culture planning and funding to be equitable and inclusive, then city employees must first deeply understand and acknowledge the manifestations of bias before they can build processes that will be successful.

Many participants in the workshop expressed appreciation for the opportunity to voice their concerns and contribute their creativity. What we recognized in planning for feedback, however, was that there are no common definitions or understanding of what ‘arts’ and ‘culture’ are– let alone what they should be. To understand what’s missing and needed requires ongoing engagement, listening, and time.

A4 ultimately encouraged the Department of Cultural Affairs to integrate ongoing engagement and feedback loops into the ten-year plan itself, particularly if DCA is committed to equity and seeks to build relationships with communities that are currently not included in dialogue.

Click here for the full report I wrote and designed, including background materials for facilitators and participants.

circlefor

Circlefor is a new home for collaboration between me and the amazing poet, Purvi Shah. Our purpose is to foster space where art emerges through connection, participation, and listening. Our Etsy shop is a home for affordable, community engaged artwork, featuring digital drawings and poetry inspired by vital community stories.

Learn more at our shared project site, circlefor.com.

Weave&Woven

Weave&Woven was a collaboration with the extraordinary Purvi Shah at NurtureArt in 2017. Over a short, two-week residency, we wanted to find a way to test out new ways of collaborating in space and reflect with others on how we inhabit the sacred, in a time of heightened surveillance and criminalization of immigrants and communities of color. The result was a community-engaged activity in partnership with NurtureArt and Sadhana.

2 Minute to Midnight

In 2018 and 2019, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that the Doomsday Clock had reached “2 minutes to midnight.” For 70 years, the Clock has been a symbol for how close we are to a man-made disaster, where midnight is a point of no return. What is two minutes to midnight for New Yorkers? And what can we do about it? 

Sparked by an individual artist grant via the Queens Council on the Arts, I was invited by the amazing Jaime Faye-Bean to install a public work at Bliss Plaza. Rather than showing only my own work, I invited several other amazing artists to help Queens residents explore and linger on 2 minutes. My hope was for New York’s public spaces to become interaction hubs enabling local communities to connect with their creativity and surface solutions in different ways. The end result, 2 Minutes to Midnight, was a free, interactive outdoor co-creation lab under the 7 train.

Glass Hours and 2 Minutes to Midnight was supported by Sunnyside Shines and the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Featuring these amazing artists and thinkers:

  • CATHIE WRIGHT-LEWIS: cathiewrightlewis.com
  • MONICA JAHAN BOSE: monicajahanbose.com
  • CHEYENNE “ANGEL” LEWIS
  • PURVI SHAH: purvipoets.net
  • MELISSA LIU
  • LATRICE VERRETT
  • JAIME-FAYE BEAN: sunnysideshines.com
  • JENA PINCOTT: deepthinkdecks.com
  • Queens Writers Resist, ft. Pam Reyes and Kay Ottinger

Who Are You Are

This is a simple game inviting you to connect the art of Self to the act of creation.

Pick a card. Think about how the card is different from or similar to who you are. If it’s a lot like you, what would you amplify? Do you notice areas of resistance in this way of being? If so, how do you or can you work with this resistance? If the card is not a lot like you, what do you admire about this way of being?

Set an intention for the day. How might you lean in to this way of being, as a performance or act of Self-artistry?