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New York City Cultural Agenda Fund
in The New York Community Trust

Supporting Cultural Advocacy, Policy, and Equity in New York City

Established in 2014, the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust is a collaboration of grantmaking organizations that aims to:

  1. Strengthen Advocacy – Fortify and connect the network of arts and culture advocates in New York City;
  2. Influence Policy – Promote a cohesive and equitable cultural policy and integrate culture into City policies across multiple sectors; and
  3. Advance Equity – Ensure small, community arts groups, groups led by people of color, and culturally and economically diverse artists are as valued for their contributions to the City’s cultural ecology as larger institutions.

The Fund makes grants to support research, technical assistance to the field, and other initiatives that seek to advance its cultural advocacy, policy, and equity goals. The Fund also organizes briefings to review current research in arts and culture and encourage practical application of findings. 

In addition to The New York Community Trust, donors to the Fund have included the Booth Ferris Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Lambent Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and David Rockefeller Fund. If you are a funder interested in joining the Fund, please contact program associate Michele K. Baer at or 212-686-0010 x658. You may follow the Fund’s progress by reading its periodic blog posts, including:

Grants to Support Advocacy Coalitions Using Culture as a Strategy to Advance Policy

The Fund provided the following eight grants totaling $207,700 to help fortify arts advocacy and advance cultural policy:

With a $25,000 grant, Arts East New York will host a series of art-based engagement town halls to generate a forum for local civic engagement around the implementation of the cultural plan.

A $22,000 grant will help Center for Arts Education work with partners to increase voter awareness of existing state law mandating arts education around the 2017 municipal election.

Design Trust for Public Space will use $25,000 to help ensure immigrants and arts groups have a say in the redevelopment of Staten Island’s north shore.

Disability/Arts/NYC Task Force received a $44,700 grant to help cultural workers become stronger disability advocates in the City.

With a $25,000 grant, En Foco will strengthen and expand a coalition of Latino arts groups based in the Bronx and East Harlem that advocate for cultural equity.

Global Action Project will use a $25,000 grant to engage youth in media arts activities to produce and promote youth-drive creative media pieces for the Dignity in Schools campaign.

The League of Independent Theater received a $16,000 grant to provide advocacy trainings to its members, with a focus on encouraging its membership to form arts committees on community boards.

A $25,000 grant will help Theatre of the Oppressed NYC use a theatrical strategy – its “legislative theater” model – to engage New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS in recommending policy change to and with local officials.

Grant to Improve the Advocacy Capacity of New York City Arts Groups

Pursuant to its goal to strengthen the City’s arts advocacy network, the Fund awarded a $33,250 grant to the Advocacy Institute to train arts advocates in local and state legislative advocacy. During the grant period, the Institute will help City arts advocates understand and untangle the most frequent and challenging barriers to advocacy, including political dynamics, legislative processes, and practical lobbying skills. More specifically, it will deliver a two-day training for 25 arts groups, which will give arts advocates a concrete understanding of legislative advocacy and related key players in local and state politics, and offer concrete examples of arts-related legislative advocacy that serve as case studies for training attendees.

    Grants to Implement Collaborative Projects to Improve Arts Advocacy and Advance Cultural Equity

    In December 2016, the Fund awarded $325,000 in grants to support projects stemming from its 2015 Cultural Advocacy and Equity Program. 

    In September 2015, the Fund completed its Cultural Advocacy and Equity Program, which afforded 49 arts advocates the time and space to collectively generate ideas for improving advocacy coordination and fostering an equitable arts ecosystem. At the end of the Program, the Fund invited proposals for six-month planning grants of up to $15,000 each, to help groups further develop their ideas into actionable project plans. In December 2015, six coalitions received planning grants to develop programs to advance cultural equity and enhance citywide advocacy coordination. The Trust subsequently made implementation grants to the following projects:

  • With a $125,000 grant, BRIC will work with the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), Mark Morris Dance Group, and Theatre for a New Audience to pilot the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship, a salaried fellowship for emerging arts administrators from historically underrepresented groups. The coalition intends for this program to be a replicable, scalable model and will share a public report on the program’s pilot year.
  • A $75,000 grant will help El Puente work with Arts & Democracy, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Hester Street Collaborative, and NOCD-NY to use its Blueprint for Culturally Healthy Communities, a document that details eight guiding principles of a “culturally healthy community,” in community planning processes in Bushwick and Gowanus, two of the neighborhoods that the de Blasio administration has identified for re-zoning.
  • Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York will use $125,000 to work with its collaborators (such as Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education, Community Voices Heard, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement, and Staten Island Arts) to coordinate a citywide program to increase creative expression and artistic development in public housing communities. Activities will take place in public housing sites around the City, such as Betances, Bushwick, Ingersoll, Fulton, Chelsea-Elliot, Queensbridge, Red Hook, and Park Hill/Stapleton.

Grants Supporting Community Organizing around the Cultural Plan

New York City is the only major metropolitan area in the country that still lacks a cultural plan. In May 2015, Mayor de Blasio signed legislation that addresses this gap in policy and requires the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to develop a comprehensive cultural plan by July 1, 2017. 

In June 2016, the Fund sent out a request for proposals to support community organizing activities around the City’s cultural planning process, which launched last month under the leadership of Hester Street Collaborative. The planning process includes a period of data collection and community input that will inform the priorities, language, and policies in the cultural plan. The following groups were awarded grants to ensure that a plurality of voices and perspectives influence the development of the plan:

  • AMERINDA, to ensure that the Native American arts community is included in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000);
  • Asian American Arts Alliance, to ensure that the needs of Asian American New Yorkers and Asian American artists are included in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000);
  • BRIC, to ensure that the needs of the Downtown Brooklyn arts community are included in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000);
  • Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, to produce policy recommendations that advance a cultural, social, and fiscal equity agenda in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000);
  • Center for Arts Education, to ensure that arts education is a key component in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000);
  • King Manor Museum, to ensure ethnically diverse communities in Southeast Queens are included in the City’s cultural plan ($7,000);
  • Loisaida, to ensure that Latino arts communities in Lower Manhattan are included in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000);
  • Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, to assess the cultural sector’s understanding of advocacy and ensure that both academic and professional performing arts are represented in the cultural plan ($10,000);
  • New York Foundation for the Arts, to ensure that individual artists are included in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000); and
  • Staten Island Arts, to ensure that Staten Island artists and arts groups are included in the City’s cultural plan ($10,000).
Additionally, the Fund made a grant of $33,500 to Hester Street Collaborative, which will collaborate with Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts and the Interaction Institute for Social Change to provide facilitation training to the community organizing grantees listed above. The training will strengthen grantees’ capacity to facilitate meaningful dialogue around the City’s cultural plan. Participants will learn creative and interactive methods for keeping discussions on track, leveraging diverse viewpoints, and sharing ideas that value the contributions of all community members.

Grant to Enable Racial Equity Training and Coaching for 60 Arts Groups

In September 2016, the Fund awarded a $400,000 grant to Race Forward to provide racial equity training, coaching, and planning support to 60 arts groups. Over the 18-month grant period, Race Forward will conduct a training series and technical assistance program that will guide participants through its racial justice curriculum and provide coaching to ensure that participants create work plans to advance racial equity at their respective organizations. Groups participating in the program will receive participant stipends, and a select number of program participants will be awarded bonus stipends of $10,000 to implement their racial equity work plans. 

In making this request for proposals to support racial equity trainings for local arts and cultural groups, the advisory committee was inspired by recent efforts in Seattle, Nashville, and San Francisco to similarly stimulate sector-wide learning and planning to advance racial equity.

Grants to Plan Collaborative Projects to Improve Arts Advocacy and Advance Cultural Equity

Upon completion of the Fund’s Cultural Advocacy & Equity Program, participants were invited to apply for planning grants to further develop their ideas into collaborative projects. (At the end of the planning period, grantees will be considered for substantial implementation grants.) The planning grant RFP required projects to be supported by at least two organizations that participated in the Program, and it encouraged groups to include additional organizations beyond the Program as partners.  It also prioritized projects that fall into at least one of the following categories:

  1. Building advocacy infrastructure, including tools, mechanisms, and systems to engage in civic and electoral processes and effectively advocate for arts and culture;
  2. Cultural organizing, to motivate involvement in issues related to arts and culture and build a base to influence public policy; and
  3. Cultural leadership development, to develop and diversify the pipeline of professional leaders in arts and culture, including artists, staff, and board members.

In 2015, the Fund awarded $90,000 in six-month planning grants ($15,000 each) to the following six groups:

  • BRIC, to plan for an ethnically-diverse arts management fellowship program (to be piloted in Downtown Brooklyn) with the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Theatre for a New Audience;
  • El Puente, to create a blueprint for integrating arts and culture into neighborhood planning with Arts & Democracy, Elders Share the Arts, Groundswell, and Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York;
  • Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York, to plan for and test new ways to integrate arts and culture into public housing, in partnership with Arts & Democracy, Bronx Council on the Arts, Casita Maria, El Puente, Friends of the High Line, Groundswell, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Staten Island Arts, and The Laundromat Project; 
  • New York City Arts Coalition, to plan for a potential merger with One Percent for Culture;
  • New York Foundation for the Arts, to explore ways to improve diversity within the nonprofit cultural workforce, in partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Museum, Harlem Stage, The Lark, Park Avenue Armory, and Printed Matter; and
  • People’s Climate Arts, to develop a training program, with Arts & Democracy and The Laundromat Project, for using creative strategies to advance social movements.

Grants Supporting Research

  • The Fund has made two grants totaling $244,035 to the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project. For more than 20 years, this Project has conducted research that demonstrates non-economic value generated by the arts. The group will develop comprehensive measures of social wellbeing for New York City—including an inventory of cultural assets—and document the relationship between wellbeing and the City’s cultural ecology. It completed its research in December 2016, and published its findings in March 2017.
  • The Fund has made two grants totaling $80,215 to The Graduate Center of the City University of New York to pilot a new cultural policy research fellowship, which is jointly overseen by CUNY’s Center for Urban Research and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The fellow received training in data analysis and visualization in her first year. Throughout her fellowship, she has been producing reports and briefs on current arts policy issues, harnessing existing datasets to produce materials for public dissemination, and contributing to public dialogue through events and various media. Over the course of 2017, the fellow will publish two studies – one on City support to arts education in public schools and one on the City’s IDNYC cultural memberships program – as well as conduct a longitudinal study on arts education in New York City public schools.

Grants Supporting Technical Assistance

In April 2015, the Fund developed its Cultural Advocacy & Equity Program, a series of four workshops to afford 49 arts advocates space, time, and resources to collectively generate ideas for improving advocacy coordination and fostering an equitable arts and culture landscape. The Fund worked with Race ForwardThe Opportunity Agendai2i Experience, and Hester Street Collaborative to provide these workshops. The following groups were awarded $2,000 grants to participate in the Program.

  • Alice Austen House
  • Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts
  • Artist Volunteer Center
  • Arts & Democracy Project
  • Asian American Arts Alliance
  • Asian American Writers’ Workshop
  • BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn
  • Bronx Council on the Arts
  • Bronx Museum of the Arts
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music
  • Brooklyn Arts Council
  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute
  • Center for Arts Education
  • Chamber Music America
  • Children’s Museum of the Arts
  • Dance/NYC
  • El Museo del Barrio
  • El Puente de Williamsburg
  • Elders Share the Arts
  • The Field
  • Flushing Town Hall
  • Gibney Dance
  • Groundswell Community Mural Project
  • Harlem Arts Alliance
  • Harlem Stage
  • HB Studio
  • Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy
  • Lark Play Development Center
  • The Laundromat Project
  • Lewis Latimer Historic House Museum
  • Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
  • The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
  • Museum of Chinese in America
  • Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts
  • National Museum of the American Indian-New York
  • Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York
  • New York City Arts Coalition
  • New York Foundation for the Arts
  • One Percent for Culture
  • Park Avenue Armory
  • People’s Climate Arts
  • Printed Matter
  • The Public Theater
  • Queens Museum
  • Spaceworks
  • Staten Island Museum
  • White Columns


To encourage ongoing dialogue among arts advocates and members of philanthropy, the Fund regularly organizes briefings. For instance, to date:

  • Researchers Mark Stern and Susan Seifert from the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project briefed arts and cultural advocates and funders on preliminary findings from their New York City research. Edwin Torres, acting commissioner of the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, also provided an update on the City’s forthcoming cultural planning process.
  • The Fund brought together cultural advocates, City government, and arts funders to learn from other cities that have taken on cultural planning, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and Tucson. (Watch the below video recording to learn how New York City can better prepare for the cultural planning it will soon undertake.)
  • Researchers from the Social Impact of the Arts Project briefed City arts and cultural advocates on their plans for City research. 
  • University of Texas at Arlington researchers Carl Grodach, James Murdoch, and Nicole Foster shared findings from Art Spaces, Art Places: Examining Neighborhood Preferences of New York Arts Organizations. The report found a lack of association between NYC arts groups and poor neighborhoods. It also challenged the assumption that the arts tend to locate in ethnic and disadvantaged neighborhoods. 
  • The Fund hosted a public convening at El Museo del Barrio that explored real-life policy and research programs that have implications for the future of the City’s cultural policy. The event featured discussions on cultural and racial equity in practice, featuring speakers from Seattle and Nashville’s arts agencies, as well as local arts advocates, funders, and government officials.

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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.