Mayor vows more money for Brooklyn arts groups • Brooklyn Paper

Mayor vows more money for Brooklyn arts groups

Mayor Bloomberg (with Speaker Chris Quinn at left) discusses arts funding at a Fort Greene theater group on Wednesday.
Edward Reed

Brooklyn’s cultural organizations could benefit from a flood of cash, thanks to a new pledge by Mayor Bloomberg to distribute $30 million in arts grants based on performance, not politics.

Hizzoner came to Fort Greene on Wednesday to announce the plan, which he says will get public money to smaller arts groups in the boroughs.

“All boroughs will get treated more equally” in the competition for the city’s culture funds, Bloomberg said at the Alliance of Resident Theatres.

The announcement attracted City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and several of her colleagues, plus local arts advocates, to the group’s second-floor performance space.

Double-parked black SUVs clogged tiny South Oxford Street outside.

“Historically, it’s the big cultural institutions, that tend to be located in Manhattan, that are already on people’s radar screens,” the mayor said. “The small cultural organizations in this city are becoming more and more important and they always seem to slip through the cracks.”

The news was literally hailed with an “Amen” by at least one arts advocate in the crowd.

“We’re not a major player,” explained Laurie Cumbo, one of two full-time workers with the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts on nearby Hanson Place. “The idea of getting funding on a serious level is just a dream.”

Last year, several hundred cultural agencies split $22 million in city arts grants. Some have been on the list for decades, while others have to lobby their councilmembers every year. Only a small sliver of the funds — $4 million last year — was awarded on merit.

The mayor’s plan would create a panel to examine how organizations are managed, who they are serving, and their success and distribute the funds accordingly. The process will open the competition to more than 1,000 organizations in an effort to ensure that the groups have stable funding from year to year.

Most importantly, the change could allow cultural organizations to focus on their art, rather than on the art of lobbying City Hall.

“I’m excited about no longer seeing these institutions on the steps of City Hall,” Quinn said, sparking cheers.

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