Putting An End to the Pandemic Means Putting Artists Back to Work

Startling new visions and potent interactions blossom when artists live and work in close proximity to innovative arts organizations, schools, and cultural institutions, and daily disciplines of craft are often enriched by the vast multiplicity of human experiences and perspectives offered by our country’s great cities. As Walt Whitman—a New Yorker as well as one of our country’s legendary poets—wrote in “Song of Myself”: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” Whitman’s words give voice to our cities and the artists who invigorate them.

But our artists and our cities—the vibrant, dynamic metropolises many of our artists call home—have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Data have confirmed dizzying mass unemployment numbers for those who work in creative industries, and headlines continue to proclaim mass exoduses from dense urban areas. The arts and culture sector in New York State alone, which typically generates $120 billion a year and supports nearly half a million jobs, was obliterated by the unchecked arrival of COVID-19.

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The speed with which this devastation occurred made the transformations to our cities and our arts communities even more disorienting. In what’s been the most precipitous decline of any economic sector, New York State saw half of all performing arts jobs disappear—a rate that climbs to nearly 70 percent when focused on New York City alone.

As a lifelong acolyte of cities’ rich liveliness, and a devoted resident of New York City, I have thought deeply about how to rectify these grim numbers, and the individual artists they represent—how to help restore our cities from the turbulence of the past year with artists and their work centered in our post-pandemic recovery efforts. Our expansive gratitude knows no bounds for the ingenuity, compassion, and unflagging determination of many workers—health care professionals and scientists foremost among them—that helped us survive the pandemic. Yet crisis forges clarity, and what the crisis of COVID-19 revealed was this: it is artists who sustained us through the pandemic. It is artists who will tell the stories of who we are and what we have lived through. And artists, crucially, are workers, too.

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Just last week, the Mellon Foundation announced details for Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY), a three-year, $125 million initiative to provide thousands of artists, who drive our economy as some of our most dedicated workers, the income and

Source:: Time – Entertainment


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