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New York isn’t New York without artists.

$125M toward Artists' Futures

Artists inspire us and illuminate our shared human experience. They are storytellers and preserve our histories. Artists in communities imagine new approaches to our greatest challenges and bring their creativity to everything from building collective power and facilitating collaboration to cultivating individual agency and advancing well-being.

Artists are also critical to the health of our economy. The arts and culture industries typically generate around $120 billion in revenue for New York State and account for nearly half a million jobs. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has lost half of its performing arts jobs.¹

Support for New York’s artists and for the organizations that support their vital work is critical for a full economic and social recovery of the state, which relies on the arts and culture for 8 percent of its economy.
Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY) is a three-year, $125 million initiative that will provide guaranteed income and employment opportunities for up to 2,700 artists throughout New York State. These two components will work to alleviate unemployment of artists, continue the creative work of artists in partnership with their communities and arts and cultural organizations, and enable artists to continue working and living in New York State under less financial strain.
Simply put, we must move beyond valuing the artistic product and begin to value the humanity of the artist. Artists need and deserve to be paid predictable and regular incomes.
CRNY aims to catalyze systemic change in the arts and cultural economy, recognize the value of artists’ contributions, and reshape society’s understanding of artists as workers who are vital to the health of our communities. The work will center the knowledge and expertise of artists and practitioners; distribute funds where they are needed most; and be evaluated equitably such that learnings can be replicated and integrated into future policy. Artists will serve as critical thought-partners in the design and implementation of both programs.

1. Nationally, the unemployment rate for some artists is as high as 55 percent, compared to an overall unemployment rate of 8.5 percent. https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/COVID-Outlook-Week-of-1.4.2021-revised.pdf

What CRNY will offer artists

CRNY’s guaranteed income program will provide monthly, no-strings-attached payments to up to 2,400 artists with financial need.

CRNY’s employment program will provide funding for 300 artists to be employed by dozens of small-to-midsize community arts organizations statewide. Three days per week, artists will bring their creativity to bear in service of the organization; on the other two workdays, they will be free to pursue their own creative practice. Participating artists will receive a full-time base salary expected to be commensurate with New York State median income data plus benefits. Participating organizations will receive overhead relief and opportunities for capacity-building support.

These programs and funding will be dedicated solely to artists whose primary residence is in New York State.

Designed for artists, with artists

Artists will serve as critical thought-partners in the conceptualization and implementation of both the guaranteed income pilot and the employment program. As key members of an advisory group and in collaboration with CRNY leadership, artists will help map out a process that will address the specific employment needs and unique challenges artists face in building a long-term sustainable livelihood.

The advisory group will also include policymakers, researchers, organizers, storytellers, community-based organization leaders, workforce development folks, and those who love and care about the arts across New York State.

Our projected timeline
  • July 1 — Advisors announced
  • August 31 — Details of participation process and timeline announced
What guaranteed income means

“A guaranteed income is a monthly, cash payment given directly to individuals. It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements. A guaranteed income is meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net and can be a tool for racial and gender equity.” That’s from Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a national, nonpartisan mayoral coalition advocating for basic income.

CRNY’s guaranteed income work joins with that of municipalities, policymakers, community leaders, and activists from across the US who are engaging in public conversations about guaranteed income and economic stability for artists and other community members who are living with financial uncertainty.

Why CRNY matters

Arts and culture contribute $120 billion to New York State’s economy and are a main driver of the $177 billion tourism industry. The sector also accounts for nearly half a million jobs. Since COVID-19, the state has lost 50 percent of its performing arts jobs over the course of 2020. In New York City, the figure is 72 percent—more than any other industry. To fully recover the health of our economy and our communities, we must place artists at the center of large-scale investment and relief efforts. CRNY will do just that.

Philanthropic partners

CRNY represents a $125 million funding commitment, anchored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, including $10 million in support from the Stavros Niarchos and Ford Foundations.

Our commitment to equity

CRNY is committed to confronting racial and wealth inequities and to developing effective strategies to move all of us toward an equitable future. CRNY will be designed to reach artists deeply rooted in and reflective of historically under-resourced communities, with specific attention to addressing the pandemic’s startling and disparate impact on artists who come from, and serve, communities of color.

Background, beginnings, and future of CRNY

The ideas are not new, but the sense of urgency is. Artists have been grappling with these issues for some time. Inspired by the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) Artists Project of 1978–80, CRNY is an extension of Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander’s work on the governor’s Reimagine New York Commission and was further developed in collaboration with Emil J. Kang, Program Director for Arts and Culture at Mellon. The initiative’s launch is being led by Sarah Calderon, who was previously managing director of ArtPlace America.

It is our hope that CRNY will catalyze a national movement of broad-based employment and guaranteed income programs that are inclusive of artists and will help communities understand the many ways that artists contribute—as teachers, changemakers, and culture-bearers.

Get in touch with us

We’re sure you have questions.

If you’ve already emailed us, you will receive program details as soon as materials are available.

Need to sign up? Click here to sign up for communications about CRNY’s work.