Artful Spending

NYC increases Percent for Art program funding for the first time in 35 years

Art East
Portrait of a Young Reader by Iñigo Manglano Ovalle at the Bronx Library Center by Richard Dattner and Partners Architects. One of the city's many's Percent for Art projects. (Courtesy NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.)
Portrait of a Young Reader by Iñigo Manglano Ovalle at the Bronx Library Center by Richard Dattner and Partners Architects. One of the city's many's Percent for Art projects. (Courtesy NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.)

Since its inception in 1982, New York City’s Percent for Art program hasn’t seen a funding increase, though that changed last Wednesday with new legislation signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The 35-year-old program provides funding for public art, requiring that one percent of the city budget for construction projects is allocated for public artwork. To date, the program has commissioned more than 350 artworks in public spaces and currently has almost 100 works in progress.

“Public art plays a crucial role in capturing the extraordinary energy and diversity of this city,” said de Blasio in a press release. “The improvement of the Percent for Art program strengthens the City’s ability to invest in public works of art and the local artists who create it.” In its original form, the program set aside one percent of the first $20 million intended for public projects for public works of art, approximately $1.5 million annually. The new legislation sets aside one percent of the first $50 million instead, increasing the annual budget to $4 million in order to account for inflation.

“We’re ready to work with residents more closely than ever before on bringing extraordinary works of art to their communities, and to bring the amount of funding available in line with the law’s original intent,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. Other new bills passed with this legislation aim to increase the transparency of the program and ensure diversity and community involvement. For example, the city hopes that providing artwork submission information in multiple languages will increase community input. Additionally, the Department of Cultural Affairs will collect and share data about the artists selected to ensure a diverse group is receiving these commissions.

This is the largest package of bills signed into law in the history of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, according to Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the committee and helped sponsor the bills. For more information about the Percent for Art program or to see other works of art the program has sponsored, visit here.

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