Diversity Disparity

NYC’s new cultural plan is a roadmap through changing times

Art East
NYC's new cultural plan is a roadmap in changing times. (Garrett Ziegler/ Flickr)
NYC's new cultural plan is a roadmap in changing times. (Garrett Ziegler/ Flickr)

Since the NYC Mayor’s Office released its first cultural planCreateNYC, in July, many have taken stock of the work that must be done to build equitable access to cultural institutions and increase staff diversity.

Recently the New York Times released new data on several of NYC’s major cultural institutions that illuminates a striking disparity between institutions with and without a focus on racial parity among its employees and board members. The data show that while some institutions do employ staff members representative of their communities, boards and senior leadership are largely white. In the case of Studio Museum in Harlem both the staff and the leadership reflect the broader racial diversity of NYC.

All cultural institutions currently receiving city funds must submit diversity plans within the first year of CreateNYC in order to continue receiving public support. While achieving more representative leadership is a high priority within the first year, accountability measures have also been set to ensure that cultural institutions are increasing access for those with disabilities and abiding by the city’s aggressive sustainability goals. These two provisions in particular will have an effect on the way private institutions that accept public money will develop their capital investments strategies and set the stage (so to speak) for progressive architectural environments.

While CreateNYC has been in the works for months, cultural landmarks and institutions are receiving renewed attention as central figures in a national debate over identity following the traumatic events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Earlier this month Mayor De Blasio called for a 90-day review of New York City’s “symbols of hate,” commissioning a panel that will develop methods for altering or potentially removing public objects that espouse hate or intolerance of any kind. Now, the city is considering placing explanatory plaques next to controversial monuments that will contextualize the racist actions of the people they depict for a contemporary audience.

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