How Many NY Arts Advocacy Groups Do We Need? Why Not Many?

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The list of widely recognized arts advocacy organizations in New York includes, but may not be limited to, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York City Arts Coalition, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and Alliance for the Arts. But for several months now, one organization has been off the list: NYS Arts, as the CFR covered early last month.

The reason for this post is many of us received the following email from Veronica Claypool, president of the board of directors of the Alliance of New York State Arts Organizations (“more commonly known as the Alliance of New York State Arts Councils”), also known as NYS Arts.

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I thought it would be useful to publish the contents of the email because what I wrote at the beginning of November, with all due respect to the organizations cited at the top of this post, clearly still applies:

It’s a question of what arts advocacy infrastructure we need, who will lead it, and how it will be funded.

….In Albany, I believe we need an arts advocacy organization not interested in preserving the status quo, but in developing proposals for how to better apply, spend and apportion what state cultural funding remains. We need an arts advocacy organization with boots on the ground every day of the year, not just one day a year in, of all months, February. We need an arts advocacy organization that, when the time does come to mobilize troops, understands that email efforts are lame – distinctly late 20th century. I recognize that kicking a dead horse is sort of like animal cruelty, but NYS Arts never struck me in recent years as admirably versed in the fundamental values of arts advocacy.

New York artists – the whole of the New York creative economy – deserves an advocacy organization equipped to pinpoint and drive to the future. Let’s hope the 501(c)(4) advocacy organization that remains can take up the mantle.

This is the email. Who will rise to join the conversation?

As President of the Board of NYS Arts, I would like to thank you, the Legislature and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) for supporting the important work of our organization over the years.

 

As you are aware, NYS Arts has closed operations and is in the process of dissolution. There has been some concern expressed that our closing was due to the elimination of funding by NYSCA. This is not true and I would like to clarify any misunderstanding in that regard.

 

First, it is important to note that NYSCA requires that their funds not exceed 25% of the operational budget of any grantee. For the current fiscal year, NYS Arts did not have the secured funding from other sources to have met this requirement even if the full amount requested was funded. In fact, an independent audit would have showed that we were an ‘ongoing concern’ because of our over-dependence on NYSCA as a primary source of funding.

Secondly, even if we received the NYSCA grant, NYS Arts would still have needed to close and dissolve due to debt and the lack of sufficient funds to continue meaningful operations. Receipt of the NYSCA grant would have likely delayed the hard decisions that our Board of Directors had to make but would have not produced a different result.

 

As odd as it may seem for me to say as Board Chair of NYS Arts, NYSCA made the right decision to not continue funding given that we were not a financially viable or sustainable organization.

 

I would also like to take this opportunity on behalf of our Board of Directors to thank NYSCA for enabling us to access the excellent technical assistance of the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON). Through this support, we have been able to responsibly wind down our affairs and enter what is a complicated dissolution process.

 

Again, thank you for your past support.