New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Commissioner Laurie Cumbo today announced over $58 million in Cultural Development Fund (CDF) grants to 1,070 cultural organizations across the five boroughs. This year’s process introduced a series of equity reforms dedicated to identifying and reducing biases in DCLA’s grantmaking process, and saw the return of the competitive, peer-panel review process for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a record investment from the Adams administration and the City Council, DCLA awarded the most funding to the largest number of cultural organizations ever, marked by major boosts for smaller groups and organizations led by people of color, as well as an increase in the number of groups receiving city support for the first time. The CDF awards also continue to invest in priorities like language and disability access, as well as individual artists, and includes an infusion of funds from Mayor Adams’ “Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery.”
“Throughout our city, we have a multitude of diverse cultural organizations that reflect the rich history of New Yorkers that have been hidden for too long,” said Mayor Adams. “This administration believes in uplifting these cultural groups with our words and our dollars. By utilizing equity reforms, we are spreading the investments to not only our well-known cultural organizations, but to this city’s smaller, local, and more diverse groups that reflect the histories of all New Yorkers. No matter in what borough, New Yorkers can learn about some of the unique cultures in their own backyards or in locations across the city. I am proud to support and invest in our cultural groups to ensure we are all connected as one.”
The ongoing reforms integrated into the CDF process significantly impacted the outcome of this year’s awards. Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of grantees received more funding thanks mainly to increases in minimum award sizes (e.g. the minimum grant for the smallest organizations increased from $5,000 to $10,000) — marking the first time these awards have increased since 2008. Smaller groups benefitted tremendously: those with budgets of $25,000 or less saw a 19 percent higher rate of funding success from the previous competitive grant cycle; the average baseline awards for groups with budgets under $250,000 increased by 67 percent, from $8,300 to $13,900.
Minority-led groups saw significant increases in funding. More than four-fifths (82 percent) of groups that identify as being led by or founded by people of color saw an increase in their baseline awards. There was also an increase in the number of awards for first-time applicants due to an effort to welcome groups that had never applied before or had not applied in more than two years: 125 groups in this category received funding, versus just 47 in the previous competitive grant cycle. This helps ensure that city funding continues to reach communities, delivers services in every corner of the city, and gives groups access to new pathways for growth and investment.
The number of organizations receiving multi-year award commitments increased by 41 percent compared to the last competitive grant cycle. This was thanks to a major component of DCLA’s reform process expanding multi-year award eligibility to all DCLA grantees, something which was previously available only to larger organizations. Multi-year awards offer new stability to groups who can count on city support for more than one year at a time and reduces the time and capacity required to submit annual applications.
Overall, 80 percent of all applicants received funding. This is a remarkably high rate of success for funders and furthers DCLA’s mission to steward public dollars in a way that supports broad access to cultural programming in all corners of New York City. The Fiscal Year 2023 CDF marks the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began that DCLA conducted a competitive, peer-panel review process. The return of the panel process allowed for new applicants to receive city funding and for groups to be evaluated based on the strength of their applications and services to New Yorkers. The panels also saw changes, with an increased honorarium for panelists, recognizing their expertise and time commitment, and dedicated efforts to recruit new panelists to participate in the process. Additional reforms included virtual panels and a streamlined application process that was moved entirely online — eliminating the need to deliver materials to DCLA’s offices in Lower Manhattan, which posed an unfair burden on groups in other areas of the city. These reforms are part of an ongoing, active pilot that will have and will continue to engage all applicants participating in the process.
“As the primary steward of chamber music globally, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s abilities to share this joyous art form with the next generation and to ensure that our work is accessible to all New Yorkers are critical to the future of chamber music,” said Suzanne Davidson, executive director, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. “The generous award we received from the Department of Cultural Affairs for our youth education and community engagement programs is essential to making this possible. CMS is so grateful to DCLA for its commitment to strengthening arts and culture for all in our beloved hometown. Thank you.”
“The Astoria Film Festival is so very grateful to receive this funding from the Cultural Development Fund (CDF) through the Department of Cultural Affairs,” said Nina Fiore EdM, founding director, Astoria Film Festival. “We have been doing our workforce development work as a labor of love the past few years, and we were not sure if we could continue, given that it was all run through volunteer work and minimal funds. With this award, we are heartened to know that we can continue and even expand our programming. We are committed to our youth and our community, and to promoting representation of historically-ignored groups in the media industry, both in front of and behind the camera, and this grant helps us do just that.”
“It is wonderful to see the Department of Cultural Affairs continue to manifest the goals outlined in CreateNYC by supporting more people of color centered organizations, extending more multiyear grants, and expanding more disability access,” said Kemi Ilesanmi, executive director, The Laundromat Project and chair, Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission. “Each of these investments makes our city and cultural landscape more equitable, sustainable, joyful, and culturally rich for all.”
The $58.1 million — representing $52 million in mayoral funds and $6.1 million in City Councilmember items — includes:
- Equity-based increases for groups located or operating in underserved communities: $2.5 million was directed to groups to 568 groups working in underserved communities, including 33 priority neighborhoods established by the city’s Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity, as well as neighborhoods identified by the Social Impact of the Arts Project.
- Disability and Language Access: Mayoral funding also included $1 million for two programs that grew from CreateNYC cultural plan — the Disability Forward Fund and Language Access Fund — which have been integrated into this round of grants. For Disability Forward, 49 organizations received support for programs that engage people with disabilities as artists, cultural workers, and audience members. For Language Access, 55 groups received support for programming that increases access to arts and culture for those whose primary language is not English.
- Support for artists and small organizations:A total of $2.93 million for regrant to small arts organizations and individual artists in each of the five boroughs was provided, maintaining this historically high level of support for the city’s local cultural producers.
- Support for local priorities: 262 organizations received City Council discretionary member items — funding which supports arts programming in each member’s district.