Regional Reports

New York City: Focus On Dance

Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 9, No 2 (Fall 1998)

Kathleen Pavlick

At the 1997-98 New York Grantmakers in the Arts' program meetings, members agreed to focus on one discipline for a more in-depth look. Dance, perhaps the most beleaguered of all disciplines, was selected as the first test.

It was agreed that the goal was to raise the level of understanding of the needs and issues facing New York City's dance community. NYGIA commissioned Mindy Levine, a respected consultant who is well versed in dance and has completed studies for Dance/USA, to prepare a briefing paper: "New York City's Dance Community: Current Status and Needs."

This paper was intended to be a springboard for discussion among NYGIA members. It was distributed a month in advance, as members were expected to read the entire paper instead of highlights of the report. Additionally, Cynthia Mayeda served as a discussion leader at the first meeting and reiterated that this was not an effort to create a NYGIA initiative. Rather, it was designed to create an informed dialogue among grantmakers including the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Grantmakers described a number of activities that are underway or in development to address the issues confronting dance. These include:

  • The New York State Dance Force is a network of twenty arts organizations from different regions of New York State. It subsidizes important projects such as artist residencies, community outreach, and dance programming. This program is reaching out to new audiences and providing monies to create and present work in a variety of venues.
  • NYSCA has commissioned a feasibility study to identify possibilities for a mid-sized dance venue. The absence of an affordable mid-sized theater for dance is a serious concern. A report from the study is expected in mid to late fall.
  • Pentacle's The Help Desk project is designed to stabilize emerging and mid-career dance artists by pairing artists with experienced managers in a mentoring relationship. Rather than meeting one at a time, grantmakers who were considering support for this initiative met with Pentacle as a group.
  • In response to the briefing paper, the J.M. Kaplan Foundation provided $300,000 for a three-year initiative administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts. BUILD, or Building Up Infrastructure Level in Dance, is designed to develop and sustain emerging and mid-career dance companies.

NYGIA members are now sharing information on their current support for dance. Additionally, sub-committees are addressing the following topics: options for a mid-sized dance venue, how best to support mid-career artists, how best to support emerging artists, and how to help existing presenters better serve the field.

The process has been a valuable experience encouraging grantmakers to share openly. While there is no overall initiative on the part of New York Grantmakers in the Arts, the possibility for informal collaboration is good.

Unprecedented Number of Multi-year Requests for Support

Between October 1997 and June 1998, Chase Manhattan Bank received forty capital or other institutional multi-year requests totaling more than $10.2 million. These represent a considerable increase in both number of requests and amounts sought over prior years. While the geographic spread mirrors Chase's funding priorities, the focus areas of the commitments do not.

The requests from arts organizations continue to increase. As a point of comparison, in 1997 the arts accounted for sixteen percent of the Bank's contributions and between 1992 and 1997, the arts received twenty-six percent of the dollars allocated in multi-year commitments. However, in 1998 the arts grew to forty-seven percent of the new multi-year commitments approved. In addition, we expect at least another fifteen requests this year, and ten will be from large, mainstream arts organizations.

There is every reason to believe that the number of capital campaigns will continue to increase. The New York City Office of the Comptroller has stated that the infrastructure needs are enormous and growing. The cost of bringing City-owned cultural facilities to a state of good repair — meaning that the structure is fully operational for its intended use — has been estimated to be $316 million. This figure is more than double what the City has budgeted for repair over the next ten years and does not include any expansion plans for the cultural institutions.

Two concerns arise from this recent experience: How can Chase address the lack of access to multi-year funding by smaller organizations, and how can it best respond to the continuing demand from major arts institutions?

Chase has a strong commitment to the community. We value mid-sized and emerging arts organizations and realize the need for multi-year funding. In response to this need, in 1997 we introduced the Chase SMARTS Impact Grant program with an annual allocation of $250,000.

The Chase SMARTS Impact program provides increased support on a multi-year basis (two to three years) to organizations with budgets of $1 million or less to support plans for increasing organizational capacity. The Chase SMARTS Program supported twelve out of thirty invitees drawn from a universe of 540 similarly-sized applicants to its main grants program, the Chase Competitive Grant Program. Grants ranged in size from $30,000 over two years to $75,000 over three years. Each recipient submitted clearly defined plans for increasing organizational capacity and the ability to accomplish their goals.

At this point, we are studying the increased demand from the largest arts institutions in order to frame a strategy for Chase. We would like to hear from other grantmakers to understand how they are addressing similar institutional needs.

Kathleen Pavlick, Chase Manhattan Bank