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§ CreateNYC: The Work Begins in Queens….

The October 25th NYC Cultural Plan kickoff event in the Bronx at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture at Hostos Community College was great fun and filled with energy. While it was informative as an introduction to the Cultural Plan process, it was intentionally not focused on the hard work of what we need to do to create and implement NYC’s first ever plan focused on culture.

That work (at least from the public involvement standpoint) really kicked off last night in Queens at the NY Hall of Science. Near the end of the 7 line, the Hall is basically in the same general area as the Queens Museum, beautiful Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the USTA Tennis Center, Queens Botanical Garden, and the Mets’ Citi Field. It’s in a great and diverse part of the city.

The Hall is a terrific venue and last night it was filled by the many faces of the city. All colors, all ages, all gender identities, and a boatload of languages were represented. There was great food and lots of kids running around and playing ping pong. We started with brief remarks before a dance and music performance kicked off the work. The Hester Street team did a great job of moving the process along but still giving us enough time to dig into the issues.

We worked at tables: equity & access, arts education, affordability, neighborhood character, and several for general arts & culture issues. (I was at the latter.)

queensmeeting-2Equity, access, and neighborhood character were key focuses for us though we did have a good discussion on how arts and culture affect overall economic and community development.

I haven’t spent much time in Queens except for a couple of visits to the Queens Arts Museum and walking around Long Island City and Astoria to visit MOMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum, and Socrates Sculpture Park. So it was very interesting to listen to the others at the table who had stronger connections and very different perspectives. I heard about pockets of Queens where arts and culture are not as much a part of the community, where access is limited, and where connections between different cultures are not strong. I was at a table of mostly millennial women and I heard talk of wanting to feel a stronger and more open interaction and a desire to fit into a richer cultural scene.

We ended with report outs by each of the tables (maybe 12-15) and there was much overlap but some veered off into different directions. One thing was consistent between all the tables: we can do better to make arts, culture, creativity, and shared history a part of every New Yorker’s life.

The next event is on my turf in Brooklyn. A good background graphic on the process is here and I’ve added parts of it below in a slideshow.

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§ The First Ever New York City Cultural Plan!

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It’s hard to imagine that a 400-year old city which has historically been a world mecca for culture and the arts has never actually thought about creating an actual cultural plan. Now’s a great time as cities and towns across the world have started to examine and promote their cultural assets and milieu. The task was correctly handed to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs or DCLA as its known. Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl is the perfect leader for this task.

hesterstreetlogoThe Hester Street Collaborative won the contract with a team that includes James Lima Planning + Development, NOCD-NY, BJH Advisors, and House of Cakes Design. It is a massive effort working under a nearly impossible deadline but the city made a great choice. To keep up with the effort bookmark CreateNYC.

The plan public kickoff event was held in the Bronx at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture at Hostos Community College on October 25th. It was a rousing event and a lovely evening. As someone pretty new to NYC (1st anniversary will be December 19th) it was wonderful to see so many of the people in the NYC cultural world I’ve met during 2016 including Charlotte Cohen of the Brooklyn Arts Council, Wendy Feuer of NYC DOT, Jennifer Lantzas of NYC Parks, Susan Chin of the Design Trust for Public Space, and Shirley Levy and Tom Finkelpearl of DCLA.alicesheppard

The event was excellent and very well attended. As I mentioned to Betsy McLean of Hester Street and James Lima of James Lima Planning, it went off like clockwork. It started with a rousing hour of short speeches and beautiful performances – just long enough but not too long. While all the performers were wonderful, Alice Sheppard’s dance was my favorite.

After the performances, everybody stayed for the after event with various informational tables, food, and conversation. I got to make a number of new friends and learned more about the process. It was a tremendous start! Here are a few photos I took:

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FYI, the next big workshop events are in Queens,

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Come to an event! Through the spring of 2017 there will be borough-wide workshops, focus groups, round table discussions, and community-based meetings convened by local organizations. Keep up at Create NYC!