As Michael R. Bloomberg's third and final term as mayor of New York City draws to an end, nonprofit arts organizations in the city are bracing themselves for an expected drop in support from city coffers and from Bloomberg himself, the reports.
Since 2002, when Bloomberg began his first term as mayor, the city has spent some $2.8 billion on arts and culture-related capital projects, a substantial increase compared to what previous administrations spent. "The impulse has been to try to say yes to projects," Kate Levin, the city's cultural affairs commissioner, told the Times. At the same time, the mayor has directed more than $200 million of his own money — "anonymously" through the and, over the past two years, through his private foundation, — to arts and social service organizations citywide.
As mayor, Bloomberg also has become deeply involved in national issues such as gun violence, obesity, and tobacco addiction. Given that his philanthropic interests may be shifting, arts organizations in the city increasingly are concerned that Bloomberg may cut back on his support for the arts after he leaves office and that his successor, whoever he or she is, will be unable or unwilling to maintain the city's cultural budget at current levels. Those fears were exacerbated by Bloomberg Philanthropies' recent decision to end a two-year-old program that awarded $11 million to more than two hundred and fifty nonprofit arts groups in the region, and by the fact that the foundation has yet to announce whether it will continue to award grants to arts groups it has supported in the past.
In the current fundraising environment for the arts, the loss of a deep-pocketed donor or foundation can spell doom for underresourced organizations. In May, for example, , a recently renovated dance space in lower Manhattan that took a significant revenue hit from Superstorm Sandy, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The fact that it received grants totaling $200,000 from Bloomberg Philanthropies in its first two years, but nothing from the foundation after that, added to its problems.
Experts in the field told the Times that arts groups in the city must adjust their expectations. "When arts organizations lose a grant," said president Michael M. Kaiser, "they have to learn to either reduce their budgets or have developed other sources of funding."