New York City has named 11 nonprofit cultural organizations as recipients of $2 million in funding to develop a more diverse workforce on the management side of the performing arts. The money will be used to create “a more diverse pipeline of paid training and mentorship opportunities,” according to the announcement from the city’s cultural affairs department, “to cultivate a more inclusive and dynamic workforce, connect with new audiences, and promote a theater sector that is open and accessible to all New Yorkers.”
The funded groups include some of the city’s most prominent nonprofits. The largest grants, $250,000 each, will go to the Theatre Development Fund, which operates the TKTS discount ticket booths and helps develop audiences for new shows; New York Theatre Workshop, in the East Village; and the Roundabout Theatre Company, which operates three Broadway theaters and two off-Broadway. TDF’s grant will place apprentices in the TKTS booth in Times Square “as an access point to employment on Broadway…and hands-on training in theater box office management.” NYTW’s grant will underwrite the expansion of its development program for young theater professionals “to include people from underrepresented communities who are seeking careers in arts administration.”
The Roundabout will partner with IATSE, the stagehands union, to “bridge the gap between existing development initiatives for young adults and entry-level jobs in the professional technical theater industry.” Similarly, the Brooklyn Academy of Music will receive $227K for an apprenticeship program to “engage individuals from underrepresented communities in rigorous stagehand and production training, teaching them new skills through hands-on work experience…giving them recognized credentials in the field of theater production and placing them on a secure career path.”
The funding source for the grants is fees collected when Broadway landlords sell “air rights” over their landmarked theaters to developers within the district. The Theater Subdistrict Fund is administered by a not-for-profit corporation whose members include mayoral appointees from both the administration and the theater community. (Current members of the council include director George C. Wolfe, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and producer Daryl Roth.)
Since its inception in 1998, the Theater Subdistrict Council has raised some $9 million from such fees. Most recently, for example, the air above Broadway’s smallest house, the Helen Hayes, was “transferred” to two nearby developers for $25 million, generating $1.03 million for the Theater Subdistrict Fund, according to city records. So no funds are being diverted from the city budget for the program. Critics of the council and the fund have argued for a significant increase in contributions to the fund as development in the theater district has soared, and for allocating more of the funds to small businesses with the district to retain its historic character. In November, the City Planning Commission approved a significant increase in the fee for transferring air rights, despite opposition from theater owners and real estate interests, who will continue to fight it as the measure goes before the city council.
The new grants do, however, represent a step in making New York’s cultural workforce more representative of the city itself.
“New York is a theater town,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in announcing the grants. “With the help of the Theater Subdistrict Council, New York can take the lead in expanding access to good paying career opportunities in theater for historically underrepresented communities, paving the way for theater to remain a vibrant sector that speaks to all New Yorkers.”
“Theater has always played a significant role in reflecting and celebrating our diverse city,” Miranda said in the announcement. “I am so proud to be part of an organization that benefits our theaters and allows them to cultivate rising talent and bring fresh perspectives on and off the stage. This targeted investment will help ensure new stories get told for years to come.”
Programs supported by the TSC Round 5 grant program will take place between January 2017 and June 2018. The other grant recipients are:
• BRIC ($200K): Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship fellows will spend a year working with and receiving mentorship from staff at a consortium of organizations in Downtown Brooklyn: BRIC, Theatre for a New Audience, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), and Mark Morris Dance Group.
• Epic Theater Ensemble ($175K): EPIC Next, a mentorship program to identify and develop future leaders in theater from traditionally underrepresented communities in New York City.
• Harlem Stage ($200K): An administrative fellowship program to provide full-time on-the-job training, mentorship, and networking opportunities.
• Manhattan Theatre Club ($175K): To increase diversity in its internship and fellowship programs, which serve as pipelines for developing future staff for MTC and across the theater community.
• New 42nd Street ($225K): A yearlong fellowship in the inner workings of The New 42nd Street/New Victory Theater to develop the skills, resources, and experience needed to transition into full time employment within the theater industry.
• Teatro SEA ($200K): Training program to provide participants with the skills necessary to pursue a career in technical theater.
• Theater Breaking Through Barriers ($80K): Management apprenticeship program for disabled artists who want to become arts administrators.
“Most of the people involved in creating great theater never appear on stage,” said NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner and TSC Chair Tom Finkelpearl. “Thanks to this new funding from the Theater Subdistrict Council, we can help encourage the next generation of artists, technical workers, administrators, and leaders and expand the horizons of New York’s dynamic theater community. These programs will feed energy and new talent into the Theater Subdistrict, an amazing and vibrant zone in the cultural life in New York City.”