On Monday, New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) released “What We Heard,” a report detailing the results of roughly seven months of public engagement conducted in the lead up to the city’s forthcoming cultural plan. The agency engaged 188,000 New Yorkers—via focus groups, phone surveys, and hundreds of community events—in order to compile its brief. “What We Heard” provides a glimpse as to what will likely be included in the cultural plan (due to be released in early July), spanning commitments to equitably distributed funding, better disabled access, and affordable living for artists.
“What We Heard” includes insight into New Yorkers’ cultural habits and perceptions and lays out a list of policy proposals. The findings reveal the robust health and value of the arts in New York, while also showing that issues of inequality and affordability are indeed felt in the cultural sector—an imbalance the cultural plan hopes to mitigate.
Using the plan’s website
, residents can view and vote on the collected proposals, from changes to grant making process to helping students better access cultural opportunities. Residents are also invited to provide in-person feedback at city-wide events through May 31st. Those responses will be “data points,” said DCLA commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, used to further refine the city’s first-ever cultural plan.
And while there will likely still be vigorous debate over plan’s specific points, the agency’s preparatory research shows that the importance of the arts in New York is unambiguous. Arts and culture are highly valued as a part of the city—to the tune of 97%, according to a phone survey conducted by Siena College Research Institute as part of the outreach.
But the disjunction between wealth and access to culture is a significant theme in the findings, with 50% of respondents to the city’s outreach citing cost as a barrier to participating in culture across New York.