New York to launch ‘arts revival’ performances with major stars

The public-private partnership, which Cuomo called the “New York Arts Revival,” commences next month and is the most ambitious attempt yet by any state to promote and advance a return to live performances. It underlines the immense impact of the arts on a state like New York, home to Broadway and other major generators of entertainment and tourism revenue.

“We cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on for the arts,” Cuomo said, in the second part of his multiday State of the State address from Albany. “We will not let the curtain fall on their careers or our cities.”

The “New York Arts Revival” project will offer more than 100 performances in parks, public plazas, museums, theaters — even on the backs of trucks — across the state. The programming will be overseen by multidisciplinary artist Zach Winokur, according to those involved in the planning. And it will culminate with the 20th anniversary in June of the Tribeca Film Festival and with the opening of Little Island, a new 2.7-acre public park on Pier 55 in the Hudson River, close to Greenwich Village.

State officials approached Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the film festival, and Broadway and film producer Scott Rudin, who is involved in the programming for Little Island, with the concept of the “arts revival” performances. The notion was, in effect, to roll out events that would whet the appetite of a live-entertainment-starved public, and trumpet the idea that the arts will be back.

The event schedule has not been announced, nor have details of the state’s financial support, although private contributions are expected to be needed, said one of the participants, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the governor.

The announcement comes amid stepped-up federal government efforts to provide aid to arts venues and other facets of the creative economy, one of the sectors hardest hit by covid-19-mandated shutdowns. In New York, Broadway alone contributes about $14 billion to the city’s economy. Last summer, a Brookings Institution report estimated that the creative economy accounts for 8.8 million workers and $1.7 trillion in revenue. And last month, a bill was signed into law providing an unprecedented $15 billion in relief for live-event entertainment venues devastated by the shutdown. The Small Business Administration is compiling the guidelines for venues to apply, according to an SBA spokeswoman.

Several major performance arts organizations around New York City will be among the sites of arts revival events. Among them are the Park Avenue Armory, Harlem Stage, St. Ann’s Warehouse, the National Black Theatre and the Shed.

“We are delighted by Gov. Cuomo’s announcement of a groundbreaking initiative that will allow our cultural spaces to reopen for in-person public performances, health circumstances permitting,” the organizations said in a statement.

“At this administration’s visionary suggestion, we have been working together since June 2020 to develop guidelines for how flexible nonprofit spaces like ours — with flat floors, robust ventilation systems, open performing areas and flexible seating arrangements that can accommodate social distancing — can implement strict health protocols.”

Cuomo noted in his remarks how central the arts are to New York’s identity.

“New York City is not New York City,” he said, “without Broadway.”

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