Crowds Protest DE-Funding 3 of Oldest Black Theatres! Write NYS DCA !!
Special speakers Woodie King, Karen Brown and Voza Rivers called for letters to protest DE-funding of oldest most respected Black Theatres by NYS Dept of Cultural Affairs: 31 Chambers St 2fl NYC 10007 WRITE NOW!!!
October 5, 2015. This is Harlem Advocacy Week. Crowds showed for a meeting of Harlem Arts Alliance at MIST on 116th Street in Harlem. The topic? A callous de-funding of the 3 oldest most respected Black Theater Companies in NYC, and indeed the world. Arts leaders gathered hundreds of arts leaders protesting the re-distrubution of Arts funding by NYS Department of Cultural Affairs by so called peer panel members and celebrating excellence in programming by member theaters of the Coalition of Theatres of Color. Oddly, their designated contact Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is on an indefinite sick leave, so the next best contact is the DCA office itself.
The reason for this decision? Says Voza Rivers, “They don’t believe it’s possible for us to produce our programs using such a small staff.” Companies like The NEC, New Federal, Frank Silvera’s Writers Workshop, Nuyorican Poets Cafe and others are honored for sustaining 30 to 50 years on skeleton staffs. Is this new to the DCA? The DCA panel claims New Heritage Rep, New Federal Theater and The Negro Ensemble Company did not, they say, produce the programs they promised. Indeed New Heritage Rep has already fulfilled the programming promised for the entire year within the last 4 months, for NYC and South Africa. Others filled their calendars with expanded quality programming and star power. The Negro Ensemble Co. just successfully completed the play, A Lovely Malfunction by Michael Bradford. Former NEC Training program Actors Intensive students, now stars: Alysia Joy Powell (2010) of NBC’s Mystery’s of Laura and Clinton Lowe (2006) of FUSE TV’s The Hustle returned to laud the expanded training programs at NEC students show, now including dance and play writing. The first program for non union and union eligible actors created by Actor’s Intensive students was led by SAG-Aftra board members and staff on actors rights and diversity.
The panel have pushed the African American and Latin American members of the Coalition of Theaters of Color to share their already minimal funding base with all the cultural organizations in the city.
Part of championing and promoting the work of neighborhood arts groups beyond Manhattan means approaching the role of his department in a more complex way. Two thirds of the $156 million in funding that the DCA distributes go to the 33 members of the city’s Cultural Institutions Group—which includes the Metropolitan, Queens, Brooklyn, and other major museums, as well as smaller groups -MORE in ART WORLD ArtNews :“Tom Finkelpearl Promises to Make New York Livable for Artists”
Over the years, large mainstream theaters have found ways
of undermining and procuring funding
in the name helping spend funds earmarked for smaller cultural groups.
Should we be happy to simply share a meager portion of their space or schedule while they manage our money? Should we further give them control over us in lieu of telling our stories, in our own time, in our own spaces? At present few Black theaters have their own space, while other large organizations continue to gobble government monies to remodel structures that don’t need remodeling and what of grassroots support?
Karen Brown Exec Director of Negro Ensemble Company, Woodie King Exec Director of New Federal Theatre, Voza Rivers and Linda Walton Directors of Harlem Arts Alliance, Jonathan McCrory of National Black Theater, Rome Neal of Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Michael Green of Shades of Truth, Marcia Pendleton of Walk Talk Girl Productions, Robin Bell Stevens of Jazz Mobile, The World Famous Apollo staffers were on hand among many other luminary and relentless Arts organizers from not only the African American, but Latin, Native and Asian indeed many ethnic communities were represented.
Special speakers Woodie King, Karen Brown and Voza Rivers called for letters to protest the NYS Dept of Cultural Affairs 31 Chambers St 2fl NYC 10007 for DE-funding of oldest most respected Black Theatres in NYC.
The definition of “a panel of peers”
Woodie King and Voza Rivers shared that this panel of peers at NYS DCA Department of Cultural Affairs is no longer a group peers but indeed “people that do not like us, and have no understanding for what we do and our impact in the community.”-Woodie King. Karen Brown and Woodie King characterized the move as a gradual attack and calculated attack. Ms Brown goes on to suggested that attacks in the areas of education, culture, entertainment and other numbing tactics are at the heart of what hurts the Black community most. They are calling for communities and supporters of the Arts, culture organizations and individuals to write and communicate with the DCA in regard to this misappropriation of funds.
Nobody got into the arts because it’s good for the economy. You got into the arts because of a particular artistic experience,
the intrinsic rather than the instrumental value of the arts. The instrumental is that it’s good for the economy,
and the intrinsic is that something happens that’s not measurable when you’re at the ballet or looking at a painting.
The problem with making the economic argument is, if you’re basing your entire argument on that and you say, “We should build a new museum because it’s good for the economy,” well, it might be more advantageous for the economy to build a stadium. —- Tom Finkelpearl