NYC Cultural Sector Not as Diverse as City, Report Finds

While New York City's cultural sector is more diverse than the sector nationally, it does not fully reflect the diversity of the city's population, a report from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs finds.

Based on a survey of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that receive city funding, the report, Diversity in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community, found that the city's cultural workforce is 61.8 percent white and 35.4 percent people of color — including 15.1 percent African American, 10.5 percent Latino, 7.4 percent Asian, and 2.1 percent mixed race — while the city itself is 33 percent white and 67 percent people of color. The report also found that diversity within arts and cultural groups decreases as the size of the organization increases and with seniority, with whites comprising 74 percent of senior staff, 68 percent of mid-level staff, and 55 percent of lower-level staff.

Conducted by Ithaka S+R, with support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the survey also found that organizations with budgets under $250,000 hire on average more minority employees than those with budgets in excess of $10 million, and that folk arts, multi-discipline, and new media organizations were the most diverse, while photography, film/audio, and theater groups were the least diverse.

To address the diversity gap between the city's cultural sector and its population, the Theater Subdistrict Council is exploring a funding initiative of up to $2 million in support of the development and training of theater professionals, with a focus on currently underrepresented groups, while the Department of Cultural Affairs will commit $1 million to its Cultural Institutions Group, which is in addition to the $150,000 contributed by the Ford and Mertz Gilmore foundations and RBF. The department also is working with the City University of New York and a number of philanthropies to fund new pipeline programs that will provide internship and employment opportunities at arts organizations.

"This survey demonstrates that substantial obstacles remain for people of color who want to contribute to the vital work of cultural institutions, particularly in leadership positions that determine which exhibits and performances to present to the public," said Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams. "As a consequence, artists have been deprived of opportunities and our culture has suffered the loss. I appreciate the city's attention to this issue, and I urge our cultural institutions to develop initiatives that help them enhance a genuine reflection of the residents who comprise our five boroughs."