State legislators and local leaders gathered at ArtsWestchester in White Plains Friday, May 7, to celebrate a $1 million award that will be enable the organization to help arts groups in Westchester and Rockland counties recover from the pandemic recession through the new Restart the Arts Grant Program.
The $1 million allocation in the 2021-22 state budget will allow ArtsWestchester to aid local organizations as they reopen or resume their programming. State legislators announced the award at a ceremony that also saw the reopening of ArtsWestchester’s Gallery after more than a year with the exhibit “Together apART: Creating During COVID” (through Aug. 1), showcasing works in a variety of visual, performance and literary media by more than 220 Hudson Valley artists.
“Like us, many of our affiliate arts and cultural venues have been shuttered for more than a year operating virtually but with closed doors. They now require an enormous – and costly – effort to reopen safely,” said ArtsWestchester CEO Janet T. Langsam. “I’m profoundly grateful to our state legislators for understanding the urgent need for these recovery grants. The new funds will help arts and cultural groups restart their public programs and make a comeback in the Hudson Valley in 2021.”
A 2020 survey completed by ArtsWestchester found that 87% of responding arts groups reported that they were not faring well through the pandemic and two-thirds of local artists were unemployed. The 2020 national creative worker unemployment rate was estimated at 63%.
Said State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, “It was wonderful to be with ArtsWestchester and CEO Janet Langsam for the reopening of their White Plains gallery today. The Westchester arts community has been hard hit by social distancing and lockdown measures at the height of the pandemic. This is why I, along with my Senate colleagues, fought for $1 million in funding for ArtsWestchester to ensure our local arts community emerges from this pandemic with the resources needed to come back stronger than ever. Today marks the start of that comeback.”
The “ReStart the Arts” initiative was an effort led by the Affiliate Committee of ArtsWestchester, a group of arts leaders who serve as ArtsWestchester board members.
“Organizations need to reconfigure and rebuild spaces, rewrite curricula, reconnect with audiences and artists and develop new content and presentation models that respond both to social distancing and social justice,” says Genia Flammia, board president of Youth Theater Interactions in Yonkers.
Adds Dave Steck, founder and executive director of the Yonkers-based YoFi Fest: “Right now there is a critical need for assistance, specifically for Westchester and Rockland counties’ arts communities, which represent one of the state’s most artistically vibrant areas outside of New York City. Westchester and Rockland’s economy cannot recover unless we restart the arts.”
For more, visit artswestchester.org.