NY Artists receives guaranteed income in ambitious program


Creative Rebuild New York | Negative Space

Natalie Cardona

A new initiative will help New York based artists get a guaranteed income for the next year and a half.

The  Creatives Rebuild New York announced that it will be spending $43.2 million to distribute grants to 2,400 artists in the state. It is the largest statewide guaranteed income program in the country, thus far.

Recipients began receiving monthly payments of $1,000 dollars for 18 months with no-stringsattached starting Nov. 17.

Artists are essential to New York’s culture and economic health. Arts and culture come in second, under the tourism industry, providing $120 billion to New York state’s economy.

New York state lost 50%of its performing arts jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. New York City was hit the hardest with a job loss of 72%.

The program was first announced in 2021 and received more than 22,000 applications.

Recipients were selected at random to ensure equal distribution. Residents facing financial strain due to systematic barriers were prioritized.

CRNY describes an artist as “someone who regularly engages in artistic or cultural practice.” Qualifying disciplines include crafts, dance, design, film, literary arts, media arts, music and theater.

Applicants ranged from 18 to 65 years old with 62%of recipients identifying as BIPOC and 51%are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Over half of the participants live in New York City.

The CRNY is a $125 million initiative, receiving $115 million in funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, $5 million from the Stavros Niarchos Foundations, and $5 million from the Ford Foundation.

The idea for the program began when Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation, worked on the Reimagine New York Commission, a state panel working to rebuild New York, post-COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we continue to envision and work towards our post-pandemic reality,” Alexander said.  “It’s critical that we not overlook the artist workers whose labor is an essential part of our economy and whose continued work sustains us.”

The program provides artists with an alternative to the competitive system of fellowships and grants that tend to be distributed unequally.

“We’re thrilled that this program helps artists meet their basic needs, and we are hopeful that Guaranteed Income for Artists serves as a model for larger scale, policy-based solutions in the future” Emil Kang, the leadership council chair of CRNY, said.

The grant is helpful to artists like recipient Kristen Brooks Sandler, who sees it as a “relief,” according to Hyperallergic.   “I didn’t realize how stressful that was until I received this funding,” she said.

Approximately 62%of participants stated they had no financial safety net prior to the program, according to Artnet News Artists were forced to take on side jobs to make ends meet. The initiative will allow artists to dedicate more time to their work.

CRNY will also provide jobs to 300 artists working with community-based organizations. Participants will receive an annual salary of $65,000 for two years. Participating organizations will receive grants between $25,000 and $100,000.

Direct income programs have gained momentum since the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities like San Francisco and Saint Paul launched similar programs providing guaranteed income for artists.

There are 33 guaranteed income programs active across the country. Programs across the country include guaranteed income for new mothers, recently incarcerated people, and families living under the poverty level.