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Photo by Andrew McGibbon.

Rebuilding the Arts in NYC

Rebuilding the Arts in NYC

From the Desk of Executive Director Julia C. Levy

Rebuilding the Arts in NYC

In early May, the City established several panels to help the Mayor’s office plan NYC's recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and they invited me to join the Arts, Culture and Tourism Advisory Council along with representatives from film, restaurants, hotels, museums, and other industries. In addition, I've been participating in daily calls that join hundreds of NYC cultural nonprofits, large and small.

In my 35 years in the performing arts, I have never seen our community—across disciplines, across budget size—come together the way we are today. There is no ego. The big institutions are helping our smaller colleagues, and the larger players are getting inspired by the ingenious work smaller organizations are doing to “feed” their neighborhoods with culture. We are coming together to work for one goal, which is recovering as strong as we can.

The cultural community in this city has a can-do attitude in the midst of all the stress, all the pain they're feeling. They are looking at how we can we help the city recover. Because culture is essential to this city economically, of course, but also in terms of education and well-being. People turn to culture as a place for healing.

There’s a clear recognition that the city has no money to spare. So the question becomes, what can we do as a community? How are we going to prepare to be strong to come back, and how are we, most importantly, going to reassure our audiences and our artists when it’s safe that it's okay to come back?

Now I’m in contact with colleagues in this group whom I've never met before, people who I admire for their creativity and their talent and their complete passion for the work that they do. They have an appreciation for and commitment to their community, all of our communities. The reason we will recover together is because we're doing it together. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Hearing how we're all interrelated is sending a really, really powerful message to the city about how we rely on one another. We are all part of the ecology of New York City.

I feel a very sincere responsibility not just to represent Roundabout, but to represent all of our colleagues out there. They invited me as a result of the expansiveness of Roundabout’s programming, and the ongoing partnership we have with the city and the philanthropic community in launching each of these programs. I've always believed that these private/public partnerships are critical. And it's why these agencies—the National Endowment for the Arts, the Small Business Administration, the New York State Council on the Arts, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, The Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment—are crucial.

We’ll need the government—our city government and our state government—to reassure our audiences, our staffs, and our artists when it is safe to go to our venues. We're going to have protocols that are consistent, that are vetted by medical establishment, that we all agree to. We'll ensure we have the support of the unions that govern our vital artists, designers, and technicians. And then, when it’s time and when it’s safe, we're going to need the city to go out and tell everyone in succinct, direct terms, with confidence.

Tourism from outside of New York and the surrounding areas is a longer way off. So for all of us, it benefits us to look locally, to look at local tourism as the force that is going to help us recover. You can go to your local theatre; you can walk there. There are over 200 theaters across five boroughs. When it is safe to do so, go support your local theater, your local museum, your local music venue, your local restaurant, your local hotel.

I am in awe of the extraordinary people who run these institutions, and who do the work they do that make our work possible. Truly, truly in awe. And it is inspiring me to spend more time thinking about way that Roundabout can help them, whether it's with expertise, or connections, or whatever it may be. It's been incredibly gratifying. Because it is bigger than Roundabout. We need everybody. And it really is kind of humbling to know that I was asked—on behalf of Roundabout, on behalf of the community—to be a voice for all of us.