The Democratic candidates for New York City Mayor have announced their plans for the 2021 race. Courtesy of Taryn Elliott via Pexels.com

As New York City and the rest of the world begin to clear a path for a way out of the global pandemic, a year of racial uprisings, and a financial crisis, the 2021 mayoral race could prove to be one of the City’s most crucial yet. Several Democratic candidates have officially secured their positions in the race, releasing their proposals and plans should they take over current Mayor Bill De Blasio’s role. With the Democratic Primaries taking place on June 22, 2021 and the general election happening Nov. 2, 2021, now is the time for New Yorkers to become acquainted with the candidates. Let’s take a look into who they are, what their background is, and how they plan to assist the art and culture community in particular.

Maya Wiley


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Maya Wiley is a lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, currently serving as the senior vice president for social justice at The New School. Previously, she has served as counsel to Di Blasio (2014), chaired the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (2016-2017), and appeared as a legal analyst on MSNBC and NBC News, among many other notable positions. Growing up in Washington D.C., attending Dartmouth College (BA), and attending Columbia University (JD), Wiley is no politician, yet she has big plans to help New York “rise from the ashes of twin pandemics — coronavirus and systemic racism that denies investment to people of color.”

Wiley is also putting thought into the arts. She plans to design a Recovery for Artist and Culture Workers program with $1 billion in new spending and accelerated spending. She hopes to get New York City’s artists and performers back to work by allocating performance and studio spaces, among other capital expenditures that support arts and culture in the City.

Andrew Yang


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Many may remember Andrew Yang from when he ran in the 2020 presidential election, where he participated in seven of the first eight Democratic debates. Following the end of his campaign, Yang joined CNN as a political commentator and announced the creation of his political nonprofit organization Humanity Forward, which has the main goal of bringing American families direct relief, especially during the pandemic. “I moved to New York City 25 years ago,” Yang said. “I came of age, fell in love, and became a father here. Seeing our city the way it is now breaks my heart. What we do in the coming months will determine our city’s trajectory for decades.”

Yang understands the importance of New York City’s art and culture scene, providing a lengthy plan to bring it back from the pandemic. He hopes to strongly utilize technology that provides a record of vaccination status to help patrons and employees feel safer opening indoor spaces at larger capacities. He also outlines the Open Culture Program, which temporarily allows eligible cultural and art institutions and venues to use approved open public street space for cultural events. The Yang administration would then move forward to make this program permanent, promoting performances through a New York City app, that would make New Yorkers aware of the events.

Yang also says his administration would partner with larger institutions to help subsidize rent for resident artists in buildings, work with Broadway producers to show Broadway theater in public parks at lesser fees, and turn bridges, monuments, and buildings into works of art by holding vivid projection mapping displays.

Scott Stringer


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Having been New York City’s 44th Comptroller since being elected in 2013, Scott Stringer has previously served as the 26th borough president of Manhattan (2005) and a New York State Assemblyman (1992-2005). He has successfully pushed City Hall to increase funding for Art Education in city schools by $24 million per year.

“There will be no recovery for NYC without a vibrant arts and culture industry,” a spokesperson for Stringer told ArtNet. “New York City’s arts, culture, and entertainment are essential to New York City’s future and we need to aggressively focus on stabilizing and growing the industry while supporting our artist community, as we continue to fight off this pandemic.”

In his plan for the arts, Stringer hopes to invest in open space and outdoor performances, purchase over 250,000 tickets for theater performances from all over the city and distribute them to frontline workers, school children, and others, and develop new partnerships for providing arts exposure to more New Yorkers. He plans to provide direct assistance to individual artists and grants for operating expenses as well as work with ConEd to expand their nonprofit assistance program. This would lower electricity rates for performance venues and explore options for opening up public school gymnasiums and auditoriums for artists to use as free or cheaper rehearsal spaces.

Dianne Morales

As the only former New York City public school teacher in the race, Dianne Morales is also the former Executive Director of The Door, where she launched a street outreach program, creating a drop-in program and supportive housing development for homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Most recently, she has been able to successfully manage multimillion-dollar budgets to create career training programs for young adults in the healthcare field as Executive Director and CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods. In her campaign, she acknowledges that New York City has lost nearly 35,000 jobs in the arts and culture industry since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. She understands the importance culture plays in education and mental health, noting that her daughter was struggling until she found the arts in school.

Morales would implement the Open Culture Program approved by the City Council and permanently institutionalize it for years to come, strengthen the capacity of services for small businesses, including a new division for small arts and culture venues across all five boroughs, and increase investments in programs such as Curtains Up NYC, which help struggling art venues apply for federal grants. She also hopes to establish a New Deal-style program that would help artists who have lost work due to the pandemic go back to work as well as provide arts education in schools. The funding for these operations would come from defunding the police in New York City by at least $3 billion and taxing the rich at the state level.

Ray McGuire


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Ray McGuire, who was raised in Dayton, Ohio, has helped improve the lives of people in low-income communities and has recently helped write a report on the economic impact of systemic racism during his time as a Citi Foundation board member. For the last 13 years, McGuire was the head of global corporate and investment banking at Citigroup, for 36 years, he has led businesses that have generated over $20 billion per year, and for 30 years, he has been on the board of De La Salle Academy. He has also given back to New York City by serving on boards of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the New York Public Library, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

McGuire’s biggest venture in the world of arts and culture comes with his proposal for New York City to host a yearlong festival, beginning in spring 2022, that will include venues, galleries, performance stages, bars, restaurants, and parks in every city neighborhood as an effort to “signal that we are open for business and make this the top destination for travelers from around the world.” The celebration will be supported by grants for up to 1,000 artists to create projects in vacant commercial spaces and outdoor venues. Further, McGuire plans to create art districts to expand arts education, employ local artists in community improvement projects, and protect and grow art education by urging local arts institutions to partner with the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Education.

Kathryn Garcia


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Kathryn Garcia was the second woman to serve as the Sanitation Commissioner for the New York City Department of Sanitation, having held the role from 2014 to 2020. When the pandemic hit, she was named Food Czar for the New York City COVID-19 response, making it her job to ensure that everyone in the City had access to food. Garcia successfully distributed 200 million meals during her time as Food Czar. After 14 years of government service, she is ready to run for mayor.

In her plan for the arts, Garcia hopes to “reimagine how the City uses public space to give local businesses and art organizations a bigger footprint in their communities.” She will do this by reforming the City’s concessions and public art permitting process, opening up tons of public space for arts and culture. She also plans to get Broadway shows – both On and Off – and other theatrical arts back to work by partnering with streaming services to livestream performances. Further, Garcia hopes to “fix the broken process for funding capital projects at our arts and cultural institutions,” making sure that nonprofits receive down payments rather than going into debt to be eligible for City funding. Her plan to launch RediscoverNYC, a campaign encouraging New Yorkers to visit new parts of the city, will provide free advertising to local art nonprofits, theaters, and other cultural organizations. She further plans to give all local small businesses, including galleries, one year of fine and fee relief.

Eric Adams


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As the first Black Brooklyn Borough President (since 2014), Eric Adams has a long history of serving New York City. Born in Brownsville and raised in South Jamaica, he joined the New York Police Department (NYPD), where he called out racism and bias in the department and ultimately pushed for many reforms after being beaten by police in the basement of a precinct house at the age of 15. Following his time on the NYPD, Adams moved to State Senate, representing sections of central and Brownstone, Brooklyn.

Although Adams has yet to highlight his future plans with the arts, he has previously allocated millions of dollars in capital funding to support Brooklyn arts institutions. In 2016, these funds included $1 million to The Brooklyn Museum, $1 million to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, $500,000 to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, $175,000 to Prospect Park Zoo, $130,000 to the Green-Wood Historic Fund, and $50,000 to the Brooklyn Historical Society.

“We have to preserve, promote, and produce high-quality cultural experiences to keep us firmly planted as the center of the cultural universe,” Adams said at the time of the funding. “Investment in cultural institutions and libraries is good for Brooklynites in ways that are not always visible to the naked eye; studies show their positive impact on public health, small businesses, civic engagement, and youth development.”

Shaun Donovan


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Shaun Donovan, who grew up on the Upper East Side of New York City, is an American government official and housing specialist. He served as the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2009-2014) as well as Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget (2014-2017). He plans to “launch a plan focused on all five boroughs—Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island—that prioritizes the safe and efficient use of space, empowers our artists, and puts arts and culture front and center in our city’s recovery.”

By firstly putting arts and culture at the center of the City’s recovery, patrons need to be ensured that it is safe to visit these public organizations. Donovan vows to lead by example and frequent and uplift arts organizations including galleries, museums, music venues, and more. He also hopes to make unoccupied commercial spaces available to visual and performing artists, particularly focusing on artists of color as well as make grants available for arts organizations looking to use empty spaces. Partnering with local artists to create public service announcements and campaigns regarding the safest ways to enjoy the arts is another tactic the Donovan administration would use to bring the vibrant creative light back to the City.

As for artists, Donovan plans to make affordable housing available to all New Yorkers, making it easier for artists to live in the City. Schools will provide arts and cultural instruction, ensure that each student who wants to has the opportunity to learn and master a musical instrument, provide college and career pathways for the arts, and make certain that all high school students in New York City have the opportunity to watch a live performance at least once before graduating.

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