DCA Agenda: Help Small Groups

Can the New Commissioner Stretch the Dollars Without Bending the Rules?

Levin aims to find "pockets of flexibility," for the underfunded—in the one-time grants, for instance—to get around restrictions, as well as to lend technical assistance, and perhaps interdepartmental collaboration that might provide low-cost real estate. She also hopes that private-public partnerships will result in a "better articulated and more sensitive notion of economic development" which is not just "calibrated to organizations that bring in tourist bucks."

Laura Jean Watters, director of the Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island, thinks that Levin sees culture "not as an elitist proposition but from the grassroots." Others point to her personal experiences—theater director, professor, arts administrator, and wife of an artist, Mark di Suvero, a sculptor and founder of the Socrates Sculpture Garden in Long Island City—as testaments to her commitment to art from the ground up.

In any case, Bloomberg's financial plan has cut 15 percent from DCA's budget, and it remains to be seen whether the new chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, City Councilman Jose Serrano Jr., will get the votes to restore any of it, or how cuts will be apportioned. In the last budget modification, the council restored 100 percent to the Program Groups line while letting the CIGs take a several-million-dollar hit—but that was before 9-11.

In the meantime, small nonprofits, being the long-distance runners that they are, press on. According to Ginny Louloudes, executive director of the Alliance of Resident Theatres, the small nonprofits have what seems a good start with the new commissioner, and can try to use the economic downturn to return to their essential missions.

Sandra Perez calls their new attitude "cautious optimism." In fact, for some, like Ellen Stewart, it's old wisdom. "Like my papa Diamond told me," says Ellen Stewart, "I have to push my own pushcart."

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