Recently, WNYC’s Charlie Herman sat with Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker to discuss the perils of low funding for the arts—and why it should matter to everyone who wishes to preserve the vibrancy that NYC is known for. In his opening statements, he asserted “Without artists, NYC is in many ways without life,” later adding that art is, “the lifeblood of the city.”
Yet, with rent prices rising, limited studio spaces, and a society ruled by profit, artists are finding it increasingly difficult to create and thrive. But other than adding to the colorful tapestry of urban life, why fund the arts? Walker contends that artists serve a more nuanced purpose for this city, and society at large. “We rely on artists… to tell the story of who we are as people, warts and all. So that we can look in that mirror and hold ourselves accountable to the ideals of fairness, justice, democracy.” With this insight, it is perhaps more fitting to say that artists are weaving the aforementioned tapestry themselves.
As living testament to Walker’s beliefs, the Ford Foundation has given a $10 million grant to US Artist, along with many other grants. They’ve also launched the Art of Change initiative in order to “explore the intersection of art and justice,” consisting of funding visiting fellows, events, and a curated website to provide a platform for discourse regarding the connection of art to social justice.
Surely, other organizations will soon follow suit and help further the arts and the way they demand us to perform at our full potential. In the words of Walker, if we don’t fund and nurture the future of arts, “We will lose the soul of this city… New York won’t be New York anymore.”