New York City spurs a cultural building boom to enrich quality of life in the city
By Ali Akbar Sahiwala
New York City is undergoing a cultural transformation. With upwards of 80 institutions located across the five boroughs, culture is a central pillar of the city’s economic development. Today, few years on from the Great Recession, nearly $2 billion has been allocated for museum expansions, planned or underway Crain’s New York, 2014.
The government has a keen interest in developing and supporting the City’s cultural sector, enabling resources for enrichment and activities to become accessible to all residents.
Launched in April 2015, One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City (OneNYC) includes Culture as Goal 5, outlined in Vision 1: Our Growing and Thriving City. It states: “The City is committed to ensuring the vitality of the arts throughout the five boroughs by creating and incentivizing well-used, high-quality cultural facilities and programming in all neighborhoods.” As a result, New York City seeks to provide funding and capacity-building to create public art and programming in underserved areas and to streamline the permission process.
At the beginning of 2015, New York City’s Municipal identification card (IDNYC) was launched giving access to City services that require a recognized identification. The card’s target audiences included undocumented immigrants, underserved and vulnerable communities and others who faced hurdles to obtain a government-issued ID., Amongst the immediate opportunities provided is a providing one-year free membership packages at 33 of the City’s leading cultural institutions, across all five boroughs. The initiative aims to serve a dual purpose, providing documentation for recent immigrant families, students and young professionals, while admitting them into participating museums and cultural organizations for free. The program is reported to have drawn large public responses over the past few months, and is slated to increase local attendance through inclusive measures.
Such an initiative, falls directly in-line with city goals outlined by a recently published book, titled Cities, Museums and Soft Power. The book demonstrates how cities are leveraging soft power through museums by amplifying civic discourse, accelerating cultural change, and contributing to contextual intelligence among the great diversity of city dwellers, visitors and policy-makers. The authors remark, “Museums enhance the soft power of cities when they are signifiers of pride and distinctiveness; when they are anchors providing stability, memory, employment and a forum for exchanging ideas; and when they are nodes in an international cultural network promoting lasting relationships among and between cultural workers and civil society.”
Museums enhance the soft power of cities when they are signifiers of pride and distinctiveness; when they are anchors providing stability, memory, employment and a forum for exchanging ideas; and when they are nodes in an international cultural network promoting lasting relationships among and between cultural workers and civil society.
Lord, G. & Blankenberg N. (2015). Cities, Museums & Soft Power, 2015, pg. 15
Undoubtedly, New York City is regarded as an important precedent that has successfully built creative currency through its diverse cultural institutions. As technology and tastes continue to evolve, the City’s growing museums and attractions are sure to respond, featuring new interactive experiences and tailoring new content, ultimately raising quality of life standards, bolstering tourism, and supporting the city’s ability to retain and attract talent.
About the Author:
Ali Akbar Sahiwala
Ali Akbar Sahiwala is a design strategist and communications designer with five years of experience, creating and managing successful brands. His profile includes working with innovation consulting firms, entrepreneurial start-ups, and national non-profit organizations. Ali has worked on collaborative assignments in Asia, Middle East and North America. Currently, Ali works as a Design Strategy Consultant in the Workplace Strategy and Innovation Group at TPG Architecture. He received an M.P.S. degree in Design Management from Pratt Institute, and an Honors B.A. in Architecture and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Toronto.
Crain’s New York, Building boom lifts city’s culture biz, Nearly $2 billion in museum expansions are underway or planned, December 24, 2014
onenyc Goal Five
onenyc Office of the Mayor, NYC Municipal Id
NYTimes.com, New York City’s ID Card Program Draws a Large Response, January 12, 2015
NYTimes.com, Museums Turn to Technology to Boost Attendance by Millennials, March 17, 2015