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Cuomo: New Performance Series Will Revive Dormant Arts Industry

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at his briefing May 5, 2020.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at his briefing May 5, 2020.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday detailed his plans to use rapid COVID-19 testing to reopen restaurants, theaters and arts venues, including New York City’s Tribeca Film festival in June, even before most New Yorkers are vaccinated. The Democrat, in a second State of the State speech, also says he’ll push for legislation to require internt providers to offer deep discounts to low-income residents.Cuomo says the New York State Council on the Arts will begin sponsoring pop-up performances with 150 artists in outdoor venues, like state parks, in early February.

Performers include Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Wynton Marsalis and Renee Fleming, as well as Ballet Hispanico, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and the National Black Theater. The governor says as the pandemic has dragged on, too many artists have been out of work for too long. He says a study by the National Endowment for the Arts finds 52% of actors, 55% of dancers and 27% of musicians were out of work in September 2020. Cuomo says in New York City, the arts and culture industry accounts for half million jobs and generates $120 billion in economic output.

“We cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on the arts and provide a living wage for artists,” Cuomo said. “We will not let the curtain fall on their careers, or on the future of our cities.” 

Cuomo says he’ll build on a so far successful pilot program that is allowing a limited number of Buffalo Bills fans to attend the football team’s playoff games. The governor plans to install rapid testing sites outside the events, as well as near some indoor venues, so that Broadway and other theaters can reopen, and restaurants can allow more indoor diners.

The planned events will culminate in the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival in lower Manhattan, which was begun after another dark period in New York’s history, the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. 

The governor is also calling on philanthropic organizations, including the Mellon Foundation, to steer funds to community arts groups.

But he warns that even with these efforts, it’s not likely the economy and culture will go back to like it was, after the pandemic subsides.

“The reality is, not all businesses will reopen, and not all jobs are coming back as they were,” the governor said. “Some of the changes we have seen this year will be permanent, and other changes preview new realities we have not even considered.”

Cuomo believes that more people will continue to work from home either full- or part-time, and he wants to create more access to affordable high speed internet for low-income workers.

The governor says he’ll propose a law requiring that internet providers offer Wi-Fi services for $15 a month to the state’s poorest residents.

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