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New York City Releases Report on Demographics of Cultural Workforce

Above: Graphic from New York City’s Workforce Demographics Pilot Study. Photo: New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Above: Graphic from New York City’s Workforce Demographics Pilot Study. Photo: New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

NEW YORK—The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) has released a demographic report on the workforce of cultural nonprofits that receive city funding. Commissioned by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the study, which was conducted through South Methodist University’s DataArts from August to October 2018, has unsurprisingly found that workplaces in the cultural sector are less diverse than the population of the city.

However, the report revealed that 65 percent of staffers at cultural organizations are women, 15 percent identify as LGBTQ, and 8 percent reported having a disability—women and people with disabilities are actually overrepresented, since 52 percent of the city’s population is female and only 4 percent of employed city residents reported having a disability. African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics remain underrepresented in the workforce, especially in top positions.

The findings were drawn from 6,928 individuals from sixty-five arts and cultural organizations—thirty-three of which are situated on city property and thirty-two of which receive city funding. Data pertaining to five demographic characteristics—heritage, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability—was submitted anonymously. Nearly three hundred of the participants were artists, 675 were board members, and 227 were curators. Eight hundred and twenty work in education, 396 in development, and 499 in administration, and 1,298 are volunteers.

According to the report, the majority-white positions at arts institutions are editorial, followed by library science and conservation, volunteer, and curatorial roles. The departments with the highest percentage of people of color are security, community engagement, retail, and facilities and operations. Forty-nine percent of artists and performers working with or at the institutions represented in the study are white, 18 percent are African American, 9 percent are Asian, and 7 percent are Hispanic.

“NYC residents represent an array of cultures, histories, backgrounds, and experiences—and our cultural organizations must reflect that extraordinary breadth,” said cultural affairs commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “This new DataArts survey gives us a tool we can use to do that more effectively and over time. The data we gather will help us design programs to support NYC’s arts and cultural institutions in their ongoing efforts to create opportunities for all New Yorkers.”

Next year, the DCLA plans to extend the survey to all of its approximately one thousand constituent organizations, with the goal of better understanding the demographics of New York City’s cultural workforce and tracking them over time. The report is part of de Blasio’s comprehensive cultural road map for the city, called Create NYC, which he introduced in 2017. It is also part of his controversial plan to penalize cultural institutions that aren’t diversifying their staffs. If city-funded museums don’t implement diversity goals and demonstrate progress in meeting them, they could lose funding.

Among the institutions and organizations represented in the report are the Brooklyn Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, Friends of the High Line, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Queens Museum.

August 1, 2019