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Cuomo outlines plans to 'bring arts and culture back to life'
Theaters in New York, Sept. 13, 2020. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that New York urgently needs to bring the arts back — not only to help jobless artists, but to make sure that New York City survives. Daniel Arnold/The New York Times.

by Sarah Bahr



NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Declaring that New York urgently needs to revive its arts and entertainment industry if it is to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the state would begin taking a series of interim steps to help to bring back some cultural events in the short term and put more unemployed artists back to work.

“We must bring arts and culture back to life,” Cuomo said as he continued a weeklong series of policy addresses outlining his agenda for the state.

The governor said that bringing back art and culture was crucial — not just to help artists, who have suffered some of the worst unemployment in the nation, but to keep New York City a vital, exciting center where people will want to live and work.

“Cities are, by definition, centers of energy, entertainment, theater and cuisine,” Cuomo said, noting the threats the city is facing from the rise in remote work, crime and homelessness. “Without that activity and attraction, cities lose much of their appeal. What is a city without social, cultural and creative synergies? New York City is not New York without Broadway.”

Cuomo said that the state would begin a public-private partnership to offer a series of statewide pop-up concerts featuring artists such as Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Renée Fleming and Hugh Jackman; begin a pilot program exploring how socially distant performances might be held safely in flexible venues whose seating is not fixed; and work in partnership with the Mellon Foundation to distribute grants to put more than 1,000 artists back to work and provide money to community arts groups.

The governor said that the state could not wait until summer, when more people are vaccinated, to bring back performances.

The public-private partnership, New York Arts Revival, which will offer pop-up performances featuring more than 150 artists beginning Feb. 4, will be spearheaded by the producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, along with the New York State Council on the Arts. The plan will culminate with the opening of Little Island, the parklike pier being built downtown in the Hudson River by Barry Diller, and with the Tribeca Film Festival, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in June.




Cuomo said that he hoped to expand rapid testing, including at pop-up sites, to make it easier for people to be tested before visiting restaurants or theaters in areas with low-enough rates of the virus. He pointed to the state’s experiment last Saturday at the Buffalo Bills game, when the state tested nearly 7,000 fans.

There have been problems with rapid testing. While rapid testing machines are portable, and can swiftly provide results, many are not considered as reliable as other tests in people without symptoms. The White House had relied on rapid testing to keep President Donald Trump and his inner circle safe by requiring all White House visitors to take the test, even though that was not the way the test was intended to be used.

New York reported at least 196 new coronavirus deaths and 14,179 new cases on Monday, and the rate of positive tests continues to increase.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, told performing arts professionals at a virtual conference on Saturday that he believed theaters could reopen sometime this fall with relatively few restrictions if the vaccination program was a success, though he suggested audiences might still be required to wear masks for some time.

“By the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience,” Fauci said.

But vaccine distribution in the United States is behind schedule, and public health officials have struggled to administer the vaccine to hospital workers and at-risk older Americans.

Cuomo said that New York could not wait for enough people to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity before taking steps to revive its performing arts scene.

“We’re looking at months of shutdowns,” he said. “We need to begin to act now. We can’t float along letting pain, hardship and inequality grow around us.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company










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