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Cuomo: New performance series will jump-start dormant arts culture

Office of the Governor
Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlines plans on Tuesday to revive Broadway and other arts venues.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo detailed his plans to use rapid coronavirus testing in 2021 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 governor, in a second State of the State speech on Tuesday, also said he’ll push for a bill to require internet providers to offer deep discounts to low-income residents. 

Cuomo said 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 said as the pandemic has dragged on, too many artists have been out of work for too long. He said a study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that 52% of actors, 55% of dancers and 27% of musicians were out of work in September 2020.

He said in New York City, the arts and culture industry accounts for half a 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 said 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 Sept. 11, 2001. 

The governor also called on philanthropic organizations, including the Mellon Foundation, to steer funds to community arts group.

But he warned that even with these efforts, once the pandemic subsides, it’s not likely the economy and culture will go back to the way they were.

“The reality is, not all businesses will reopen, and not all jobs are coming back as they were,” Cuomo 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 said he 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 said he’ll propose a law requiring that internet providers offer Wi-Fi services for $15 a month to the state’s poorest residents.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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