New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has outlined his intent to reposition the state as a cultural hub in the first half of 2021. The public-private initiative, under the banner New York Arts Revival, will support numerous performances and events, beginning with its official launch February 4.
The Governor has said that at least 150 artists are on board to take part, including Tony-nominated opera star Renée Fleming, Tony winner Hugh Jackman, Tony nominee Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, and Grammy and Pulitzer winner Wynton Marsalis. Additionally, among the participating organizations he mentioned in his January 12 State of the State address were the National Black Theatre, Ballet Hispánico, and Ars Nova.
The roster of pop-up programs (details to come) is slated to begin in March. Separately, a newly passed Open Culture bill, sponsored by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, will support the financial viability of outdoor performances, allowing artists to present ticketed events in public spaces.
Two key players in the New York arts scene namechecked as leads in Cuomo’s remarks were Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, each representing a landmark event to mark the culmination of the initiative. First, the opening of the long-gestating “Little Island” park and performance center at Pier 55 in Chelsea (megaproducer Rudin, along with George C. Wolfe and Stephen Daldry, are among those tapped by funders Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg to develop productions for the space). Second, the 20th annual Tribeca Film Festival (co-founded by Rosenthal), set to take place in June.
Cuomo's speech also included the promise of reopening indoor spaces able to accommodate social distancing, such as Park Avenue Armory and St. Ann’s Warehouse. Those two particular venues (along with the aforementioned National Black Theatre) were among a cohort that, in October, pressured Cuomo to allow for COVID-conscious reopenings in spaces that could allow for it, as he had granted for bowling alleys and museums.
The ambitious plans arrive as New York theatres—on Broadway and beyond—remain at a standstill, resulting in blows to the state economy and widespread unemployment for artists. As it stands, Broadway shows will remain dark until at least June.
“We will go to performances and we will applaud like never before,” Cuomo promised, though with the caveat: “None of what I have outlined today will be easy.” Dr. Anthony Fauci recently speculated that theatres could potentially be safe to open in the fall, but only with effective vaccine distribution and timely herd immunity.