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Staff Diversity Will Be Factor in How City Funds Arts Groups, Mayor Says

 Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray at a press conference announcing
Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray at a press conference announcing "Create NYC" at Materials for the Arts in Long Island City on July 19, 2017.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

LONG ISLAND CITY — The city will begin considering the demographic makeup of arts organizations when deciding which groups it will fund, in an effort to encourage more diversity in the city's cultural scene, the mayor announced Wednesday.

Starting this year, art and cultural institutions vying for city grants will be asked to share what they're doing to address "equity and inclusion" as part of the application process, as well as reporting demographic information of their staff and board members.

Beginning in 2018, groups applying for cultural funding will also be required to present a plan that lays out "measurable goals" for how they're working to diversify their employees and boards, officials said.

The new parameters were announced Wednesday as part of the Create NYC plan, a 176-page blueprint to "help shape the future of arts and culture" in the city, including efforts to make them more accessible."

"It’s important to ensure, [as] we’re investing public money, that these organizations represent everyone and include everyone," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

About two-thirds of the city's population are people of color, but only 38 percent of staffers in its cultural sector are, de Blasio noted.

"We're saying: This matters," he said. "We want to see that each institution that’s asking for public money, and obviously asking for taxpayer dollars, is mindful of the fact that we think it’s a real value in this city to be inclusive."

The city's Department of Cultural Affairs provides funding to nearly 1,000 organizations each year, from large institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art to smaller neighborhood groups, according to DCA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito acknowledged Wednesday that the new guidelines might face some pushback.

"I know that there will be those who resist, those who resent and those who may try to obstruct what it is that we are doing here," she said.

"We are going to work collaboratively with everyone. It's not about diminishing the importance of anybody in this process, but I think that we also have to take a more expansive view."

The mayor added that diversity will be one among "a number of factors" the city will consider when giving out grants.

"The central point here is, as we go forward, we want to see funding that reflects life in all five boroughs, reflects all the people of this city," de Blasio said. "I think there’s a lot of cultural organizations, big and small, that have gotten the memo and want to achieve that."