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Uplifting the Arts in 2020: Overcoming Challenges & Improving Communities through Creative Collaboration

Culture wields significant economic power, improves quality of life, and brings communities together to spark dialogue and address complex issues. This year, the cultural sector has demonstrated incredible resilience navigating challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look back on a challenging year, there were many ways that Bloomberg Philanthropies collaborated with cities, cultural institutions, and artists to address complex issues and improve communities through culture.

Improving Public Streets and Bringing Communities together

Our Asphalt Art Initiative encouraged cities to use art to engage local communities, while simultaneously improving street safety and revitalizing public spaces. In 2020, 16 small and mid-sized cities across the country embarked on pilot projects to bring community members and local artists together to create dazzling asphalt art, demonstrating the potential of these low-cost interventions. Our pro bono consulting arm, Bloomberg Associates, produced an Asphalt Art Guide that provides advice for cities interested in embarking on their own asphalt art projects.

Reaching Across Borders to Collaborate

On a global level, the Bloomberg Philanthropies World Cities Culture Forum’s Leadership Exchange has provided a vital source of connection for policymakers in cities and leaders in the cultural sector around the world. The 18 cities participating in the new round of Exchanges will address a range of issues, many of which were heightened by COVID-19, including providing equitable access to affordable creative space, addressing at-risk cultural venues, and mapping cultural assets to drive the distribution of civic resources.

Breaking Down Barriers to Accessibility

Technology presents an enormous opportunity for cultural institutions to increase public engagement with the arts and welcome broader, more diverse audiences. Americans for the Arts reports that 63 percent of nonprofit arts organizations have developed digital offerings since March, and 67 percent of them expect to continue their virtual presence post-pandemic. We partnered with 16 organizations in New York and London to feature their offerings on the Bloomberg Connects app, a free digital guide to cultural institutions around the world that can be used on or offsite. As many cultural organizations look to serve and grow their audiences despite pandemic limitations, this new technology provides a robust new kind of access.

Strengthening Small and Midsized Cultural Institutions

Our Arts Innovation and Management (AIM) program works to strengthen local cultural ecosystems by providing management training to help small and midsize organizations survive and thrive. More than 700 arts and cultural organizations in 14 cities have participated in the AIM program since 2011, and our current cohort has benefited from responsive guidance on pivoting to digital along with other strategies to survive the organizational impacts of COVID-19. We also collaborated with the Flamboyan Arts Fund to expand the AIM program to Puerto Rico as the region works through challenges presented by the globe, these small and mid-sized cultural organizations will be key players as local economies work to rebuild amid COVID-19.

Empowering Students with Skills to Succeed

Our Bloomberg Arts Internship (BAI) program taps into the arts as a means of workforce development by connecting young people from diverse backgrounds with paid summer internships at cultural organizations in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston. BAI also provides essential college-readiness preparation. This summer, the program successfully adapted to a virtual, remote-learning format, providing students with a unique opportunity to apply their skills to the online workplace through social media, digital marketing, and virtual programming.

Supporting Cultural Institutions Amid COVID-19

We were one of the 18 founding donors of the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, created to support New York City-based social services and arts and cultural nonprofits. Between March and July, the Impact Fund distributed grants and interest-free loans totaling $110 million to 768 New York City-based organizations. This number includes 380 small and mid-sized arts and culture nonprofits that received funds to support daily operations and offset revenue loss as they continued to provide critical services to enhance the vibrancy of life across the city’s five boroughs.

 

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