An Entertaining City Council Hearing
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 12:00 AM


A few years ago, I met with Rob Moss, one of the founding members of A.R.T./New York, (originally called the Off Off Broadway Alliance). Rob told me that at one of the Alliance’s first City Council hearings, a member sang a song as part of their testimony. “You could hear a pin drop,” he reminisced. “She had the entire room in awe.”

This past week, A.R.T./New York prepared for a City Council Hearing on March 20th. Typically I present a testimonial on behalf of the artists, but this time, Rob’s anecdote struck a chord with me: Why not allow the artists to speak for themselves, by doing what they do best? So we did just that, and it was a huge success.

Joining us at the meeting were representatives from One Percent for Culture, The Field, Theater of the Oppressed, The Laundromat Project, Exploring the Metropolis, Elders Share the Arts, and Dance/NYC, who each gave their own creative presentation. The non-traditional testimony was kicked off by artist Mahayana Landowne, representing the Interactive Art Collective, Calling All Parties. Mahayana interviewed attendees while wearing an artist original “Red Carpet” inspired accessory; a funky, red, statement hat resembling a cascading red carpet. Interviewees such as Heather Woodfield from One Perfect for Culture stopped to discuss the importance of culture with Mahayana while arriving to the Hearing.

Other presentations included Girl Be Heard’s excerpt from the haunting piece, "Mama, You're the Soldier," by Aya Abdelaziz, in which performers Ashley Marinaccio and Jackie Torres executed a beautiful vocal and movement piece that shook up the space. The Laundromat Project shared spoken testimony by Kemi Ilesanmi and 2 artists (Betty Yu, Stephanie Dinkins) under the theme "Imagine if...." and handed out cards, produced by The Laundromat Project Alum Chloe Bass, that asked "What can you imagine?"

The Field displayed several large portraits from Kate Browne’s ongoing project, Cocoon (as seen in the photograph just above), while she explained her approach and subject matter; and Guy Lawrence, a representative from Elders Share the Arts, shared a moving testimony on the personal impact of his company’s work on his life. Composers, Nina Siniakova and Ian Ng, spoke on behalf of Exploring the Metropolis, thanking said Organization for securing free space where they could compose, while violist, Eric Lemmon, performed a piece so moving that Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer used his iPhone to record the performance! Finally, Maaji Newbold from Theatre of the Oppressed performed an excerpt from the play “The Housing Circus,” in which she, while juggling her obstacles, described the hoops she had to jump through for public assistance with housing and health.

All twelve of the speakers, including Holly Block (Bronx Museum and the Cultural Institutions), and Tamara Greenfield (FAB), made the same request: $30 million more for Culture, to be divided equally between the Cultural Development Fund and the Cultural Institutions Group. And this time, we were heard—because no one can better describe the power of the arts than the artists themselves.


-Ginny Louloudes, Executive Director