ALBANY (TNS) — Universal basic income pilot programs launched in Hudson and Ulster County this year, and now the movement to guarantee monthly payments to residents has taken a creative turn, with a new foundation-funded program to support 2,700 artists in New York state.

Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY) is a new initiative that will provide monthly, no-strings-attached payments — similar to other UBI programs — for up to 2,400 artists with financial need beginning in 2022. A second component of the program will fund and facilitate employment for 300 artists at dozens of small to mid-size community arts organizations statewide.

The program is intended to revitalize the arts sector in New York, which has been badly hurt by the pandemic, while recognizing the work of creatives across the state.

”Artists, as gig workers, have both been deeply affected by COVID but also we really need to look at workforce development for artists,” said Sarah Calderon, executive director of CRNY. “We need to think of this idea of artists as workers. We appreciate the products of artists, but don’t tend to appreciate the process artists go through making their art in a variety of settings, whether that’s in a studio or a community.”

CRNY is a three-year initiative that “aims to catalyze systemic change in the arts and cultural economy,” which includes recognizing the value of artists as people, not just the work they produce. “Artists need and deserve to be paid predictable and regular incomes,” the CRNY website states.

The arts and culture industries generate around $120 billion in revenue for New York state and account for nearly half a million jobs. However, as a result of the pandemic, the unemployment rate for some artists is as high as 55% nationally.

The initiative forges a response to assisting the arts community, while also experimenting with the universal basic income model. San Francisco implemented a UBI pilot program for artists in October in which 130 artists now receive $1,000 in monthly stipends there.

UBI programs already exist in the region. Hudson’s UBI pilot is ongoing, and gives selected residents $500 a month, while Ulster County announced the launch of its universal basic income program in February. In Ulster, 100 residents who demonstrated a set income level were chosen at random out of 4,200 applicants to receive $500 per month for a year.

”I think the impetus was to really understand what guaranteed income looks like for artists,” said Calderon. “Can it be transformational? Does it change the way artists work, plan, and consider their futures? If these pilots are rolling out across the country, what are the needs or artists within that?”

CRNY will make a call for applications for the program in early 2022, with funding dedicated solely to artists whose primary residence is in New York State and who show a certain level of financial need.

The initiative is anchored by $125 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, including $10 million in support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Ford Foundation. CRNY is a fiscally sponsored project of Tides Center, which will provide organizational and operational support.

A nine-person leadership council and 28-person “think tank,” each comprised of contributors from a range of backgrounds, from the arts to economics, all helped guide efforts to shape CRNY and get it off the ground.

Details have not yet been disclosed regarding how much chosen artists will receive per month or for how long. The employment program will pay salaries to artists to work three days per week at an arts organization in a position that uses their creativity, with the other two workdays free for artists to pursue their own creative practice.

Participating artists will receive a full-time base salary expected to align with New York State median income data plus benefits. Organizations that participate will receive financial support.

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