A look into how the arts are funded in Syracuse

Daily Orange File Photo, Dan Lyon | Asst. Photo Editor, Ally Moreo | Senior Staff Photographer

The New York State Council on the Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts and CNY Arts are among the funding agencies that help support arts organizations in Syracuse

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced its first round of recommended grants for organizations across the country for 2019. Of the more than 200 total grants recommended for organizations in New York state, three were awarded to arts nonprofits in Syracuse for specific projects.

The Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation was recommended for $10,000 from the NEA to support Jazz in the City, a community outreach summer concert series that features both professional artists and musicians from Syracuse City Schools. Light Work received $35,000 to support their Artist-in-Residence program for photographers.


The NEA is a pivotal part of the organization’s fundraising puzzle, said Shane Lavalette, director of Light Work. The grant also helps support the printing and distribution of “Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual,” a publication that features photographers’ works.

“We hope that we never see a day where NEA funding is cut,” Lavalette said, in an email, “as these programs make an important impact in arts and culture, across the country.”


For arts organizations in Syracuse and across the state, a significant source of funding is the New York State Council on the Arts. Applications for NYSCA grants are reviewed by arts and nonprofit management professionals along with the NYSCA Council.

CNY Arts, a Syracuse-based agency that received $30,000 from the NEA in their first round of 2019 grants, helps support the arts across six counties by regranting. Through NYSCA’s Decentralization Program, NYSCA partners with CNY Arts and 26 other arts organizations across the state who regrant funding locally.

Applications for each of CNY Arts’ regrant programs adhere to CNY Arts guidelines and are evaluated by panels of industry professionals. Most of the criteria focuses on artistic merit, service to the public, managerial competence and project feasibility, said Elizabeth Lane, director of programs for CNY Arts. To distribute funding among the six counties, Lane said they determine a formula based on population per capita and volume of applications.

Syracuse is home to some of New York state’s most compelling cultural attractions, said Mara Manus, the executive director of NYSCA. She added that in New York, the arts are a powerful economic force.

“Our creative culture is also a critical asset to the education, health, and unity of New Yorkers,” Manus said, in an email. “We are seeing an increasing number of programs that recognize this power and integrate the arts throughout many aspects of our lives.”

NYSCA grants are awarded for various purposes, including general support, capital projects, facilities renovations and community programming. In 2019, more than 10 Syracuse organizations received funding for general support.

Point of Contact Gallery was the only Syracuse-based arts organization to earn 2019 NYSCA funding under the categories of “community-based learning” and “public programs.” NYSCA recommended the gallery $5,000 to support its youth art studio and $3,000 for the organization’s “Cruel April” poetry reading program.

Funding for the youth art studio was reduced this year, said Sara Felice, the managing associate director of Point of Contact Gallery, adding that they typically receive about $13,000 each year to support the youth program.

“We had to get creative and do some different kind of fundraising efforts just to kind of make ends meet,” Felice said. “But it’s also good in the same respect that we have an opportunity to do different kinds of events that bring people that may not be familiar with us into the space.”

CNY Arts is another primary supporter of Point of Contact, Felice said. While funding from NYSCA has declined over the years, she said, they are continuing to explore additional grant opportunities.

“(For) what I would consider a small city, we have a lot of people that are really fighting for the arts and have a lot of really well-rounded programs,” Felice said.


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