New ‘Open Culture’ Program Will Bring Dance, Theater & Comedy To NYC Streets Starting In March

Justine Golata Justine Golata

New ‘Open Culture’ Program Will Bring Dance, Theater & Comedy To NYC Streets Starting In March

Missing performances, art shows, and cultural events? Don’t worry, they’ll be back in New York by March of 2021…all outdoors, of course!

On December 10, the New York City Council passed legislation for an ‘Open Culture’ program that will bring cultural and artistic events back to New York City via public outdoor spaces. “There will be dancing, singing & comedy on the streets bringing joy and jobs to thousands,” said the program’s sponsor, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

Facebook/ World Trade Center

The program is set to begin March 1, 2021 and will follow similar initiatives to outdoor dining that created space across New York City through the Open Streets program. An application fee of $20, designed to “discourage frivolous applications,” will be required for any interested organization to join the program.

By February 1, 2021, the Department of Transportation (DOT) must share a list of “eligible open spaces” in which the city will then approve as venues for these artistic and cultural events.

Facebook/ Maplewood – Division of Arts & Culture

Van Bramer argues that “we need to use our City’s space in new and creative ways to make sure the cultural community can perform and create. This new law will be a dynamic and transformative program for our cultural community and will create a dynamic open space use – a true win-win.”

The arts and entertainment industry was especially hit hard by the pandemic as theaters, events , and performances all had to shutdown in March. Since then, performers have found small ways to bring back entertainment to the city like the Philharmonic traveling pick-up trick concerts and pop-up Broadway performances, but none as substantial as this new initiative. The ‘Open Culture’ program is set to stay until October 31, 2020, and if successful, potentially be extended through March 31, 2022.


“Prior to COVID-19, the cultural sector in NYC was one of the largest industries in NYC, employing nearly 400,000 workers, paying them $31 billion in wages, and generating $110 billion in economic activity,” said Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo. Since March, 95 percent of organizations had to cancel programmings, and employment in the industry has nearly dropped by 60 percent!

The proposal for ‘Open Culture’ has been in the works since August of 2020 and following many hearings and amendments, the city’s final approval “is symbolic of our city’s commitment to innovation in the face of a ‘new normal,'” said Cumbo.

Local theater organizations like League of Independent Theaters thanked City Council members involved in the bills approval and stated “we know that this will continue to be a trying time for small theater venues and the arts but it helps to know we have such power houses like you on our side! Here is to continuing the pursuit to making theater and all forms of art sustainable in the great city of New York.”

Facebook/ League of Independent Theater

A website will be designed in correspondence to inform the public “on open spaces designated by the city for art and cultural programming, such as roadways, parks, or pedestrian plazas; facilitate the use of such space by art and cultural institutions; and allow users to search for such open space on a map,” mentioned a press release.

The Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management (CECM), along with the Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks), the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), the Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT) will work together to create the website.

The ‘Open Culture’ program will be responsible for the return of a very missed industry that was always so prevalent in New York City. Soon enough, NYers will once again enjoy some of their favorite entertainment as art institutions will be back in business!

featured image source: Instagram @nyclovesnyc

In other news: NYC’s Famed Prohibition-Era ’21 Club’ Is Officially Closing

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