Do the Candidates Support the Arts? 

Shay Gines 

Election Day 2012 is quickly approaching. Through public appearances and ads wherever you look, the candidates have been making their case for your vote. Between U.S. and State representatives New Yorkers will be deciding on 241 seats. While there are certainly many important issues to take into account when casting a ballot, I wanted to know how our local political contenders support the arts.

So I set out to discover where  hopeful candidates stood on the arts. This was a much more difficult task than I had imagined. Many different organizations ask the candidates to complete questionnaires revealing their position on certain issues. Health Care, the economy, the environment, education, gun control, Afghanistan and several other topics are universal to most position polls. The Arts and Humanities however... is a topic that is often not included in the questions asked. In those questionnaires where the arts are included, candidates will often skip the question. Even candidates who have a strong history of supporting the arts are reluctant to articulate their stance on this issue.

When Barack Obama took office in 2009, he was the first President ever to enter office with a plan for the arts. However, if you look at his website today, the arts is no longer included in the list of issues that he is addressing.

Most candidates will release official statements about their position on a variety of topics, but you will be hard pressed to find a candidate who has an official statement about arts and culture. There is a candidate who is running for the NY State Senate who is an artist, Catherine Wark and even she does not have an official policy on the arts.

When the Democratic National Committee released their National Platform in September, it included a statement of support for the arts:

"Arts and Culture. Democrats are proud of our support for arts funding and education. We are committed to continuing the policies and programs that have already done so much for our creative arts industry and economy. Investment in the arts strengthens our communities and contributes to our nation's rich cultural heritage. We will continue to support public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for programs providing art and music education in primary and secondary schools. The entire nation prospers when we protect and promote the unique and original artistic and cultural contributions of the women and men who create and preserve our nation's heritage."

Americans for the Arts requested an official stand from Governor Romney on this topic but has yet to receive a response. You can check out their website for updates to see if they receive it in the next couple of weeks.

So how do you know if the arts are important to your candidates? Well, each year Americans for the Arts scores incumbent candidates from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives based on: their voting record on items such as arts funding, committee memberships, sponsorship of pro-arts legislation, and other pro-arts activities and issues a grade. This is very helpful, but it only provides information about the incumbents and not their rivals. Also, it only provides information for national seats and not state or local seats.

After two days of researching NY candidates' positions; reading their statements, websites and blogs; reviewing questionnaires; scanning newspaper articles and searching countless pieces of key legislature, I was disappointed with my results.

You can check out my findings below.  I'll update it over the next few weeks as I uncover more information. And if you know information about where these candidates stand on the arts, please email me [shay at nyitawards dot com] and I will include your insights.


86% of OOB practitioners voted in the 2004 presidential election. This is 22% higher than the national average of 64%.

Key and notes below

U.S. Senate

  Party Name AFA Grade   Other Information

Democratic Kirsten E. Gillibrand A+
No official statement

Republican Wendy Long NI
No official statement

Green Colia Clark NI
No official statement: Is the Director of Humanism Economy Rights and the Arts and has coordinated arts workshops, has supported arts programs in prisons

LBT-Libertarian Chris Edes NI
No official statement

CSP-Common Sense John Mangelli NI
No official statement

U.S. House of Representatives

District Party Name AFA
Other Information

5 Democratic Gregory W. Meeks A 80
5 Republican Allan W. Jennings, Jr. NI NI
5 LBT-Libertarian Catherine Wark NI NI Is a jewelry artist
6 Democratic Grace Meng NI NI
6 Republican Daniel J. Halloran NI NI
6 Green Evergreen C. Chou NI NI
7 Democratic Nydia M. Velazquez A 80
7 Republican James Murray NI NI
8 Democratic Hakeem S. Jeffries NI NI
8 Republican Alan S. Bellone NI NI
8 Green Colin M. Beavan NI NI
9 Democratic Yvette D. Clarke A+ 93
9 Republican Daniel J. Cavanagh NI NI
9 Green Vivia M. Morgan NI NI
10 Democratic Jerrold L. Nadler A+ 108 He lists support for the arts amoung his accomplishments
10 Republican Michael W. Chan NI NI
11 Democratic Mark S. Murphy NI NI
11 Republican Michael G. Grimm A 80
11 Green Henry J. Bardel NI NI
12 Democratic Carolyn B. Maloney A+ 98
12 Republican Christopher R. Wight NI NI
13 Democratic Charles B. Rangel A+ 93
13 Republican Craig Schley NI NI
13 SOC-Socialist Workers Deborah O. Liatos NI NI
14 Democratic Joseph Crowley A  80
14 Republican William F. Gibbons, Jr. NI NI
14 Green Anthony Gronowicz NI NI
15 Democratic Jose E. Serrano A+ 90 Official Statement: "Senator Serrano deepened his appreciation for the arts and dedicated himself to using it as a vehicle for education and community empowerment."
15 Republican Frank L. Della Valle NI NI
16 Democratic Eliot L. Engel A+ 96
16 Republican Joseph McLaughlin NI NI
16 Green Joseph Diaferia NI NI

NY State Senate

District Party Name Other Information
10 Democratic James Sanders, Jr.  
11 Democratic Tony Avella  
11 Republican Joseph R. Concannon  
12 Democratic Michael N. Gianaris  
12 Republican Aurelio A. Arcabascio  
13 Democratic Jose R. Peralta Has made it a point to attend many community arts events including: movie nights, arts and crafts events, book fairs, etc.
14 Democratic Malcolm A. Smith  
15 Democratic Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.  
15 Republican Eric A. Ulrich  
16 Democratic Toby Ann Stavisky  
16 Republican J.D. Kim  
17 Democratic Simcha Felder  
17 Republican David Storobin  
17 SCP-School Choice Abraham Tischler  
18 Democratic Martin Malave Dilan  
18 Republican Michael E. Freeman-Saulsberre  
19 Democratic John L. Sampson Supported "Creative Celebration" that encourages poetry, essays and artwork
19 Republican Jane Neal  
19 Conservative Elias J. Weir  
20 Democratic Eric Adams Has shown support for arts exhibits and has served on the Cultural Affairs Committee
20 Republican Rose Laney  
20 Conservative Brian Kelly  
21 Democratic Kevin S. Parker  
21 Republican Mindy Meyer  
22 Democratic Andrew S. Gounardes  
22 Republican Martin J. Golden  
23 Democratic Diane J. Savino  
23 Republican Lisa Grey  
24 Democratic Gary W. Carsel  
24 Republican Andrew J. Lanza Has shown support for and helped promote community based arts programs and cultural events.
25 Democratic Velmanette Montgomery Has helped secure funding for arts programs and has said "arts enhance life quality"
25 Republican John A. Jasilli  
26 Democratic Daniel Squadron Has lent his support to several arts issues including the dissappearance of OOB spaces and the WTC arts center
26 Republican Jacqueline Haro  
27 Democratic Brad M. Hoylman  
28 Democratic Liz Krueger  
28 Republican David Paul Garland  
29 Democratic Jose M. Serrano Senator Serrano has perhaps done more for the arts in NYS than any other legislator. He heads the Arts Day in Albany events, supports many arts programs, promotes funding for the arts and has served on the Cultural Affairs Committee
29 Republican Robert Goodman  
29 Green Thomas Siracuse  
30 Democratic Bill Perkins Hosts "Creative Power of Women" events
31 Democratic Adriano Espaillat  
31 Republican Martin Chicon  
32 Democratic & Republican Ruben M. Diaz Has shown support for arts programs
32 Independence David M. Johnson  
33 Democratic J. Gustavo Rivera  
33 Republican Michael E. Walters  
34 Democratic & Republican Jeffrey D. Klein Has shown support for the arts, supports NYSCA & has served on the Cultural Affairs Committee
34 Conservative Elizabeth Perri  
34 Green Carl Lundgren  
36 Democratic Ruth H. Thompson Supports the "Arts Alive" project which provides funding to individual artists and new works. Holds and honorary degree in Arts and Sciences 
36 Conservative Robert L. Diamond  

Which district are you in? Maps of NY State Districts.

241 open seats translates into nearly a thousand candidates. So I narrowed the list to just those candidates from the five boroughs. Even that was oppressive so I narrowed it even further to those candidates running for U.S. Senate and House seats and those running for State Senate seats. [There is no doubt that NY Assembly Members deserve our time and respect but there are just too many candidates vying for those 150 spots, that I could not undertake that much research in the short amount of time that I have to post this article.] However, if I can find significant information about Assembly Member candidates, I will post them as well.

AFA = Americans for the Arts

NI = a grade and/or score has not issues by Americans for the Arts

Note: Candidates might represent more than one party, however candidates are listed above under their predominant party. (e.g. Allan W. Jennings, Jr. might represent both the Republican and Conservative parties, however here I have listed him under the predominant party, which in this case would be the Republican party.)


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