City Grants Fifty Million to Untested Arts Organization


New York City’s largest cultural capital grant this year, a hefty sum of $50 million, has been granted to a new arts nonprofit, the Culture Shed, which is planned for Manhattan’s far West Side, according to a story in today’s New York Times.

The newly established arts group has yet to hire staff, stage a performance or publish a construction budget. The project will be designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro, who designed the High Line and were responsible for the Lincoln Center’s renovation, in partnership with the Rockwell group. The project would appear to have garnered the favor of the Bloomberg administration since large sums like this are typically not handed out in one year, especially to a new organization that is still in early planning stages. Moreover, sitting in top positions at the organization are people with strong Bloomberg alliances; the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, Kate D. Levin, is championing the project; chairman of the Culture Shed’s board Daniel L. Doctoroff, formerly deputy mayor and now chief executive of Bloomberg L.P., the mayor’s financial services company. Also a member of the Shed’s board is Stephen M. Ross, the chairman of private developer the Related Companies, the main developer of this project.

The $50 million will cover a small part of the Shed’s construction costs, which have not been published but are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the article states. Located on 30th Street between 10th and 11th avenues, the 170,000-square-foot Shed will occupy the southern end of Hudson Yards. It will offer a combination of rental and cultural space for exhibitions and events such as New York Fashion Week. The city owns the lease for the land and building and will sublease it to the Culture Shed. Hudson Yards is undergoing extensive redevelopment, which Mayor Bloomberg has long supported.

As Bloomberg is a major donor to cultural groups, arts executives are reluctant to express their concerns about the size of the grant for attribution, the article says. Voicing her skepticism over the city’s generosity in the article, however, was Georgiana Pickett, the executive director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center: “I do understand how [$50 million] can be a number that would make a lot of people wince, when so many are struggling.”