ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A new initiative, funded by three foundations, called “Creatives Rebuild New York” is looking to provide a solid economic floor for artists of all kinds, types, and mediums across New York State.

The program would provide thousands of artists $1,000 a month for 18 months — no strings attached — and give 300 people $65,000 jobs in collaborative art jobs.

Artists can apply here, and are due March 25. Recipients of the employment program will be announced in June 2022.

Sarah Calderon, executive director of Creatives Rebuild New York, says that this program was designed to be a three-year “catalytic investment” plan. The funding comes from Mellon Foundation — who committed the lion’s share of $115 million — and the Ford Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, who each committed $5 million.

What it does for artists

“So it was initially thought (as a) response to COVID… really thinking about COVID relief,” Calderon said. “We started to think about what was happening to artists and really understanding the loss that arts that we’re facing across the state.”

Calderon said that the Mellon Foundation, who gives a lot of resources frequently to arts organizations across the state, thought that a universal basic income would be the best way to support artists. They originally based the model on other cities doing similar programs, like St. Paul or San Francisco, and harkening back to the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act in the 1970s in New York State.

Calderon adds that while this program applies to a wide swath of artists, the program is also meant to highlight the effect that gig workers across the economy have. By providing an “economic floor,” it allows artists and gig workers to focus on their art — or craft — and to keep adding to our culture and economy.

And unlike a more typical grant in the form of a lump sum, these basic income plans have no project, requirement, or anything else attached. If you are chosen for the basic income, you get it, and that’s it.

“We’re not looking at that as merit-based, and that the application is not meant to be burdensome,” Calderon said. “And the goal is not to pit artists against each other to apply for this.”


So who can get these grants, anyway? Calderon said that they have a “broad definition” for defining what an artist is, allowing for the greatest amount and the most diverse pool of applicants.

  • Must be 18 years old
  • As of January 1 2022, you have to live in New York State with your primary residence being in New York State
  • Have financial need

“It’s the culture-makers and culture-bearers,” Calderon said. “if you want to look at specific disciplines, and everything else, it’s all there. But for guaranteed income, there are some eligibility requirements.”

To determine who is chosen, Creatives Rebuild New York used a model developed by the University of Washington called “the self-sufficiency standard.” It balances how much the applicant makes, how many adults are in the house they live in, and what the cost of living is in the county the applicant lives in. The model then generates a number. Calderon says that this will reduce geographic bias, and help their mission to get artists paid throughout the entire state, not just New York City. It will then go into what Calderon calls “a randomized weighted process.”

“We truly believe that artists exist everywhere,” she said. “We know what a rich artistic and cultural community Rochester is, and its surrounding communities. We know that we know that artists are in every place every community. And we’re hoping to do that sort of at the end.”

To apply for one of the 300 $65,000 jobs, that’s a different process. Technically, those positions come with financial funding for the organization the person would work with. The artist would work with that organization to jointly apply, and the position would be held in both CRNY and the organization.

The big questions, and the big picture

“We were set up to really catalyze this work to see what happens with this right,” Calderon said, while also pointing out that many studies have shown that on a basic level, guaranteed income works. “What does it mean? What does it mean for artists? How much? How much more art can they do? How can they think more about their artistic practice? How are they able to be to experience some freedom and decision-making by having either a full-time job or guaranteed income? What does this accomplish for folks?

“So t’s not necessarily how do we create more guaranteed income for artists, but also how do we change policy so that when guaranteed income happens in a place that artists and other gig workers in solidarity with other gig workers are really being thought about and understanding their particular needs in that way,” she said.