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A massive new program will bring outdoor performances to NYC's streets next year

The program allows outdoor shows and will be a huge help to local venues and artists.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

For nine months, New York City's performing arts venues—theaters, comedy clubs, DIY spots—have been sitting dark and empty. At least 260,000 cultural sector jobs have been lost over the course of the pandemic. The heart and soul of the city have been missing for nearly a year.

But come March 1, 2021, they'll be able to take to the open streets and spaces to perform and bring cultural activities to us once again. 

The "Open Culture" program, a bill which just passed in New York City Council on Thursday, allows artists, cultural institutions, venues and groups to stage ticketed events outdoors via an application process—through at least October 31, 2021. It could be extended but it expires March 31, 2022.

Instead of going through the city's usual application process, this program would allow applicants to self-certify that they are complying with COVID safety rules and pay just $20 to apply.

They'd be able to perform in areas already being used for restaurants and by the community under the "Open Streets" program that closed dozens of miles to car traffic earlier this year. The DOT will be required to share a list of eligible open spaces by February 1, 2021.

"This is not just a cultural bill, but a small business bill and a jobs creation bill—all of those things in one," Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who co-sponsored the bill, said on Thursday. "It's a one-stop-shop for expedited permits…and allows cultural to charge for those performances and start to receive income for the art they create and produce once again."

"It is incredibly exciting to have dance, music, poetry, opera, comedy, breaking out all over the city of New York in the streets as the weather gets a little bit nicer we hope…we are going to save a lot of arts organizations and put to work a lot of artists and allow them to get paid for their work...because the days of performing for free all the time have got to be over," he added.

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