The Center for Urban Research Releases Study Findings that Shaped Arts-Education Strategies in New York City’s First-Ever Cultural Plan

Press Release

Media contact: Tanya Domi, 212-817-7283,,

The Center for Urban Research Releases Study Findings that Shaped Arts-Education Strategies in New York City’s First-Ever Cultural Plan

The study found a strong correlation between English language proficiency and access to arts education, resulting in key recommendations in the cultural plan

New York, September 19, 2017 – A newly released study from the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center, CUNY, details key findings and recommendations that helped shape the arts, culture and science education strategies contained in CreateNYC – New York City’s first-ever cultural plan.

A Cross-Agency Study of Arts Educational Opportunities for NYC Public School Students is the first thorough review of arts education opportunities provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in collaboration with the Department of Education (DOE). It found that schools with high percentages of English language learners provide less arts education in grades 1 through 4 than other New York City public schools. The researcher found no correlation between poverty and access to arts education, but identified a number of schools across the five boroughs with low levels of arts instruction. The study also noted a highly uneven distribution of arts education opportunities for public school students.

Authored by cultural sociologist and Graduate Center Ph.D. candidate Melanie Lorek, the study made recommendations that directly shaped several of CreateNYC’s arts, culture and science education strategies, including: 

  • Enhancing and expanding arts education for English language learners;

  • Coordinating efforts across agencies to provide quality arts, culture and science education during and after school; and

  • Seeking opportunities to create complementary certification programs for arts-education specialists with additional proficiencies such as teaching English language learners or students with disabilities.

Released in July by the New York City Mayor’s Office and Department of Cultural Affairs, CreateNYC is a roadmap for the future of arts and culture in New York City. In its objectives and strategies for art, culture and science education, the plan calls on the city to “enhance and expand arts education for English language learners.” The Center for Urban Research report was key to this strategy’s inclusion in the cultural plan.
“Public school students are an essential part of the city’s effort to ensure New York has vibrant, more diverse arts community,” said John Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research and a professor at the Graduate Center, CUNY. “This study was a prodigious effort to synthesize data in support of the city’s new plan for greater equity in the arts, and it sheds light on which students are being served, where activities take place and how relevant they are to specific communities.”
“Thoughtful and insightful research like this provided CreateNYC with a solid foundation for strategies that improve arts access for all New Yorkers,” said NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “Thanks to Melanie Lorek’s work at the Graduate Center, we have a deeper understanding of where we can work with our partners at DOE to focus our efforts to bring the transformative benefits of arts education to every New York City public school student.” Funded by the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust, the study has already helped produce important resources for public school students as they return to school this year.

“These research findings are a clear call to action for all policymakers and funders who care about young people in this city,” said Kerry McCarthy, program director for Thriving Communities at The New York Community Trust. The Trust took action on the research findings and awarded grants totaling $520,000 to four high-quality arts programs that benefit English language learners. Arts Connection, Community-Word Project, Learning Through an Expanded Arts Program and Repertorio Español will use the funds to help 4,300 students in 33 Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan and Queens schools improve their English language proficiency through the arts.

Lorek believes her work offers information that will be useful as city agencies, educators, art organizations and artists look to develop programs that enhance students’ educational experiences and, ultimately, strengthen the city’s artistic communities and offerings.

“Art is an invaluable teaching tool,” said Lorek. “Research shows it facilitates and improves communication, collaboration and literacy skills, so making sure that all students are frequently and equally involved in artistic pursuits will have a significant payoff for New York City in the short and long term.”

About the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center
The Center for Urban Research undertakes a wide range of basic and applied research on the challenges facing New York City and similar cities around the U.S. and the world, often in partnership with public agencies, nonprofit organizations, the media, and philanthropies.  It draws heavily on large scale data sets from the U.S. Census and other sources, including administrative data sets, to understand and visually display trends in neighborhood, city, and regional development in terms of population, immigration, employment, land use, political participation, and many other characteristics.  Its component units include the CUNY Data Center, the CUNY Mapping Service, and the New York City Labor Market Information Center.  Visit us at
About the Graduate Center, CUNY
The Graduate Center (GC) is the principal doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). Positioned at the center of the largest urban public university in America, the GC fosters pioneering research and scholarship in the arts and sciences, and trains graduate students for careers in universities and the private, nonprofit, and government sectors. Unlike typical research-intensive universities, the Graduate Center focus exclusively on graduate education, with over 35 doctoral and master’s programs, and 20 research centers, institutes and initiatives.  Every year, GC students teach over 200,000 CUNY undergraduates, with another 150,000 undergraduates taught by GC alumni in virtually every college and university across the City.  Through its public programs, the Graduate Center enhances the City’s intellectual and cultural life. Visit to learn more.
About The New York Community Trust
The New York Community Trust is committed to promoting healthy lives, promising futures, and thriving communities for all New Yorkers. It is the community foundation for New York City, Westchester, and Long Island—with a permanent endowment dedicated to improving the region through strategic grantmaking, civic engagement, and smart giving. The Trust manages several funder collaboratives including the aforementioned Cultural Agenda Fund, which aims to strengthen arts advocacy, influence cultural policy, and advance equity in the city’s cultural ecology. Visit to learn more.
About the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City's vibrant cultural life. Among our primary missions is to ensure adequate public funding for nonprofit cultural organizations, both large and small, throughout the five boroughs.
In May 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation requiring the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to lead creation of New York City’s first comprehensive cultural plan, CreateNYC, to provide a long-term blueprint for the efforts and policies of the City and its partners in expanding access to cultural opportunities for all New Yorkers. Released in July 2017, CreateNYC examines a number of issues crucial for maintaining New York City’s cultural vibrancy, including affordable artist workspace; access to arts education; and the role of cultural activities in public space. More information is available at

Submitted on: SEP 19, 2017

Category: Center for Urban Research, Press Room, Research Studies