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Rebuilding the NYC cultural sector after Sandy

NYC is home to hundreds of historic landmarks and thousands of artists and cultural organizations, many internationally known such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York City Ballet. 

When Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012, it left not only cultural institutions, but many members of the broader cultural community strapped for resources. The storm damaged properties, artwork and contributed to revenue losses for many. Of 645 groups that responded to a field survey distributed by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) days after the storm, 60 percent reported revenue losses due to closures, canceled performances and reduced ticket sales or attendance.

Participants sitting down listening to a speaker and a presentation.
CultureAid informational kickoff session held at the National Museum of the American Indian.
In August 2013, FEMA’s Natural and Cultural Resources Recovery Support Function (NCR RSF) approached DCLA with the idea to develop a network focused on providing disaster-related information to the cultural community— CultureAID (Culture Active in Disasters) was born.

CultureAID is a self-sustaining network modeled after an ‘arts responder hub’ system standardized by the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response in The Arts Responder Handbook: How to Plan and Mobilize an Arts Response System for Your Community. Its purpose is to streamline communications, provide access to resources and share best practices about emergency preparedness among the cultural sector. Membership is voluntary and free.

The network is governed by a steering committee of 14 cultural service organizations focused on six key initiatives: preparedness, information and resource provision, assessment, communications, education, and advocacy. The committee held informational sessions in each of New York City’s five boroughs in July and August 2014 to help attendees learn about the program and how their respective organizations can join.

Yearlong efforts culminated in a kickoff to launch the network in September 2014. DCLA and NYC Office of Emergency Management hosted the event at the Martha Graham Dance Center in New York City’s West Village. The center’s basement was severely damaged by Sandy’s floodwaters, ruining many costumes and sets, some dating back to the 1940s and ‘50s. Despite the damage it sustained, the institution continues to show signs of recovery.

“Having a systematic approach to sharing information and accessing resources is a critical piece of the disaster management cycle,” said Sandy Recovery Office Executive Director Laura Phillips. “We’re confident many individual artists, cultural organizations and cultural institutions will benefit from having access to resources and sharing best practices on emergency preparedness.”

For more information on CultureAID visit

Last Updated: 
07/08/2017 - 10:22