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Mayor Showers $15M on NYC Arts

While it's true that Michael R. Bloomberg spent over $70 million of his own fortune to become New York City's 108th mayor, it's also true that as an arts patron, he's just as generous. For the third consecutive year -- once for each year of his mayoralty -- Bloomberg has made an eight-figure "anonymous" gift to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a not-for-profit foundation, for the purposes of supporting arts and cultural groups across the city.

Bloomberg's gift this year comes to $15 million, or $5 million more than his pledges in 2002 and 2003, and brings his overall largesse to $35 million.

As in previous years, the gift has been made with the proviso that it be subdivided, or regranted, to help out small- and midsize cultural nonprofits. This year's deal is the same, with one important difference. According to a statement released by the Carnegie Corporation, the extra $5 million will go to support "small- and medium-size social services organizations that work in the city's boroughs and neighborhoods dealing with immigrants, families, youth, education, and health."

Something else also remains consistent: the not-so-mysterious identity of the benefactor. In the same statement -- and as it did in 2002 and 2003 -- the Carnegie Corporation referred to the "largesse of an anonymous donor," yet the Wed., May 26 edition of The New York Times reported, "a person who had been told of the gift confirmed‌that Mr. Bloomberg was the donor." And, as in previous years, Edward Skyler, Mayor Bloomberg's press secretary, declined to issue a public comment on the matter.

In 2003, a total of 162 arts groups benefited from Bloomberg's altruism. This year, perhaps due to the increase in the size of the gift, 198 cultural and arts groups are receiving grants; add in another 104 social services organizations and a total of 302 groups are enjoying the windfall. More important, all grants go toward general operating expenses -- a scarce catch in the world of contemporary philanthropy -- and range in size from $25,000 to $100,000.

Said Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation: "Although the Corporation is a national foundation, we are proud to be able to support these New York City organizations throughout the boroughs. It is local organizations like these that have helped New York remain resilient and re-energized."

A partial list of theatres, companies, and organizations receiving Carnegie grants includes:

The 52nd Street Project, Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, American Place Theatre, Atlantic Theater Company, City Center, Dance Theater Workshop, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dixon Place, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Flea Theater, Irish Repertory Theatre, Joyce Theater Foundation, La MaMa E.T.C., Manhattan Class Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Materials for the Arts, Negro Ensemble Company, New 42nd Street, New Dramatists, New Federal Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, Paper Bag Players, Pearl Theatre Company, P.S. 122, Playwrights Horizons, The Shakespeare Project, Signature Theatre Company, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Soho Repertory Theatre, Symphony Space, TADA!, Target Margin Theater, Thalia Spanish Theatre, Theater by the Blind, Theatre for a New Audience, Theater for the New City, Town Hall, Vineyard Theatre, Women's Project and Productions, and The Wooster Group.

In February 2002, Back Stage reported that Gregorian was asked to funnel the first $10 million "anonymous" gift to groups serving "the public through dance, theatre, music, poetry, photography, and institutions that advance historic and scientific understanding." At the time, the Carnegie Corporation allowed that the donor "understands the greatness of this city and the centrality of its cultural institutions," whoever he or she may be.

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