Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

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Coalition of Small Arts NYC

On Apr 1, 2022

New York, NY, USA

In the summer of 2020, thirty-two New York City arts organizations joined together to form Coalition of Small Arts NYC (CoSA NYC), aimed to address the unfolding challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to strengthen their commitments to racial, social, economic, and environmental justice. CoSA NYC formed in recognition that together, small organizations are uniquely resilient and form a cornerstone of the cultural life of New York City. In its first phase, CoSA NYC raised a total of $1,600,000 that was shared equally among thirty-two organizations.

Coalition of Small Arts NYC is A Gathering of the TribesAnthology Film ArchivesArts for ArtAsian American Arts AllianceBidoun ProjectsBlank FormsCOUSINDanspace ProjectElectronic Arts Intermix (EAI)Franklin Furnace ArchiveHarvestworksHOUSINGIndependent Curators International (ICI)ISSUE Project RoomLight IndustryLuminal TheaterMaysles Documentary CenterMONO NO AWAREMovement ResearchParticipant IncPrimary InformationQueer|Art, SPICY, The Brooklyn RailThe Chocolate Factory TheaterThe ClementeThe Poetry ProjectTriple CanopyUgly Duckling PresseUnionDocsVisual AIDS, and Wendy’s Subway.


Individually, the organizations in CoSA NYC are devoted to collaborative relationships with artists and publics, and recognize that the value of smallness means placing the needs of communities ahead of institutional needs. Together, they encompass a broad range of disciplines, including dance and performance, music and sound, film and media arts, literature, and visual arts; with services ranging from public exhibitions, performances, and screenings; to publishing, archiving, and preserving artists’ works; to facilitating residencies, professional development, education, and advocacy.

In total, the thirty-two organizations in CoSA NYC employ more than 170 art workers, in addition to paying more than 622 contracted workers each year, and their programs reach an annual audience of nearly 4 million people. Their annual operating budgets reflect an average budget size of $560,000, with 80% of the organizations’ budgets falling under $1 million. CoSA NYC represents a wide breadth of experience and cultural histories, from cultural pillars founded as early as 1966 to newly-formed organizations that bring a future-oriented vision to the evolving cultural landscape.

CoSA NYC collectively serves more than 21,500 artists each year. At the core of CoSA NYC’s shared values is a commitment to substantially paying artists, with over $2.8 million in artist fees paid annually. While not a prerequisite for inclusion, many of the organizations in CoSA NYC hold certification from the activist nonprofit W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) in recognition of longstanding histories of paying artists fair and standardized fees. Data collected by W.A.G.E.’s Certification program has shown us that fees and direct production support paid to artists by small organizations such as our coalition members by far outsize larger organizations.

Many of the organizations in CoSA NYC were members of the advocacy group Common Practice New York (CPNY), which conducted relevant research that points to the unique abilities of small-scale organizations to meaningfully engage with artists and publics over sustained periods of time, fostering ideas from which larger organizations consistently profit, and for which the metrics needed to assess value simply don’t exist.

As art historian David Joselit argues, in “In Praise of Small,” an essay commissioned by CPNY, “While large institutions canonize — i.e., turn information into history — small arts organizations may pluralize its shapes … as well as the stories it can tell. To make information malleable and mobile again in unexpected ways, and to resist its enclosure by elites and its reification into dominant narratives is to make art political.”

Despite the essential roles that CoSA NYC organizations play in sustaining the vital work of thousands of artists each year, many were deemed ineligible or declined for public relief opportunities, which in recent years have prioritized medium- to large-scale institutions, including those with endowments and pre existing access to extensive funding structures. CoSA NYC seeks to bring greater visibility to the unique challenges faced by small-scale organizations and the communities they serve, and to ensure their survival.

Since fall 2020, CoSA NYC has received generous grants from Teiger FoundationThe Willem de Kooning Foundation, and Henry Luce Foundation for general operating support for CoSA NYC members. Modeled on extensive research into non hierarchical, cooperative decision-making gathered by the Coop Fund, funds raised through CoSA NYC are divided equally among all thirty-two organizations. CoSA NYC’s future plans include defining and advancing its advocacy role, and creating an open system for more small-scale and micro-organizations to join the coalition.