Gov. George Pataki (R-NY)

Governors Arts Leadership

“The arts effect each of us in different ways, yet give added meaning and enrichment to all our lives. The brilliant and diverse artistic offerings here in New York not only celebrate the human spirit, but challenge the mind, capture the heart, and inspire the soul.” — Gov. George E. Pataki

When Gov. George Pataki took office in 1995, the New York state’s arts budget had been cut by 56 percent over the previous five years. Under his leadership, state funding for the arts has gone up 52 percent, bringing the New York State Council on the Arts’ current appropriation to $50.1 million. Since 1995, close to 21,600 grants totaling over $349,572,325 have been awarded to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. In 2003, New York State was ranked third in per capita state spending on the arts in America.

In the spring of 1997, Gov. Pataki announced the first Empire State Partnership (ESP) Grants. The initiative, started jointly by the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York State Education Department, gives students the tools to master important thinking and communication skills while improving their competence in the arts and other subjects. Schools and cultural organizations work together to assist students in meeting New York's learning standards. In September 1999, the magic of teaching children in and through the arts was captured in a documentary, entitled pARTnerships, that spotlighted four New York State public schools that currently receive ESP grants. Gov. Pataki’s 2002-2003 Executive Budget set aside $5 million for the ESP program in order to bring together schools and arts organizations to promote innovative programs and raise educational standards.

In 1999, under the leadership of Gov. Pataki, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Arts and Business Council launched a new grant initiative to expand and enhance cultural tourism. Its purpose was to attract new visitors, stimulate local economies, generate new jobs, and create renewed pride and recognition of the arts and cultural heritage in New York’s local communities. Since its inception, close to $700,000 in grants have been awarded to 37 arts organizations to develop cultural tourism projects. Among the funded projects are a series of bus tours through Brooklyn highlighting the borough’s history and culture, architectural tours of Buffalo and Erie County, arts and crafts trails through Dutchess County, and a lecture series in Essex County examining its rich African-American heritage.

On April 30, 1998, Gov. Pataki and then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a pact to build a cultural exchange between New York and Israel, the first agreement of its kind between New York state and a foreign power. A New York-Israel Cultural Cooperation Commission was established to coordinate, financially support, and maintain diverse joint cultural activities among Israeli and New York arts institutions, businesses, and government.