When Hurricane Sandy hit New York, it revealed the constructive role cultural groups can play as community hubs and service providers, particularly in troubling times. Many cultural organizations responded to this terrible storm by helping out in ways big and small, from distributing emergency resources, to extending hours, to acting as gathering places where people could hear the news and plug in their cell phones. In doing so, these local libraries, museums, and cultural institutions showed their importance as community anchors at a time when New Yorkers needed it most.
At the same time, Sandy’s waters didn’t discriminate, and many cultural organizations across the city were affected: libraries lost collections, historic sites were compromised, and museums were forced to close their doors for extensive clean up.
Immediately after the storm, the New York Council for the Humanities secured and distributed emergency funding to assist these essential institutions with their recovery efforts. These emergency funds were made possible thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Council support was used in the months after the storm to offset recovery hours for staff and volunteers at 61 groups. Grantees range from the Broad Channel Historical Society to the Hudson River Maritime Museum to the Nuyorican Poets Café. And, while to date only 48% of these grant recipients have fully restored their services, many of them have been donating time, space, and resources to help play a role in the recovery of their communities.
Going forward, cultural organizations continue to play an important role in the collection, preservation, and reflection on the impact and legacy of Sandy. To aid in this ongoing work, the New York Council for the Humanities is offering several important resources:
- After Sandy Community Conversations: This program allows organizations to bring their community together to reflect on the impact Sandy, and how communities respond to disaster through service. The After Sandy Community Conversations toolkit contains everything needed to host these “do-it-yourself” discussion. In the coming weeks, sites such as the Seaside Branch of the Queens Public Library and the Brooklyn Historical Society will be hosting these discussions in their communities. To signup and host a conversation in your community, visit nyhumanities.org/aftersandy/
- Innovative Grantees After Sandy Conference Call: A conversation focusing on projects that address how Superstorm Sandy has impacted us as individuals & communities. Each featured project uses the methods or subjects of the humanities in unique ways to help New Yorkers examine, reflect and try and make sense of this destructive storm. Anyone may call in to listen to this October 29th conversation. To signup, visit nyhumanities.org/aftersandy/
Details about both of these resources and the impact of Council support on the recovery of our state’s cultural sector can be found at www.nyhumanities.org/aftersandy/.
Founded in 1975 and supported by Federal, State, and private sources, the New York Council for the Humanities helps all New Yorkers become thoughtful participants in our communities by promoting critical inquiry, cultural understanding, and civic engagement through grants and programs.