Art + Culture

Q+A: Michael Royce and David Terry of NYFA

New York Foundation of the Arts (NYFA) empowers emerging artists and arts organizations across all disciplines at critical stages in their creative lives and professional/organizational development.  We sat down with Executive Director Michael Royce and Director and Curator Grants & Exhibitions David Terry to learn more about this beloved organization. Read on, and be sure to stop by and see their show Solitary Refinement, which showcases the diverse work created by NYFA’s 2015 Finalists in Painting, Interdisciplinary Work and Video/Film (on view through June 10.)

Photo by Jacque Donaldson

How did NYFA get started?  And why?

Michael: NYFA was founded in 1971 by the New York State Council on the Arts as an independent non-profit organization to serve individual artists throughout the state.  Since 2009, we have focused on enhancing our programs and services throughout the United States, and have embarked upon international partnerships.  NYFA’s mission is to provide resources that working artists and emerging arts organizations need to do well.   In order to ensure the vitality of the artist community, we offer cash grants, professional development, online resources, and fiscal sponsorship programs, among many other services.

Why did each of you join NYFA?

Michael: I started my professional career as an actor.  I felt that I could help make a difference with this organization and with the incredible staff and board that we have; I couldn’t be happier!

David: I won a NYFA Fellowship in Sculpture in 1999, so when the opportunity arose to actually work at NYFA, I jumped at it.  Being more deeply involved with an organization that does such important work was a huge draw, and to be able to create and develop an exhibition program here along with other significant initiatives keeps me thoroughly engaged and energized.   I feel very fortunate.

Why did NYFA choose to locate in DUMBO?

David: We did an extensive search throughout the city.  We saw spaces in lower Manhattan, Harlem and in midtown.  We were drawn to DUMBO because were aware of its avant-garde arts history.  We also believed that DUMBO was going to be the new arts hub of the city and we wanted to be a part of that evolution.

Photo by Jacque Donaldson

What is the Fiscal Sponsorship Program?

Michael: This program gives individual artists and artist-run organizations increased access to greater funding and enhances their fundraising capabilities.  It allows individual artists and emerging arts organizations in all disciplines to increase their fundraising efforts by using NYFA’s tax-exempt non-profit status.

What kinds of professional development programs do you offer?

David: Professional Development is another major component.  We offer one-on-one consultations with industry professionals to intensive programs that focus on providing entrepreneurial training.  The NYFA Learning program provides panels, workshops, consultations, and training opportunities.  These ongoing programs are combined with special off-site events and we collaborate with other organizations such as El Museo del Barrio and No Longer Empty to establish stronger networks of support and resources for artists everywhere.  The Boot Camp program guides artists through the core principles of sustainability that can apply to an artist’s practice or projects.  These boot camp activities include community building exercises, leadership development, financing, marketing, fundraising, etc. Since 2009, these programs are offered nationally and internationally through partnerships with universities and other organizations.

David: NYFA also provides work sample reviews to help students prepare their applications, resumes, and project descriptions.  There is an internship program that offers academic credit in Online Resources, Awards & Grants, Fiscal Sponsorship, Learning & Professional Development, and Development & Special Events.  We have launched an Arts Business Incubator as well with the support of the Scherman Foundation’s Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund.  This initiative offers specialized support and training for a handful of start-ups over the next three years.

Photo by Jacque Donaldson

What kinds of online resources do you offer?

David: NYFA Classifieds is a vital resource for advertisers and job seekers for opportunities in the arts.  It offers thousands of listings for internships and jobs as well as open calls for artists and studio spaces.  NYFA Source is the nation’s largest online arts database, providing thousands of resources and opportunities for artists in all disciplines. The database is updated on a regular basis and comes with personalized support through a source hotline that helps facilitate ongoing online conversations.  The Business of Art Directory provides information and guidance on a huge range of topics that are important such as insurance explanations, financial security guidance, etc.  The format can be seen through texts, podcasts, videos, etc.

Can you explain the Artists’ Fellowships program?

Michael & David: NYFA annually provides over $600,000 in cash grants to New York-based artists pursuing artistic excellence in all disciplines. These unrestricted grants are $7,000 and can be used in any manner the artists deem necessary to further their careers.  Since 1985, this program has provided over $27 million in unrestricted cash grants to artists in 15 disciplines at critical stages in their creative development.  The Fellowships program is administered with leadership support from the New York State Council on the Arts.

What is your favorite spot in DUMBO?

Michael & David: Superfine is our favorite.

Photo by Jacque Donaldson