Upper Manhattan has long been home to a remarkable concentration of arts organizations. These nonprofit groups, representing multiple art forms, traditions, and aesthetics, comprise a broad and deeply-rooted industry with a rich history of nurturing vital new expressions in music, literature and art.
From the beginning, UMEZ believed that this cultural community, with its wide range of programs and activities, held a natural appeal for a wider public. These organizations shared many challenges, however, including inadequate staffing, limited access to funding, rundown facilities and insufficient means to build visitorship; thus they offered a powerful platform for UMEZ to conduct economic revitalization in the Zone.
Under the Cultural Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) plan adopted in 2004, UMEZ seized upon the distinct competitive advantage provided by these cultural institutions to construct its nonprofit investment strategy, shaped by two primary themes: community building through a cultural and economic lens; and the repositioning of Upper Manhattan in the public imagination as one of New York City’s primary cultural districts.
The result has been to leverage the strengths of Upper Manhattan’s nonprofit organizations and artistic leadership to generate significant job creation, tourism, and economic activity, while strengthening their capacity to nurture new cultural legacies.