Sustaining Arts Labor: Past and Present

Space is limited. Registration is required.
Payment for registration is not required. Contributed funds benefit Bluestockings Cooperative

Accessibility: ASL interpretation will be provided

Building upon conversations initiated by the 2021 exhibition ART/WORK, which chronicled the seminal but forgotten impact of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act in 1970s New York, Artists Alliance and City Lore are delighted to present the panel discussion Sustaining Arts Labor: Past and Present.

Prominent cultural advocates–Ximena Garnica, Arlene Goldbard, Mei Lum, Patrice Walker Powell–will come together to discuss past and present methods for situating the cultural class as a part of the American workforce and explore current efforts to create sustained investment in cultural labor today. The conversation will be moderated by Tom Finkelpearl.

Our deepest thanks to Bluestockings Cooperative for hosting this conversation. This program is presented in partnership with Creatives Rebuild New York, with support from Moxy Lower East Side.


Over the last four decades, Tom Finkelpearl has worked as an artist, curator, museum director and head of a government funding agency. He organized fifteen shows at PS1 in the 1980s, managed over 100 public art commissions at the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) in the 1990s, spearheaded a 50,000 square foot expansion as Director of the Queens Museum (2002-2014), and oversaw nearly $2 billion in cultural funding when he returned to DCLA as Commissioner (2014-2020). Currently he is working on his third book, an assessment of the challenges facing American art museums in collaboration with Pablo Helguera, and he is Social Practice Teaching Scholar-in-Residence at CUNY.

Colombian-born Ximena Garnica is a multidisciplinary immigrant artist who creates collaborative works ranging from sculptural, video, light, and mixed-media installation art to contemporary dance and theater performances, publications, and research projects. Her work ponders questions of being, perception, interdependency, and coexistence.  Ximena is the co- founder and artistic co-director of the art entity LEIMAY and the performance group LEIMAY Ensemble. Through LEIMAY, she has led multiple resource-sharing and coalition programs, including the Cultural Solidarity Fund. The Cultural Solidarity Fund, has provided over $1M in $500 relief microgrants to NYC artists and cultural workers affected by COVID-19. Ximena is an advocate of affordable live-work spaces, and her activism was instrumental in affecting changes at the NY State level to protect live-work spaces in New York City. Ximena continues multiple organizing efforts to support what she calls the “entanglement,” a loose knot, cluster, or constellation of relationalities -an intention to live a life in poetry. Garnica and her partner Shige Moriya are Creative Capital, National Dance Project, National Endowment for the Arts, and Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation Award recipients. Watermill Center and Chelsea Factory Artists in Residency. Garnica received the Van Lier Fellowship for extraordinary stage directors and was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California, Riverside. She is currently on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty, Marymount Manhattan College, and Sarah Lawrence College.

Arlene Goldbard is a New Mexico-based writer, speaker, consultant, cultural activist, and visual artist whose focus is the intersection of culture, politics and spirituality. Her books include The WaveThe Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The FutureNew Creative Community: The Art of Cultural DevelopmentCommunity, Culture and GlobalizationCrossroads: Reflections on the Politics of Culture, and Clarity. Her new book, In The Camp of Angels of Freedom: What Does It Mean to Be Educated? was published by New Village Press in January 2023. Her essays have been widely published. She has addressed academic and community audiences in the U.S. and Europe and provided advice to community-based organizations, independent media groups, institutions of higher education, and public and private funders and policymakers. Along with François Matarasso, she co-hosts “A Culture of Possibility,” a podcast hosted by From 2012 to 2019, she served as Chief Policy Wonk of the USDAC. From 2008-2019, she served as President of the Board of Directors of The Shalom Center.

Mei Lum is the 5th generation owner of her family’s over century-old porcelain ware business and the oldest operating store in NYC’s Chinatown, Wing on Wo & Co. (W.O.W.). In light of Manhattan Chinatown’s rapid cultural displacement, Mei established community initiative, the W.O.W. Project in 2016 out of a desire to amplify community voices and stories through art, culture, and activism. Since its inception, the W.O.W. Project has become a trailblazer in becoming one of the neighborhood’s very first women and non-binary-led initiatives to transform a storefront into an alternative space for community dialogue and grassroots action for Chinatown’s future. Mei has grown as a community leader alongside the W.O.W. Project with recognition as a 2017 emerging voice in the APA community by NBC Asian America, she received the 2019 Community Builder Award from OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates, 2019 Rubinger Fellowship from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and was a 2020-2022 Civic Practice Partnership Artist-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Patrice Walker Powell is a retired cultural worker. She contributed her efforts in the public service arena for more than three decades. Initially, she gained staff experience working with several state arts agencies. In addition, she enjoyed an early career as a stage manager for venues featuring international touring artistry (national R&B acts, jazz artists and theatrical productions). Plus, she held short-term gigs with select media and arts education projects, including assignments as an Artist-in-the-School contract worker. Following years working for the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) as a Program Director (Expansion Arts, Local Arts Agencies, and Presenting), in 2009, The President appointed Walker Powell as the agency’s Acting Chair. Following this temporary tenure, she resumed her work as Deputy for Programs and Partnerships until retiring in 2014. As an influential part of her early employment history, in 1981 she accepted an independent assignment to be the principal arts consultant for a United States Department of Labor (USDOL) study. This study documented exemplary arts and humanities projects funded through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act’s (CETA) job services programs. She credits her direct experience with this national research project as fundamental to her background in cultural management and cultural policy. Patrice is a graduate of Yale School of Drama (MFA) and Howard University’s School of Fine Arts (BFA). After her formal retirement in 2014, she returned to her family’s Virginia roots. She is now based in Richmond, an old river-city with many charms and dichotomies.


Founded in 1985, City Lore’s mission is to foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs in service of cultural equity and social justice.  City Lore encompasses a Lower East Side gallery space, performances, lectures, the People’s Hall of Fame, a POEMobile that projects poems onto walls and buildings, and programs throughout the five boroughs. We document, present, and advocate for New York City’s grassroots cultures to ensure their living legacy in stories and histories, places and traditions. We work in four cultural domains: urban folklore and history; preservation; arts education; and grassroots poetry traditions. In each, we seek to further cultural equity and model a better world with projects as dynamic and diverse as New York City itself.

Bluestockings Cooperative is a worker-owned community space and bookstore guided by the principles of abolition feminism, solidarity, and transformative justice practices. We channel our community knowledge and values to inform how we move this work together. In order to live our values of equity, we use a consensus-based decision making structure in our day to day operations. In practice, that means we use a horizontally-shared decision making model, have transparent financial practices with one another, and establish our own living wages.

If you would like to support Bluestockings’ free store, please bring a hygiene product or snack with you to donate. Take a look at our wishlist for ideas. Please note that we currently cannot accept used clothing or perishable food items.