New York City has had a new cultural czar since last week when Mayor Eric Adams awarded the title to Laurie Cumbo. But despite her lengthy resume qualifying her for the role, many oppose the nomination. As The New York Times reports, Cumbo has ruffled some feathers in the past with his comments. Following attacks on Jewish residents in 2013, the then-elected councilwoman cited “Jewish success” in Brooklyn as one of the reasons for growing resentment among African Americans, fearing it could be pushed out of their homes by Jewish owners. She later apologized for the statement. More recently, Cumbo has come under fire for opposing a bill that would extend voting rights to non-citizens.
As the arts sector of the Department of Cultural Affairs continues to emerge from the struggles triggered by the pandemic, someone with Cumbo’s experience is needed more than ever. However, people have now started to question his background and his leadership abilities.
“At the bare minimum, our city deserves a cultural leader who is deeply respectful of the origins and perspectives that enrich our world,” said Reynold Levy, the former president of Lincoln Center. “Does Laurie Cumbo pass these simple and elementary tests?
Well, some took the opportunity to demand an answer directly from Cumbo herself. Asked about her previous statements by The New York Times, she had this to say:
“I strongly believe in the democratic process, in the beauty and togetherness of New York’s rich and diverse communities, and in the power of art and open dialogue to help bring us together,” she responded by E-mail. “As Commissioner, I will continue to work, learn and grow with the communities I have dedicated my life to serving.
In addition to her BA in Art History from Spelman College and her Masters in Visual Arts Administration from NYU, she has also taught the Arts and Culture Management program at Pratt Institute and worked at the Brooklyn Museum. and at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. And his servitude didn’t stop there. On Council as a representative for Brooklyn’s 35th Ward, Cumbo fought for progressive causes such as raise the minimum wage at $15, domestic violence services, pay equity, family leave policy, and gun violence prevention.
“Every moment of my life has led me to this incredible opportunity,” she said in a statement.
Although she has many naysayers, her service to the city through the arts and beyond has also won her many allies.
“Laurie has been a passionate champion of the arts her entire professional life – from founding MoCADA to supporting the arts as a board member,” said Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak.
In the press release announcing his appointmentMayor Eric Adams said Ms Cumbo “brings a wealth of experience in the arts, community advocacy and city administration to her role as commissioner”.