Cultural planning requirements

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Cultural planning requirements are policies that require a government, typically the executive branch, to develop a plan as it relates to the dedication of public resources for institutions and activities that support culture, such as history, customs, traditions, knowledge, and works of art. The purpose of requiring a cultural plan may be to elevate the public's attention to and support for culture, to ensure that adequate funding is provided for cultural resources, and/or to ensure that cultural resources are provided equitably and transparently across a jurisdiction. Typically, cultural planning requirements are imposed by legislation, including requirements such as the required components of the cultural plan, the process for developing the cultural plan, the timeline by which the plan must be developed, completed and updated, and the publishing requirements related to cultural plan documents and progress assessments of the cultural plan's implementation. Cultural planning requirements imply a legislative obligation to produce a cultural plan; however, it is more common for cultural plans to be produced on an ad hoc basis, often based on the initiative of the executives of large municipalities.



Conceptual Example

A large municipality observes a range of pressures that have begun to inhibit the flourishing of its arts and culture. Rising rents have displaced many of its cultural workers, fiscal pressures have reduced the amount of educational resources for arts and culture, and the limited amount of arts funding that is provided by the city is centrally allocated with limited public input or transparency, resulting in discrepancies across neighborhoods in terms of, among others, individuals' access to cultural education, activities and employment. In response to these conditions, the local city council decides to adopt a cultural planning requirement in order to highlight the importance of culture, increase local support for culture, and ultimately increase the equity and transparency with which cultural activities and resources are allocated. The cultural planning requirement is enacted through legislation which stipulates a period of time for the development, review and updating of a cultural plan, a public review and input process, and other required components that the cultural plan must address. As a result, after a several-year citywide planning process, the city council votes to approve a cultural plan, which includes a series of policy and budgetary changes that subsequently result in increased access to cultural activities and resources across the city, such as higher rates of arts education in schools, increased cultural institutions and activities in previously less culturally-served neighborhoods, and friendlier environments for the attraction and retention of cultural workers.

Specific Example

On May 18, 2015, the City of New York enacted legislation, Intro. 419-A, to require the development of its first-ever comprehensive cultural plan. [1]. In describing the objectives of the enacted legislation, Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and a legislative co-sponsor, noted that the cultural plan would, "lay out a blueprint for increasing access, opportunity and equity so that all New Yorkers may have meaningful engagement with culture and the arts" [1]. In its press release, the City of New York Mayor's Office highlighted the bill's other formal objectives, which included addressing "the availability and distribution of cultural activities in the five boroughs, the relationship between cultural activities and social and economic health and welfare, housing and studio needs of artists, and increasing arts education and activities in public schools" [1]. Responsibility for the development of the plan was placed with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), which was provided with two years to complete the plan. As part of the planning process, DCLA was required to establish a Citizens' Advisory Committee that would advise on the development of the plan, its implementation, and its first two biannual progress reports [1]. Ultimately, the cultural plan was intended to last for ten years, and to be reviewed and revised thereafter as appropriate. As of April 2017, the draft plan remained under development, with release of plan features targeted for March-June 2017 and approval of the plan by the city council targeted for July 2017 [2].



Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:

  1. Planning process may temporarily divert resources away from cultural as well as other government functions
  2. Planning process may result in wasted effort if changes in elected officials deviate from or discard planning process
  3. Binding a jurisdiction too strictly to a long-term plan may limit its flexibility to respond to short-term changes in its cultural environment
  4. Binding a jurisdiction too strictly to a long-term plan may impose the preferences of current residents on future residents
  5. If the planning process does not actively engage a representative group of stakeholders, it may institutionalize systemic cultural discrepancies
Compatibility Assessment

Compatibility Assessment.png

If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:

  1. Are cultural resources, activities and education of significant importance within the jurisdiction?
  2. Is the allocation of cultural resources, activities and education currently undertaken in a centralized manner, with limited public input?
  3. Are cultural resources, activities and educational opportunities currently allocated in an inequitable or inefficient distribution across the jurisdiction?
  4. Is there a desire to increase public attention to and support for cultural resources, activities and education?


Assuming that a jurisdiction has decided to adopt the policy, the following questions will need to be answered when determining how to implement this policy:

  1. What will be the goals of the cultural plan?
    1. In the case of the City of Boston, its most recent cultural plan addressed the following goals:
      1. Create fertile ground for a vibrant and sustainable arts and culture ecosystem.
      2. Keep artists in Boston and attract new ones here, recognizing and supporting artists’ essential contribution to creating and maintaining a thriving, healthy, and innovative city.
      3. Cultivate a city where all cultural traditions and expressions are respected, promoted, and equitably resourced, and where opportunities to engage with arts and culture are accessible to all.
      4. Integrate arts and culture into all aspects of civic life, inspiring all Bostonians to value, practice, and reap the benefits of creativity in their individual lives and in their communities.
      5. Mobilize likely and unlikely partners, collaborating across institutions and sectors, to generate excitement about, and demand and resources for, Boston’s arts and culture sector. [3]
    2. In the case of the City of Chicago, four "priorities" were reflected:
      1. Arts education for all Chicago and create opportunities for lifelong learning;
      2. Attract and retain artists and creative professionals;
      3. Elevate and expand neighborhood cultural assets; and
      4. Facilitate neighborhood planning of cultural activity. [4].
  2. What will be included in the cultural plan?
    1. In the case of New York City, cultural plans are required to address, among others:
      1. the availability and distribution of cultural activities across the jurisdiction;
      2. the relationship between cultural activities and socioeconomic welfare;
      3. the nature and documentation of community outreach and input;
      4. the needs of artists with respect to living, work and public art spaces;
      5. increasing arts education and cultural activities in city schools;
      6. the incorporation of culture into community and economic development and land use planning; and
      7. a plan for city agencies to coordinate with respect to cultural activities. [5]
    2. In the case of Boston, the most recent cultural plan was structured as follows:
      1. an introduction to the cultural plan;
      2. the goals of the cultural planning process;
      3. the specific process followed in order to develop the cultural plan;
      4. specific tactics associated with each goal;
      5. an implementation plan for the tactics associated with each goal; and
      6. an appendix [3]
  3. How much time will be allotted for the development of the cultural plan?
    1. Typically, the development of a cultural plan is a 1-2-year process. Examples include: New York (2 years), Austin (2 years), Boston (~15 months) and San Jose (1 year).
  4. What period of time is the plan intended to cover?
    1. The cities of New York, Austin, San Jose and Boston all developed plans that were intended to last approximately ten years.
  5. Who will be responsible for developing the cultural plan?
    1. In the cases of Chicago, New York City, San Jose and Boston, the planning process was led by the equivalent local department of cultural affairs, the arts and/or special events.
    2. In the case of Austin, the cultural planning process was led by the department of economic development.
  6. How will public input be collected as part of the planning process?
    1. As with other large master planning processes, cultural planning typically includes a substantial amount of public input, required or otherwise.
    2. In the case of the City of Chicago, the planning process included:
      1. 8 town hall meetings;
      2. 20 neighborhood "cultural conversations";
      3. Ongoing social media exchanges;
      4. 10 cultural sector meetings to concentrate analysis;
      5. 2 global forums of urban and thought leaders;
      6. Numerous one-on-one stakeholder interviews;
      7. Independently convened, discipline-specific sector meetings; and
      8. A cultural plan website and blog. [4]
  7. After what period of time will progress reports or updates be required, if at all?
    1. Under New York City law, reports detailing the progress of all recommendations, initiatives and priorities coming out of the cultural plan are to be submitted two years after the plan’s release and biannually thereafter. [6]
  8. What will be the process, if any, for approving the cultural plan?
    1. Where cultural planning requirements apply, the final plan is typically required to be approved by the legislature or city council.
    2. Where cultural planning is performed on an ad hoc basis, and initiated by an executive such as a mayor, plans are typically released by the Mayor's Office.



  • Has adoption of: Limited. Cultural planning has been adopted by a number of major cities, but cultural planning requirements have been more rare.
  • For governance level(s): Local. Cultural planning requirements are most often imposed at the municipal level, typically by larger, heterogeneous municipalities with a diversity of demographic groups.
  • Notable entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
    • City of Austin. No cultural planning requirement, but voluntarily published a cultural plan in 2009. [7]
    • City of Boston. No cultural planning requirement, but voluntarily published a cultural plan on June 17, 2016 [3].
    • City of Chicago. No cultural planning requirement, but has voluntarily published cultural plans or updates thereto since 1986 [8], with the most recent cultural plan being published in 2012 [4].
    • City of New York. Cultural planning requirements were imposed in May 2015 through legislation [9], with draft recommendations expected to be published in May 2017. [10].
    • City of San Jose. Cultural plans have been published in connection with implementing legislation since 1988. [11].






  • Electeds - Local Executives. Assumption: Cultural planning requirements increase legislative oversight and increase constraints on the executive's ability to independently plan for cultural activities, education and resources.
  • Constituent Groups - High-Income Residents. Assumption: High-income residents experience a decline in the amount of cultural activities, resources and education in high-income neighborhoods as the result of more redistributive cultural planning.






  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Mayor De Blasio signs legislation to develop comprehensive cultural plan". May 18, 2015. City of New York Website.
  2. "CreateNYC: a Cultural Plan for All New Yorkers - The Process" Retrieved on April 29, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2
Related Policies
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