Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) exists to empower emerging and established artists with the resources, networks, and opportunities they need to sustain their creative lives. Through our public programs such as Open Studios, the River To River Festival, and LMCC’s Arts Center on Governors Island, we provide audiences with opportunities to connect with artists at various stages of the creative process. From intimate performances and works-in-progress to large-scale, finished commissioned pieces, LMCC supports art and artists throughout Manhattan. Read on to learn more about the rich legacy of LMCC.


1973 - 2001: Birth of LMCC

Founded in 1973 by Flory Barnett with support from David Rockefeller, Sr. and Chase Manhattan Bank, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and other local business and civic leaders, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) is built on the premise that artists are pillars of resilience and inspiration and therefore are vital to New York City.

Over the past decade, demand for LMCC’s programs among artists and audiences has flourished, and in response, we have grown in programmatic scope, community impact, and capacity. This momentum has enabled us to forge meaningful connections with individual artists, arts groups, public officials, community groups, property owners and developers, and other employers as well as stakeholders in the downtown and cultural landscapes at large.

LMCC grew with the Financial District, cultivating art and culture in and around the World Trade Center presenting lunchtime concerts and evening performances on the plaza, installations in the lobby windows of banks (the Art Lobby project), and outdoor sculpture exhibitions.

We expanded our reach boroughwide with our Manhattan Arts GrantsManhattan Community Arts Fund began in 1984; The Fund for Creative Communities began in 1998; and Creative Curricula began in 2003. By the end of the 1990s, we had not only moved our offices into the World Trade Center, we had transformed it into a cultural anchor: World Views offered studio space to artists in the upper floors of the North Tower; Evening Stars brought free dance to the WTC Plaza; and exhibition spaces throughout the complex showcased the work of artists of all disciplines.


2001-2011: 9/11 and Lower Manhattan’s Recovery

On September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was destroyed, LMCC lost a home, a performance venue, studio and exhibition spaces, and nearly 30 years of archives. Most significantly, we lost an artist-in-residence, Michael Richards, who perished alongside thousands of others.

In the years following, we focused on arts-driven resiliency and cultural revitalization in the Financial District. Funds provided support for emerging visual artists from the Caribbean and of Caribbean descent, and the Gulf Coast Residency offered a temporary residency in Lower Manhattan for 15 artists displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In 2004, LMCC was awarded a five million dollar grant from the September 11th Fund in order to restore and sustain the activities of Lower Manhattan's cultural community. Over the next three years, we distributed those funds to small and mid-sized cultural organizations and activities in Chinatown and below Canal Street through our Downtown Culture Grants Initiative.

We also launched Workspace, a nine-month residency program that provides emerging artists with free studio space and professional development, and began the Paris Residency.  This partnership between LMCC and the Mayor’s Office of the City of Paris provides a New York City artist with the opportunity to live and create at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris for six months.

During these years, LMCC continued re-grant the highest amount of city and state arts funds to artists and organizations in Manhattan through our Manhattan Arts Grants. In 2002, we also became a founder of the River To River Festival, the largest free arts festival celebrating artistic diversity and site-specific performances in Lower Manhattan that continues today.

Perhaps the most significant and visible growth was our creation of LMCC's Arts Center at Governors Island, which established yearly artist residencies and summer public programming in Building 110 on Governors Island.

Ephrat Asherie, Riff This, Riff That, River To River 2016. Photo credit: Darial Sneed.
Ephrat Asherie, Riff This, Riff That, River To River 2016. Photo credit: Darial Sneed.

2011 - present: Re-growth and Expansion

The past decade has seen a new wave of growth for LMCC that continues throughout Manhattan. In February 2011, LMCC took over as the lead organizer and curator of the River To River Festival after many years of producing festival events. Two years later, we launched Paths to Pier 42 as part of the Arts East River Waterfront Initiative, a series of partnerships between LMCC and local community organizations that brought murals, public arts installations, performances, and other events to formerly vacant spaces along the East River Waterfront.

Borough-wide initiatives continue to expand through our Manhattan administration of SU-CASA, a city-funded, community arts engagement program that places artists and organizations in senior centers throughout New York City.

With funding from Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ), we developed the Upper Manhattan Arts Engagement (UMAE) grant, a new extension of our existing Manhattan Arts Grants programs to provides Upper Manhattan-based artists and arts organizations with financial resources for public presentations.

In 2019, LMCC will award over $1.4 million dollars in grant funding to Manhattan-based artists and arts organizations. Additionally, we are in the midst of an exciting renovation and expansion of LMCC's Arts Center at Governors Island that, ultimately, will more than double its size and better serve both artists and visiting members of the public.

As we approach LMCC's 50th anniversary, we remain committed to serving artists, audiences, and communities throughout Manhattan and visitors to our beloved borough. We continue to animate sites and spaces through the work of our artists in Manhattan’s office buildings, storefronts, public plazas and parks, waterfront esplanades and piers, national monuments, and so much more. Our projects address and respond to changing forces in urban life and the art world, and we continue to contribute to a thriving and culturally-enriched New York City.


Want to dig deeper?

To learn more about LMCC's past activities, visit our Past Programs page.

To discover the many artists who have participated in LMCC's programs in the last few years, visit our Artist Alumni page.