New York City Mayor Eric Adams has appointed Laurie Cumbo to the position of Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Prior to this appointment, she served on the New York City Council as majority leader.
Cumbo served as majority leader while representing Brooklyn’s 35th district, which covers the Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights districts. Cumbo founded the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts in Brooklyn prior to pursuing a career in politics. She has also worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the High Museum of Atlanta. The newly appointed commissioner holds a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Spelman College and a master’s degree in Visual Arts Administration from New York University.
Commissioner Laurie Cumbo declared in a statement, “Together, we will center the arts in New York’s economic recovery and bolster the educational and cultural experiences of every New York City student from Pre-K to CUNY. Taking a gun out of the hands of a young person and replacing it with an instrument, paintbrush, camera, or script will redirect the talent and passions of our youth towards building a better and more vibrant New York City.”
She succeeds Gonzalo Casals, who left the position at the end of Bill de Blasio’s mayoral term in December 2021. The position, which is considered one of the most significant in the city’s art community, has remained vacant since Mayor Eric Adams took office three and a half months ago. The Department of Cultural Affairs is the nation’s largest municipal funder of the arts, supporting over 800 cultural organizations across the five boroughs.
Cumbo had been considered as a strong candidate for a position in the incoming administration. Her previous comments raising valid concerns on the illegality of allowing non-citizen voting in New York City municipal elections had sparked controversy. The New York State Constitution clearly states only citizens may vote in elections. Cumbo voted No on the bill to allow non-citizen voting. Her appointment adds to Mayor Adams’ expanding list of contentious selections.
“As we work to revitalize our city, the Department of Cultural Affairs will play a vital role in our economic recovery—expanding access to the arts for outer-borough children and providing increased support for local artists. Laurie Cumbo brings a breadth of experience in the arts, community advocacy, and city government to her role as commissioner. She will be instrumental in leading our efforts to strengthen New York City’s vibrant cultural life and connect New Yorkers to cultural experiences and institutions in all five boroughs,” said Mayor Eric Adams in a press release.
She has introduced innovation to New York City by initiating and passing the landmark 911 Text bill, which will soon allow New Yorkers to text 911, upload photographs, and videos when calling 911 is not possible. Cumbo established the first Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence to confront the epidemic of gun violence in our neighborhoods. She is a zealous fighter for tenants’ rights, having previously flown to Albany to fight for the protection of housing rights alongside colleagues and advocates. During her first tenure, Council Member Laurie Cumbo passed over a dozen pieces of legislation addressing renters’ rights, elders, foster care reform, sex education implementation, and gun violence prevention.