SPP Professor and Alum Collaborate on Study on Pandemic Relief

Brenda Bushouse and Tamara Keshecki
Brenda Bushouse (left) and Tamara Keshecki (right)

A School of Public Policy (SPP) professor and recent alumna have received a grant to study the effects of COVID-19 relief programs on nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in New York City.

Associate professor Brenda Bushouse and Tamara Keshecki, a master of public policy 2020 graduate, have been named 2020-21 fellows at the Howard J. Samuels State and City Policy Center at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. The center supports research related to policy making and administration in New York. Bushouse and Keshecki are one of four research teams awarded grants this year through the fellowship program.

In their project proposal, Bushouse and Keshecki note the vital role the city’s 2,200 nonprofit arts groups play in the city’s economy, employing 293,000 workers with a collective annual payroll topping $30 billion. The pandemic-related closings of those organizations could have long-lasting effects on both the groups and the region, the researchers note, citing an Americans for the Arts survey in which only 57% of New York City arts organizations reported feeling confident that they would survive the pandemic.

Bushouse’s research interests include nonprofit organizations and their participation in political processes. In addition to her academic training in policy and administration, Keshecki brings to the project a background as a musician and arts administrator in New York.

“When the Samuels’ Center grant came across my screen, I immediately forwarded it to Tamara,” Bushouse said. “With her knowledge of New York City’s arts organizations and political and policy environment, she will be an excellent collaborator on this project.”

“The arts sector was among the first to be closed by government mandate and will be among the last to reopen, leaving the entire field teetering on the brink of extinction,” Keshecki said. “While arts are vital economic drivers, they are also community anchors and critical threads of New York’s unique vibrancy and cultural fabric. I was thrilled and honored that Brenda reached out to me to collaborate on research documenting this vital but often overlooked field.”

Using surveys and interviews, Bushouse and Keshecki will document arts organizations’ experiences with federal pandemic-relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, including looking at which organizations took part in which programs and how the process went for them. They will consider how factors such as an organization’s size and borough location affect their participation and will put special emphasis on the experiences of organizations led by people of color, in light of the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on that demographic. Their report also will include recommendations for resources to support arts organizations in the city.