The Weeksville Heritage Center, which kicked off a crowdfunding campaign after struggling to stay afloat, will receive a coveted city designation ensuring the Brooklyn museum receives grants to cover basic operating costs.
The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) has added Weeksville to a list of 33 Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) that receive city funds in exchange for providing cultural services to New Yorkers. Rob Fields, the president and executive director of Weeksville, says having that guaranteed “pool of funds” each year will help the museum continue its mission of preserving the history behind a pre-Civil War, African American settlement in Crown Heights.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Fields told Curbed. “One of our long hopes was to become a permanent line item in the city budget and I’m thrilled that is going to happen.”
This is the museum’s second bid to become a CIG. It applied in 2013 but was denied. With its new status, it becomes the first black CIG in Brooklyn. DCA did not immediately return requests for comment.
Municipal grant dollars Weeksville receives will help the institution funds basic maintenance, administration, security, and energy costs. The city has yet to determine how much it will dole out to the historic site, but Fields hopes officials will “base line us at a higher level” considering the museum’s precarious position.
In May, Weeksville launched a crowdfunding campaign after revealing that the nonprofit was in danger of closing its doors due to climbing costs and shrinking funding. Since then, the effort has raked in more than $266,000 from over 4,151 donors in seven countries, including Australia, Switzerland, and Poland.
Currently, the city has kicked in $378,675 in programing funds and $78,000 towards the museum’s energy bills for the fiscal year 2019, according to DCA. But costs to maintain the museum’s 23,000-square-foot visitor and education center and its landmarked Historic Hunterfly Road Houses that are over 100-years-old have mounted and left the museum struggling to make ends meet. But now, as a CIG, the museum has a brighter future and will continue to serve as a historic resource for the city, said one local pol.
“Weeksville is sacred African American ground. For generations, it served as a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge from the vestiges of slavery,” said Brooklyn Council member Laurie Cumbo. “Supporting Weeksville as a Cultural Institutions Group is a recognition of African American longevity and a commitment from the city writ large.”