Assemblymember Glick Hosts Panel on Downtown Arts & Business
Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick (66th District) hosted "Local Arts, Collective Strength: A Forum to Build Support for Our Neighborhood Theaters and Dance Companies" on April 15. She was joined by a panel of downtown arts and business leaders to discuss the impact of the current economic climate, how arts companies and neighborhood businesses can build successful collaborations, and what else can be done to further support local arts companies.
Peggy Coleman, former Managing Director of Battery Dance Company, laid the groundwork of the the challenges of sustaining an organization through difficult times. With funding receding and arts groups must work harder with less available funding, which creates serious staffing issues.
Tamara Greenfield, Executive Director of Fourth Arts Block (FAB), talked about the East 4th Street cultural district's joint marketing and development efforts that the block undertakes as a whole on behalf of its member companies. FAB's ticketing programs and promotions, for example, would not be possible or feasible for each company to do on their own, but is a cooperative effort that benefits the companies and the neighborhood.
She also discussed their successful approach of creating very personal connections with local businesses. Investing over the long term in really knowing the business and understanding their needs helps FAB create unique sponsorship or partnership opportunities for them. While they can sometimes take quite a long time to develop, these relationships are very unique and meaningful for the neighborhood business.
Will Maitland Weiss, Executive Director of the Arts & Business Council of New York, echoed this advice, saying that the most important thing for companies to do with their neighboring businesses is "listen".
Symphony Space, he said, grew their relationship with Zabars from "a basket of bagels", to eventually a $250,000 cash donation. But it took many many years and was the result of slowly building a relationship based on understanding what the business' needs were, and how the arts company could help. Businesses often want what the "sizzle" that the arts have to offer, but the arts company must create the relationship for those partnership opportunities to arise.
Finally, he suggested reaching out to the Arts & Business Council for a volunteer. Don't try to do art work and project work if a professional can do the project work. In this environment, there are many highly skilled professionals willing to consult on or run projects on a pro-bono basis.
Julie Menin, the Chairperson of NYC's Community Board 1 and board member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation had the biggest and most exciting news of the evening. She announced that she had just helped discover $150 million in unused funds for downtown and proposed the money be used to immediately build a performing arts center on the Deutsche Bank site. As an alternative to an existing plan for arts space at WTC which will not be built until 2017 at the earliest, this plan is "shovel-ready", as development could begin almost immediately. The Joyce Theater is already signed on to existing arts space development, but this plan could add in more arts organizations - including Off-Off-Broadway companies - to create a vibrant performing arts district attracting tourism and revitalizing economic activity downtown.
She encouraged the community to write to government leaders and demand that arts spaces for smaller theater and dance companies be created now, to write op-eds supporting the issue, and to urge Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg to support the proposal to use the $150 million in "found money" to build a performing arts center downtown.
Menin also advised that community arts groups should go to local community board meetings and "tell the community boards about your shows."
To support this proposal send a letter. Check out our Community Action page for more info.
RELATED ARTICLESPlanned Downtown Arts Center May be Relocated to Deutsche Bank Building Site by Robin Pogrebin for The New York Times, July 17, 2009