Monday, July 27, 2009

Economic Downturn Forces Groups to Get Creative

The NY Times reported arts groups, hit hard by the economic downturn, are seeking strength in numbers by forming alliances, pooling resources, networking and accommodating one another’s diminished circumstances.

The efforts, which sometimes bring together dissimilar groups, don’t always go smoothly. But by and large, the atmosphere is one of growing cooperation that works to artists’ benefit — and the public’s.

“There’s more of a willingness to work together because there’s a unique cause right now, and the cause is the fact there are economic issues,” said Stephen Sansone, president of the Untermyer Performing Arts Council in Yonkers and executive director of the Yonkers Downtown/Waterfront Business Improvement District.

Since May 1, four museums in Westchester County (the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, the Katonah Museum of Art and Purchase College’s Neuberger Museum of Art) and two in Fairfield County, Connecticut (the Bruce Museum in Greenwich and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield) have allowed any of their members to be admitted to all six. The same goes for visitors who buy a same-day pass.

The plan — advertised as an alliance — has been slow to catch on, with only a handful of museum visitors taking advantage of it in a typical week. Still, arts groups say it is the first pact of its kind in memory among museums in Connecticut and New York, and its very existence is evidence of greater cooperation.

“It’s symbolic of our efforts to be creative in a very tough time,” said Peter C. Sutton, executive director of the Bruce, who, noting that his museum’s endowment was down 20 percent over the past year and its corporate support depleted, hosted the meeting in March at which the plan was formulated.

“Almost all nonprofits have suffered some loss in their endowments and had to institute economizing efforts, as we have,” he said, “and this is a good way for people to make the most of their local museums.”

Another kind of joint effort — one enjoying greater participation this year, its sixth — is Art Along the Hudson, a cooperative media campaign to promote the visual and performing arts in seven cities lining the river. Read more here about this and other efforts.

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