Take no art for granted

You may have heard about the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra’s mid-season decision to suspend its operations.   The news from the north reminds me of a similar announcement in Binghamton about this time last year by Southern Tier Celebrates! I remember how strange it felt this past New Year Eve’s when STC!’s First Night Binghamton just wasn’t there anymore. Many folks in Syracuse are likely to feel the same way when the next concert date rolls around, and the SSO isn’t there, either.

Recently, a local professional told me that he thought the arts “were just there” when he was growing up in Binghamton. He says he went to the occasional concert and such, but until he retired and joined the board of a non-profit arts organization, he took it for granted that the arts would be there whenever he wanted them. He knows better now. He’s learning that, without intentional patronage, participation and support by people in the community, the arts won’t be there for him — or for any of us. Arts providers, meanwhile, are learning that, without responsible leadership, sound resource management and strategic partnerships, THEY won’t be around to sustain their chosen art forms.

None of us – from board member to performer, writer to reader, teacher to parent, painter to dancer, patron to staffer — can afford to take the arts for granted anymore and, perhaps, never again. A line from the film All That Jazz, comes to mind: “It’s show time, folks!” What part will you play?

Join the conversation on UCF grants

The Broome County Arts Council (BCAC) today (March 16) announced it has awarded $271,000 in United Cultural Fund (UCF) grants for 2011. Speaking to a morning news conference, BCAC Chairman Fred Xlander thanked “donors large and small” to this year’s United Cultural Fund Campaign. Xlander said that, in approving new grants, the board was “serious” about making sure that “precious charitable dollars” for the arts are “carefully distributed” and “soundly managed.” Executive Director Sharon Ball declared the $271,000 grant total a “major victory,” in light of the tough economy. She called it proof of the arts’ importance to Greater Binghamton and Broome. Read the rest of this entry »

Did you have an art-full week?

Did you and Dad hit the jazz concert at the Firehouse Stage? Or did you say “Hello” to Dolly? Please tell us how you participated in the arts this past week. Or perhaps you can share what art-full events you have planned for the coming weekend.

Suggestions for the post-STC! era

As you probably have heard, Southern Tier Celebrates! will be closing its office for day-to-day operations as of today (April 16), citing the loss of the state funding that had been a major source of income. Obviously, this leaves STC! programming , including First Night Binghamton, in limbo. (More details in STC!’s statement on the BCAC Web site.)

As audience members and/or performers, how does this make you feel? How will the closing affect you? What suggestions do you have to fill this hole in the local cultural landscape?

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First Night weathers all sorts of storms

Anyone who has ever organized or promoted an entertainment event knows how much of a crap shoot such an endeavor can be. Consider all the variables in the mix: choosing a venue and date, contracting for guest artists, maintaining delicate balances when determining programming and calculating a target audience. Also, in Broome County, of course, there’s always the weather.

L. Tillotson at FNB River Blessing

And I’m just talking about one play or one concert or one kid-friendly hands-on art activity. Multiply all that uncertainty by 30 or so, and you might get an idea what Lesley Tillotson and Southern Tier Celebrates! go through to present our  annual New Year’s Eve revels, First Night Binghamton.  Add in the vagaries of public funding, and you’ll understand the additional angst that went into the most recent celebration, First Night 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Is First Night fading? There’s still good entertainment here

First Night Binghamton was missing some things this year. Several of our favorite entertainment groups were absent, such as Bronzissimo! select handbell choir, Svitanya (an Eastern European women’s ensemble from Philadelphia) and  — horrors! — Cobblestone Crossing wasn’t at the firehouse to give us our hootenanny fix. The number of classical music choices was less than half of last year. Then there was the parade, so desperately short of merry-makers (this, too, a sign of the economy?) that fewer than 50 of the 300 puppets in Southern Tier Celebrates!’ collection made the trip down Court Street. And is it a parade without a fire engine?

The turnout? We remember when you came early, so you didn’t have to stand six deep in the crowd to watch. No problem this year – no crowd, unless they were all at the starting point. The early snow had been cleared, and, though snow later in the evening made things slippery, the early evening was mercifully mild (compared with two years ago or the first First Night in 1996!). 

Nevertheless, for those who came, there were a number of good artists and activities to enjoy, including plenty for the kids.  Read the rest of this entry »

Are you starting 2010 in an art-full way?

Did you brave the snow for First Night? How about for the first First Friday of 2010? And what’s coming up for you? How are you warding off the January doldrums — in an art-filled way, of course?