By George Basler
Local arts leaders are pleased that Gov. Andrew Cuomo made boosting the arts a prominent part of his State of the State address.
But the details of Cuomo’s initiative, dubbed the New York Arts Renewal, still must be fleshed out, they noted. Without these details, they are unsure what the initiative could mean for organizations in Broome County.
In his speech, Cuomo called for the formation of a public/private partnership meant to kick-start the arts industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without giving financial details, Cuomo announced a series of performances and events across the state, beginning in February, by artists including Chris Rock, Renee Fleming, Wynton Marsalis and Hugh Jackman.
The initiative also includes pilot programs on how to safely reopen venues and the formation of a partnership with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to provide funding for more than 1,000 artists and community arts groups.
“I’m pleased the governor is stressing the importance of the arts in economic recovery,” said Naima Kradjian, chief executive officer of the Goodwill Theatre in Johnson City. She expressed appreciation that the initiative is including upstate New York in discussions, not just Broadway and New York City.
At the same time, Kradjian is realistic. Accessing funding from the Mellon Foundation partnership will be highly competitive, she emphasized: “It’s not going to be an easy process to submit an application, much less receive money.”
Paul Cienniwa, executive director of the Binghamton Philharmonic, had a similar reaction. “I appreciate any public official giving a shout-out to the arts,” he said. But, because specifics of the governor’s initiative are lacking, “I can’t get too excited,” he added.
In fact, “it seems like a lot of the ideas are not fleshed out,” Cienniwa said. Still, Philharmonic officials are going to keep a close eye on applying for money from the Mellon partnership.
A press release from Cuomo’s office said film producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal and the New York State Council on the Arts will oversee New York Arts Renewal. “As we have more information, we will be sharing it broadly and posting it on our website,” Lia Capotorte, a communications associate with the arts council, said.
While he awaits details, John Rozzoni, executive director of Tri Cities Opera, is grateful that Cuomo singled out the role that the arts can play in helping the state recover from COVID-19. The plan to schedule high profile performances across the state “could give permission” to local communities to schedule their own events once a vaccine rollout allows for safe gatherings, he noted.
“I’m grateful the governor is thinking about us, too,” Rozzoni said, noting a healthy local arts scene can be an economic driver for a community.