By Brittany Lesavoy
Over the past few years, the terms "bail-out," "stimulus package" and "economic downturn" have become part of our everyday vocabulary. We hear of major corporations suffering from economic hardships and we hear of layoffs on a national level every day. But more and more, particularly in our area, we discover the woes of small businesses and area arts organizations.
It is surprising and sad to hear of how many arts organizations have recently instituted salary cuts and job eliminations, to hear of how many jobs these organizations have supported _ not only for artists, but administrators as well. The New York City Ballet let 11 dancers go last year, and Miami City Ballet laid off seven dancers. Last March, The New York Times reported The Metropolitan Museum of Art eliminated 74 jobs and anticipated more cuts. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum eliminated 25 positions last June, and Washington National Opera recently instituted several job eliminations throughout its administration and reduced its offerings. In fact, many institutions have scaled back their product for the coming seasons. These are the hardships we hear of on a national level in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Around here, we read it in The Daily Star, and we hear it through the grapevine: The arts are suffering.
The same that goes for big business goes for the arts _ shoppers just aren't turning out. When we think of stimulating the economy, most of us don't think of spending our money on the arts _ at all. How would that stimulate the economy?
But the culture in this area draws people and keeps them here.
An opportunity to work in the arts brought me to Cooperstown in 2006. At first I balked at the idea of moving from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Otsego County. I had graduated from college with a degree in public relations and a degree in theater. I thought, "What am I going to do for fun in this place? Could I ever be involved in theater again?"
A quick Internet search found Orpheus Theatre, a theater company in Oneonta, and a wealth of other cultural organizations and events. And so, here I am with a New York license plate, an ice scraper, a job in the arts and a few auditions under my belt. I know I'm not the only one.
Then there are those who visit _ some on an annual basis. They travel to this area for the museums, both historical and art-based, the theater and opera companies and symphonies. Visitors stay in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, frequent local eateries and shop for souvenirs. These cultural tourists have a significant impact on our local economy.
Arts and cultural organizations stimulate the economy and create jobs _ even if indirectly. When an arts organization owns its own facility, who is called when the heat won't turn on, when the plumbing is broken, or a floor board needs to be replaced? Someone local, I assure you.
The many arts organizations in this area must market themselves and purchase advertising in local newspapers, making it that much easier for you to receive the paper you are reading right now. Brochures must be produced via area printers, and local graphic designers are often hired. When an organization presents a fundraising event, a caterer must be hired, perhaps a florist.
And this doesn't include the many, many people who have a dream of making a career as an artist _ the singers, actors, technicians, carpenters, directors, designers, stage hands and more _ who are engaged to produce an emotionally moving piece of art. Art that can help us escape a bad day, or week for that matter.
Spending money on a theater performance or entrance to an art gallery may seem frivolous in these economic times. But, I promise, the dollars spent on the arts in your community are well spent _ bring a friend.
Brittany Lesavoy is secretary of
ArtsOtsego, the alliance of Otsego County arts organizations, and director of public relations for Glimmerglass Opera. Column ideas may be sent to email@example.com.