Two prominent Cooperstown arts nonprofits are considering a merger.
“We’re really in the talking stages,” said Cheryl Wright, board president of the Cooperstown Art Association.
“Both organizations have thought of this sporadically over the years,” said Henry Weil, board president of the Smithy Center for the Arts.
Both Weil and Wright have said a possible merger is just something that both organizations are exploring, and that there are no concrete plans. To gauge the public’s attitude toward the proposal, the groups will be holding two public forums at the CAA’s Big Red Annex Art School at 5 Railroad Ave. in Cooperstown. The first will be held March 14 and the second March 21, both at 7 p.m.
The CAA and the Smithy both provide art classes and gallery space for local artists. The Smithy had already planned to hold two open forums in early March to get the public’s input on the Smithy’s future, before issuing a job description for a new executive director. Danielle Newell, the Smithy’s longtime executive director, has accepted a job as director of education for both the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum.
Weil said, however, that Newell’s departure was not the impetus for the talks.
“This discussion was starting before we knew about Danielle leaving,” Weil said.
Given the conversation on a possible merger, members of both boards agreed to appear at the forums to gauge public attitudes on the matter — and the future of the arts in Cooperstown.
“It seems like an opportune moment to see what people in the community are looking for,” Weil said. “I think that these public discussions are going to be very important in terms of whether next steps are taken.”
Written comments can also be submitted to Donald Raddatz, c/o The Smithy Center for the Arts, 55 Pioneer St., Cooperstown.
Both Weil and Wright said that a possible merger wasn’t motivated by economic need.
“The Smithy is in a solid financial ... state of affairs,” Weil said.
Wright said the CAA was also in good financial shape.
“If one can have a single organization with a smaller infrastructure … there’s more money that can be put in the arts,” Weil said.
“Having one organization that people could support ... could be a factor,” said Wright, echoing Weil’s sentiments.
Wright said the arrangement could result in improved programming. Weil, however, declined to speculate on the shape of a merged organization, saying he didn’t want to influence the public’s input at the open forums.
“The Smithy Board is really looking forward to hearing what the community is thinking,” Weil said. “The board thinks that the combination could be a wonderful idea.”