The Greater New Haven Arts Stabilization Project works miracles, at least according to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
Calling the Shubert Theater’s 21-year run “a miracle of God,” DeStefano addressed a group of prominent members of the New Haven arts community at a reception in the theater’s lobby yesterday, celebrating the ongoing success of the project. DeStefano said he was glad City Hall had helped to enable the project, which has strengthened community arts organizations since 2001 by rewarding them for sound business practices.
The project’s ultimate goals are financial stabilization and organizational effectiveness in its eight participating organizations, including the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and the Shubert Theater. Barbara Pearce, the chair of the Greater New Haven Arts Stabilization Fundraising Committee, said the idea for such a project in New Haven was inspired six years ago by the National Arts Stabilization Project.
DeStefano said he thought New Haven had developed a strong reputation in the arts and thanked those who had worked on the project.
“What I think is special about this community and the arts is that it’s just something we’ve chosen to do,” he said. “To all you who have been part of this, congratulations.”
Pearce expressed gratitude for the $5 million donated by public institutions and private individuals alike since the project’s inception. Jennifer Aniskovich, the executive director of the Connecticut Commission of Culture and Tourism, said the state of Connecticut has contributed $2 million of that sum.
“It was the easiest money I ever raised,” Pearce said. “People just right away said, ‘Yes, I’ll give to that.’”
William Ginsberg, the vice-chair of the Stabilization Committee, said he admired the outpouring of community generosity in a project that was “not theatrical, not musical, not creative.”
Since the program’s launch, each of the organizations has met annual financial benchmarks in order to continue receiving grants and technical assistance from the committee. Working capital for the organizations is now positive for the first time since 1997, having increased by over $2 million since the project’s inception.
“There are many bigger cities who couldn’t make this happen,” Pearce said.
State Rep. Bill Dyson, who worked to get local government funding for the project, said it succeeds by community collaboration.
“It is something that forces a climate in this town that we can all be proud of,” he said.
Aniskovich said the Project is also beneficial from a state perspective. She said the project was “not a quick fix,” but would instead help these organizations remain financially viable in the long term.
Michael MacLeod, the executive director of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, said the financial and managerial standards were often a “painful examination of the areas in which we could have done better.” But he said the program helped the Symphony improve its financial system and streamline its administration.
“In my mind, it marks the beginning of a renaissance, certainly for the Symphony Orchestra, but also for the other eight arts organizations,” he said.
MacLeod said he hoped the project would lead to greater community participation in the arts.