But it was.
Sure, last year there was a failed effort to “remarry” NYSTI
and the Egg in the name of saving money, but eliminating
both? Each organization has become an ingrained part of
the Capital Region arts scene.
In a recent conference call with NYSTI’s producing artistic
director Patricia Di Benedetto Snyder and board chairman
David Morris, Metroland asked about the current status
of the fight to preserve funding.
have been 21,000 pieces of mail sent to the Legislature,”
Di Benedetto Snyder says, and more than “15,000 signatures”
on a Web petition (to save NYSTI), and “1,000 signatures
in person” on paper petitions.
Yesterday (Feb. 24), Morris was scheduled to testify before
the Joint Arts and Tourism Committee of the Senate and Assembly.
Asked what would happen in case the governor’s proposals
were adapted, Morris was blunt: “That will be the end of
the New York Theatre Institute.”
According to Morris, the governor contends that the seven
volunteer members on NYSTI’s board could raise the money.
Morris strongly disagrees.
man is off his rocker. . . . It’s absolutely absurd. They
don’t have time to raise a million and a half dollars in
just a few months,” Morris says.
Americans for Arts Economic Prosperity calculator estimates
that NYSTI creates more than $4 million in economic impact
on the Capital Region alone,” Morris points out, and adds
that NYSTI serves an audience of 40,000 people annually,
employs both full- and part-time residents of the Capital
Region, and owns properties in the city of Troy. In the
event of a complete defunding, all assets, including properties
in Troy, would revert to the state of New York.
Morris says that state support of NYSTI is “peanuts” when
you consider the size of the overall budget of the state
of New York.
Di Benedetto Snyder makes the case for the need for the
arts—and, specifically, NYSTI.
are a school,” she points out. “The theater is the catalyst
for our teaching. We are a service the state of New York
provides for private and public schools and universities.”
This includes students and teachers; NYSTI offers
professional development training of the kind educators
are required to take (see Opinion, page 10).
must acknowledge that the state of New York is having economic
difficulties, the whole country, the world is having economic
difficulties,” Di Benedetto Snyder says. “And we say we’ll
accept our fair share of a cut.”
Di Benedetto Snyder points out that NYSTI was created in
1974, when the state was in the middle of New York City
fiscal crisis—but then-Gov. Hugh Carey understood the importance
of the arts.
were in bad shape then, too.”
us, our situation is quite a bit different than NYSTI’s,”
says Egg executive director Peter Lesser. “Our appropriation
[from the state] in the current year is less than 25 percent
[of the total Egg budget]. So we’re generating income from
ticket sales and fundraising.”
This doesn’t mean that the Egg could survive without state
support, Lesser adds.
have made some strides toward self-sufficiency, but we’re
not anywhere near that we could do what we do now, if funding
were taken away.”
The Egg took a hit in the current budget, though the Legislature
restored some of the money. This has resulted in increased
ticket prices, and programs that, Lesser says, “aren’t happening.”
It was ironic when Gov. Paterson announced the cuts in funding
for NYSTI and the Egg from the stage of the latter’s Hart
Theater. But Paterson’s pronouncements have given many the
impression that New York will no longer support the arts.
get calls from downstate, or out of state,” Lesser says,
“from people who hear the message as ‘the governor wants
to gut the arts.’ ”
Like Di Benedetto Snyder, Lesser is aware that some cuts
will have to be made, and refers to what’s happening to
the state park system.
The question is, what do the arts really mean to us, and
what are we willing to pay for?