a move that was surprising to seemingly everyone but those
who made the decision, the executive board of the Albany-Schenectady
League of Arts reportedly shut down operations on May 27.
The member-supported nonprofit league was “the oldest continually
operating regional arts council in the United States,” according
to its Web site, providing “technical and administrative services
to artists and arts organizations in the 11 counties of the
Capital Region,” including the administration of regional
arts grants, assistance with legal issues, and educational
seminars. A major service provided by the league was to provide
discounted health benefits through Capital District Physicians
Health Plan (CDPHP). The league’s sudden closure leaves 60
members lacking health-insurance coverage.
League members were sent two letters on May 27—one addressed
to members enrolled in the insurance program from executive
director Cynthia Bennett, apologizing “for having to close
our doors and, hence, our insurance company,” and a second
from league president Robert Briber, informing members that
they would “not be covered through the league after June 30,
2004.” Although a memorandum suggesting coverage alternatives,
including the possibility of extending CDPHP benefits, was
included, CDPHP required applications for extension to be
submitted by June 5, within a week after most members received
notification that their benefits were to be terminated. It
is likely that a number of members will now be without health
coverage as of July 1.
Bill Pettit, proprietor of his own design studio and a longstanding
league member and volunteer, characterizes the situation as
“kind of a nightmare.” He points out that there are alternatives,
but they are not for everyone. “There’s a program called Healthy
New York, [for which] the application has to be in on the
20th,” he says. However, to qualify for the program, one must
earn less than $24,000 a year—“any artist can do that,” he
jokes—but for members making more than that amount, there
are fewer available options.
The league’s 2004 tax return was also included with the letters.
“We have been losing money for the last several years,” Briber’s
letter confirms. “The attached first page of our recent federal
tax return, filed May 21 . . . illuminates the condition.
I’m writing to give you the sad news, of course, but also
to ask for any help you may wish to give us.” Regarding the
closure, the letter sounds final. “The League has come do
a difficult and very saddening decision. We’ve decided to
close the league’s doors and to staff our operations temporarily
with board members. . . . Our marvelous record of service
is coming to an end,” it reads.
In a brief interview this week, Briber attempted to inject
some hope into his words. “We’re certainly facing a dreadful
financial situation. . . . but we haven’t closed as of now,”
he says. He confirms that a final decision will be made within
weeks, but in the meantime, the future of the nearly 60-year-old
organization remains unclear.
The league’s Web site (www.art sleague.org) was operational
as recently as Monday, June 7, but has since gone to a blank
white screen. Meanwhile, the phone at its office remains operational
and, if Briber’s reports of continued operations are accurate,
you may contact the board with any questions at 449-5380.
May 22 the Hyde Collection Art Museum in Glens Falls opened
its newest exhibit, Masterworks: Selections from the New
Britain Museum of American Art. The exhibit was to feature
65 assorted works from the collections of the New Britain
Museum of American Art that span roughly 250 years of American
art history. Unfortunately, the works were scheduled to be
shown in the Charles R. Wood Gallery, which can only comfortably
house 55 of the acclaimed paintings.
Erin Coe, curator of The Hyde Collection states that the decision
came down to preserving the viewing ability of the works.
Coe states that some of the works are large and “skying” the
paintings (hanging them one above the other) would have made
the works hard to view, and lessened their intended impact
in the exhibit.
Coe had planned to move the remaining 10 works to the nearby
Hoops Gallery; this did not prove an easy task. Upon arrival
of the works from the New Britain Museum of American Art the
courier noticed that two of the paintings would need repair
on their frames. Coe intended to house the remaining eight
paintings in the Hoops Gallery in time for the May 22 opening,
but the Hoops was already housing an exhibit (about the Hyde
Museum’s recent restoration and expansion) which was scheduled
to stay up well past the release date of the Masterworks
Coe’s plan is to mount the rest of the exhibit—which features,
mostly, post-war artists such as Robert Motherwell—on June
17 after the restoration exhibit has closed. The repair work
is complete on the two frames. Hoops Gallery will feature
later works of the exhibit. The exhibit will be shown until
Tuesday, June 15, Bard College will present a
free recital with flutist Patricia Spencer, featuring
Linda Hall, William Zito, and Bard student Ashley
Bathgate (pictured). The program, Flute Americana,
will showcase works by Aaron Copland, Robert Beaser,
Leo Kraft, Joan Tower and Reza Vail. The concert
is at 8 PM in Olin Hall. For more information,
call (845) 758-6822.