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Sudden Shutdown

In 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.

—John Brodeur

Almost Ready

On 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 exhibit.

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 Oct. 3.

—Amelia Koethen


Recital at Bard

On 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.

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