Heating up the Summer with Live Entertainment! An Interview with Diana Cherryholmes, Executive Director of the Huntington Arts Council

The image of a seven-year old dancing and mimicking the movements of Sol Y Sombra Spanish Dance Company on the grass at the Chapin Rainbow Stage is something Executive Director, Diana Cherryholmes of the Huntington Arts Council (HAC) will always remember:  “That’s what we’re about:  giving people these opportunities to sit and connect [in a way] that indoor venues do not permit.”  For the past 15 years, Diana has committed her talent and expertise to the Huntington Arts Council beginning as its Program Director.  “My heart is always with the Summer Arts Festival and making sure that we bring high quality variety of performances every summer.’  

And this summer’s festival series is hotter than ever!
As one of its goals, the Festival brings performances that people have never heard of and might not consider attending. As a guest of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultured Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts, in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, noori, one of Pakistan’s top pop bands will be performing on the Huntingtonstage and at The Kennedy Center. Making bold choices are guided by consistent audience attendance (last summer’s numbers were over 59,000 individuals), Diana is assured that they’ll come because “they believe in what we do and they know that we always bring quality [performances].”
The scope of the summer series is vast and rich in range:  everything from Cuba Gooding & The Main Ingredient to Bethany & Roofus Roots Quartet, an evening of American roots, Haitian Rhythms and African Desert blues, to La Bottine Souriante, a group who first appeared on the Quebec music scene in 1976 and is a living legend of French North American roots music. To fulfill its goal of bringing performances that are produced locally the Festival includes such favorites as Plaza Theatrical Productions of The Producers, The Huntington Community Band, the Long Island Dance Consortium, Curtis Haywood, Winner of HAC’s 2012 “Got Talent? Long Island,” and Broadhollow Theater Company’s Guys & Dolls.  Partnering with other Huntington arts organizations provides the community with choices that don’t conflict with each other; rather, they coalesce into an abundance of rich arts experiences: “Collaboration is very critical in this day and age. As long as there is a demand, then that brings greater benefit and the pie can grow larger.  We’re not fighting for our quarter slice; we just won’t do that.  The pie just gets bigger.”
Nevertheless, even though arts organizations value fluidity and creativity the challenge remains for them to be solvent. With the spiraling trend of cutting funds to the arts, the Huntington Arts Council  faced similar slashes.  Most recently, Huntington TownSupervisor Frank Petrone cut art funds from the budget only to reinstate them once the community expressed their objections:  “The Town of Huntingtonbelieves in The Arts and The Huntington Arts Council for 49 years, and I’m very thankful that they put it back.”  To offset this world of “diminishing dollars,” Diana implemented strategic planning to keep the business of The Arts running.  For example, Got Talent? Long Island  which promotes the wealth of local talent became a successful fund raising event. Innovative thinking such as this is critical for organizations to succeed in the “new normal.” The Bethpage Federal Credit Union sponsors the Arts in Education Program that allows partnership with seven school districts. The executive director of the New York State Council on the Arts states that “we’re doing more with less; now, we’re doing less with less.”  Grants close to $200,000 each year fund Nassau and Suffolk Counties to artists, individual artists, and organizations.  Viewed as a small business, the Huntington Arts Council provides entertainment for the community as well as economic benefits from “ordering office supplies, to hiring staff, to buying a slice of pizza for lunch as an employee.”
The eye is always kept on the prize:  The Arts instill a love of beauty and culture in our world and makes us capable of doing extraordinary things.  Case in point, an intern was always interested in art particularly comics and is now employed at DC Comics.  Another intern completed her Masters degree at School of Visual Arts.  “High Arts” is another opportunity for young people to exhibit their work.  Newly designated Huntington Arts Council’s Pubic Relations representative Dana Rutson recollected a young woman who as a result of this experience realized the next phase in the pursuit of her career:  “It served as an inspiration,” said Dana.  Despite attending art gallery shows, it became an “aha” moment for her:  she could continue to present her work at future exhibits. Unfortunately, training programs have been cut to accommodate the “less is less” mantra; however, other organizations offer enrichment such as the Art League of Long Island and The Huntington School of Fine Arts. “Whether somebody stays in the arts it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is what they’re getting out of this experience and how it can help them achieve their next step in life to get to wherever they want to go whether it’s a teenager or a 50-year-old woman.”  The Huntington Arts Council prides itself as being a “community of collaborators.”  They have certainly proved the mettle of their worth.  Visit their website.  Lend your support of The Arts and make a difference in your life and the lives of your family and have a hot time in the town tonight.  You’ll be glad you did.
To find out more about the Summer Arts Festival and The Huntington Arts Council visit their website at http://www.huntingtonarts.org/

New Engines of Growth

National Governors Association‘New Engines of Growth’ report cites Kentuckyarts and cultural initiatives

FRANKFORT, Ky. — With concerns over job creation and business growth holding a prominent position on policy agendas today, governors are increasingly finding innovative ways to support economic growth, according to the recently released report “New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture, and Design.” Kentucky is cited on several occasions in the National Governors Association (NGA) report for arts marketing programs and the arts and cultural districts initiative developed by the Kentucky Arts Council. Read more…

The Arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation.  Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable. Bill Ivey, director of the Curb Centerfor Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University said, “The arts are considered an amenity – nice to fund when you have a bit extra but hard to defend when the going gets tough.” (Robin Pogrebin, Arts Outposts Stung by Cuts in State Aid New York Times 1 August  2011: 3).  The National Endowment  has been disputing this perception by promoting the benefits of  investing in culture; for example, the $278 billion in economic activity that federal research showed was spun off by the arts in 2009. (Pogrebin, 3)

 Recently, scenarios about the USAdefaulting on its obligations if the debt ceiling was not raised caused crisis in our government; enough so, that the pressure to organize a compact was made.  Similarly, let’s consider WHAT IF… the arts were solely funded through private donations?  The impact may hardly be felt at places like the Metropolitan Opera, established regional theaters or other large organizations, but much of America’s artistic activity does not happen in major recital halls and theaters; it occurs in places like Lucas, Kansas (Pogrebin, 1).

The state of Kentuckyis to be congratulated for implementing the “New Normal.” The idea is simple — significantly leveraging arts resources to promote business and community. The arts and business connection is not a new one. What is new is states like Connecticut and Illinois’ perception about the arts, its role in branding the state, and the move to invest in this strategy in ways most are not used to. Arts leaders are grappling to adapt, especially at this high speed. It is not business as usual. With the strong emphasis on urban cities, smaller communities have questions about where do they fit in and will they be able to compete in this new environment.

First Online With Fran Episode 5: Best Writing Advice!

On Feb. 8th, 2012, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Paula Vogel spoke at the Drama Bookshop in Manhattan. This five part series will feature clips that highlight topics of her discussion. The first of the series is called “The Great American Bake Off.”

First On-Line With Fran” was shot and edited by Brandon York Productions with special thanks to Nancy Reardon and the Drama Bookshop in Manhattan!

Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize winning play “How I Learned to Drive,” played on Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre, and was the first professional NYC production of the play since its premiere 15 years ago.

Learn more about Fran at http://www.FrancesMcGary.com


Sherrie Nickol: Capturing Real People With a Click of her Camera

What started out as an artistic project became the seed for an exciting business enterprise.  Award-winning photographers Sherrie Nickol and David Katzenstein were intrigued by capturing every day people in their every day moments: on the subway, the streets of New York, any location imaginable where ordinary people went about their typical day.  When the economic crisis hit in 2008-2009, the husband and wife team decided to use their recently created cache of studio photos of 100 people and turn it into a commercial venture.  A business plan was drawn up; investors were solicited and they created and launched the stock photo agency Citizen Stock. Today, the real people photographed for the collection number more than 2,500!

CitizenStock was launched in May 2010 as a source of fresh, new Rights Managed stock photography images featuring real people. The models aren’t models at all, but children, moms, dads, grandparents, skateboarders, lawyers, teachers, musicians, chefs, artists, office workers, clothing designers, shop clerks and small business owners, to name a few.

In addition to homegrown New Yorkers, the real people who model for Citizen Stock originate from many parts of the U.S. and from a diverse group of countries all over the world. Photographed against a white background, and in a series of activities and clothing, the real models offer a unique and accessible collection of images for the advertising, design and media industries. Citizen Stock offers a consistent blend of emotion and style and a depth of unique, high quality imagery.

Deriving extreme enjoyment from “taking a good picture of someone,” Sherrie delights in people’s reactions.  She recalled one man who was awed by his picture on the monitor. “Wow, is that me?” he exclaimed.  Using a conversational approach with each of her subjects, Sherrie gets her models to share a great deal about themselves.  “One of the models told me that no one has paid this much attention to him in 20 years!” she said. Impressed with the quality and quantity of photos, the man returned for a repeat session with his two young daughters. Emotionally empowering her subjects by allowing them the opportunity to express themselves in any way they choose, Sherrie often finds herself playing the role of “photo-therapist.”  

And what makes Sherrie special in other respects is that her talent goes beyond her work at Citizen Stock.  Crowd Scapes was an exhibit at Temple University in 2010.  “My husband and I have traveled a lot and done all sorts of photography.  A lot of it has to do with people and their interactions, either being by themselves or with a group of people.”  With each of her works, she hopes to elicit memories, “a special time in their life . . . something warm.”  And this takes skill. Not everybody can be a photographer:  “You have to have an eye.  You have to capture that moment, the shape of the face, or the body or what they’re trying to tell you.”  She is grateful to her teacher, Jerry Stratton at the University of Cincinnati.  “He kept encouraging me.” Eventually, she risked all odds and went to New York to seek her fame and fortune without any knowledge of what that entailed.  Coming from Osceola, Arkansas, a small town, Sherrie didn’t know any better except for the fact that this was the right course for her to follow.  Holding a camera “just felt right. I still receive so much pleasure from taking pictures.”

As for The Arts, Sherrie is adamant about its value:  “Photography is a different kind of art.  It’s a wonderful tool to communicate feelings or emotions…. It’s freeing for people.  Everybody has a story; everybody has a love, a desire. The Arts help you to communicate everything about life from the happy to the very sad.”

And as for Sherrie’s mission, it gives Citizen Stock’s models their 15 minutes of fame…and then some. Click!

Featured in The Wall Street Journal The Wall Street JournalNew York Culture:  The Everyman’s Photo Op

Like Citizen Stock on Facebook!

National Arts Advocacy Day

Support Arts Advocacy Day 2012!

Today, hundreds of dedicated arts supporters from across the country have come together in Washington, DC for National Arts Advocacy Day, a united effort to tell Capitol Hill how important culture is to our communities, how much arts education means to our children, and how much the arts improve our daily lives. 87 NationalCoSponsors have helped us shape this united arts message to Congress. The 25th annual Arts Advocacy Day is organized by Americans for the Arts and is presented this year in partnership with Ovation, the only multi-platform network celebrating all forms of artistic expression.

Arts Advocacy Day begins with a Kickoff event at the U.S. House of Representatives. We are very pleased that Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch will be joined by several other national leaders in the arts, including Alec Baldwin, Hill Harper, Nigel Lythgoe, Ben Folds, Clay Walker, Tiffani Thiessen, Pierre Dulaine, Melina Kanakaredes, Omar Benson Miller, and Jonathan Schaech.

Even if you’re not able to join us in Washington, you can still participate in Arts Advocacy Day by asking your Members of Congress to support the arts. Visit our E-Advocacy Center, and you’ll be able to send a message in less than two minutes directly to your Representative and Senators telling them why the arts are important to you and your community. We urge you to send your message to Congress today to coincide with our office visits to the Hill.

Need more information? Browse the 2012 Congressional ArtsHandbook for issue briefs, voting records, latest arts research and trends, relevant Congressional committees, and Congressional contact lists.

On Twitter? Follow @Americans4Artsand track all the action in Washington, DC at #AAD12!

Help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund. If you are not already a member play your part by joining the ArtsAction Fund today — it’s free and simple.