ALBANY - In response to a state-wide spending freeze, several hundred New York State arts organizations converged on the Capital during the Feb. 3 "Arts Day."
Among the organizations represented were three members of the Adirondack Lake Center for the Arts - Jamie Strader, acting manager; Susan Sessions, program manager; and Stephen Svoboda, executive director.
As a continued promoter of the arts in Hamilton County, and in consideration of her role as the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts Decentralization coordinator, Strader was asked by Assemblyman Steve Englebright, chairman of the Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committee, to testify during the event.
In September of 2008, New York State placed an immediate freeze on all unexpended New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) funding - a decision that severely impacted cultural and community events within Hamilton County.
Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts throughout the day resulted in Strader submitting her testimony in written form. Despite this, she was able to speak during an evening session of the State Economic Development Council meeting which coincided with the Senate's budget vote.
"Our goal was to try to put a face on the arts, and in our case, to put a face on rural upstate New York arts," Strader said, noting that many legislators are not aware of the northern region of the state and the impact that a funding freeze has on rural communities.
"Even though I wasn't able to verbally testify, it was good to go down there and see what was happening."
Strader is particularly frustrated with the timing of the State's spending freeze since it leaves many organizations in a precarious position.
"There are many organizations that have been forced to come up with emergency budgets for 2009," Strader said. "For a lot of them, their events or programs have already happened and they were relying on the NYSCA funding to pay for them.
"That money never came through because the spending freeze was put on in September of 2008," she added. "We have not been told definitively that we will not receive funding in 2009 but it certainly doesn't look good."
As the Arts Decentralization Coordinator for Hamilton County, Strader and the ALCA will assist regional organizations to work through the freeze but admits that options are limited. In fact, the ALCA is under the same financial pressure as other organizations as they work to realign their 2009-10 budgets.
"I'm trying to be optimistic but a good chunk of the Arts Center's NYSCA funds go toward our general operating fund," Strader said. "The second part of the funding goes toward performances so we will have to make cuts there."
Expected cuts include the renegotiation of pending concert program contracts and an overall cut in the number of events to be held in 2009.
"We're trying to be upbeat and NYSCA has always been supportive of us but there is just so much they can do," she noted.
While a final decision on the 2009 NYSCA funding is expected by March, Strader expects there will be further budget cuts on the horizon.
"People are going to have to think about their projects and get even more creative next year," she concluded. "I think we're going to see some lean times in the near future."