Arts & Culture committees Create Alliance to Craft Innovative Solutions for NYC Theatres in Crisis

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Today, arts representatives/members from Manhattan Community Boards met with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and their respective Community Board Chairs to discuss innovative solutions to remedy the current fiscal and real estate crises that are endangering small to mid-sized non-profit theaters and other performing arts organizations throughout New York City.

For what may be the first time, the majority of Arts & Culture committees of all 12 Manhattan Community Boards will work together informally to craft a tax abatement proposal aimed in part at saving the Off-Off-Broadway theater sector and its venues, which serve all of the performing arts.

When informed of this Community Board development, Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis said, "As a person who has owned and operated a small theater for many years, I salute the Manhattan Community Boards for working together so ingeniously on such a confounding problem!"

In New York City, approximately 50 theaters provide access to affordable performance space for over 400 small theater companies and many other performing arts organizations (Innovative Theater Foundation, 2009 Study www.nyitawards.com/survey). This Community Board effort seeks to incentivize landlords to offer longer leases at below market rates to this core set of venues. The entire sector depends on low cost space, which makes risk-taking and incubation of new work and new talent possible. The proposal presumes that New York City's viability is tied to the arts and that the vitality of New York City's entire performing arts sector is at stake.

At the first ever Manhattan Community Board Congress held on February 17, 2009, organized and presented by Community Boards 1-5, Borough President Scott Stringer challenged the overflow crowd of more than 300 individuals (who represented the majority of small theater companies in NYC) to come up with innovative solutions their elected officials could advocate for. The Manhattan Community Boards have taken that mandate seriously and have met many times over the ensuing months to discuss innovative solutions to deep-rooted problems facing the sector.

The Innovative Theatre Foundation offers its full support to the community boards on this important issue and encourages members of the Off-Off-Broadway community to attend and participate in the upcoming meetings regarding this matter. "We are so inspired by the dedication and camaraderie of the community boards," said Shay Gines, Executive Director of the Innovative Theatre Foundation. "Their thoughtful stewardship helps ensure that independent theater will continue to be a part of the vibrant culture of New York City."

Robert Lyons, Artistic Director of the embattled Ohio Theater says, "Congratulations to the Manhattan community boards for recognizing both the micro-economic functions of the arts in our neighborhoods as well as their macro-economic development benefits to NYC."
This February and March, the public will be invited to voice their support for Community Board resolutions and/or letters to be voted on at the individual Community Board Meetings regarding this new proposal. To receive more information, learn of new developments and how you can support its legislative prospects, send an email to: commbdtheaterforum@workshoptheater.org, with the words "Subscribe me" in the Title.

For additional info, contact David M. Pincus, Managing Director, WorkShop Theater Company: david@workshoptheater.org

 



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