It’s the final stretch of the yearlong Undergraduate Research Program, and I am very proud of the progress and process of the research that I have conducted! Dr. Theresa Lant and I studied Materials for the Arts (MFTA) to conduct our study, “Community Arts Organizations and Sustainable Practices: A Collaborative Model.” We took the Long Island City-based organization, observed its business model on “Shopping Day,” researched it by applying a conceptual, strategic model (using a value chain analysis), and now, most recently, applied our conceptual intelligence to the practical sphere. We interviewed multiple constituents in the Pleasantville community in Westchester County to attempt to create a feasibility study for a pilot program. We hope that our study will spark an interest in arts and sustainability for the area, and create a similar structured organization like “Materials for the Arts” for the Westchester community.
First, we met with Adam Cohen from Arc Stages, a newly formed not-for-profit theatre company in Pleasantville. Arc Stages, an organization formed from the Little Village Playhouse and the Chappaqua Drama Group, is made up of three parts – an educational theatre, a community theatre, and a professional theatre. ArcStages is familiar with the reuse of resources, and to save on the cost of shows, often reuses resources and materials. As an arts entrepreneur, Adam told us of his opportunity and process for creating the theatre company. With his background as a composer, he collaborated with like-minded artists, and created “Little Village Playhouse” in New York City when he was studying for his Masters at New York University. After relocating to Pleasantville, he formed a relationship with Anne Shankman, the Artistic Director of a local community theatre. When we explained about MFTA, Adam was familiar with the organization, and expressed that he, as an arts entrepreneur, would have benefitted from such an organization, if it were in Westchester County.
Dr. Theresa Lant and I then met with Peter Scherer, who wears multiple hats in the community: a signage business owner, arts patron (and frequent theatre participant), and the mayor of Pleasantville. Peter described the political spectrum and “red tape” that would inhibit the organization from forming; particularly, the aspect that makes MFTA very unique is the private-public-partnership with New York City. Because of the enormous cost of a public employee, it would nearly be impossible for the organization to thrive from the unbearable upfront cost. He did suggest, however, to form a not-for-profit structure with a revenue stream attached (e.g., a membership fee). He also suggested partnering with an educational institution nearby, such as SUNY Purchase. He also explained about zoning as an issue in the town, and very little opportunity for inventory space.
Dr. Lant and I then met with Marlene Canapi, President of Pleasantville Community Television and a “connector” in terms of fundraising and development. Marlene gave us details for developing this as an organization in Westchester. Marlene introduced us to multiple community and county constituents for continuing our research in public policy and sustainability. We plan to meet with them within the coming month and field questions about feasibility. With this, we will continue to explore these options and possibly survey if a MFTA-like organization could be an “arm” of a sustainability organization, countywide.
As we prepare our final presentation for the research, I discovered that the work that Dr. Lant and I are conducting could change lives. By studying conceptual ideas and putting them to practice, we are creating a viable option for sustainability in a cost-cutting process for educational and arts organizations. Usually, people conceive scholars as “trapped in an ivory tower,” but the work that Dr. Lant and I have conducted is completely opposite – we were out on the streets, inquiring, questioning, observing, and investigating this organization, and exploring a possibility to recreate it. As we move into the next phase of the research and prepare for our presentations, I am recalling my past blog posts, summer research, and notes from when I began until now – and I am fortunate to be a part of such a program.