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February 13, 2014

Smithy, CAA consider merging

By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Two flagship Cooperstown arts not-for-profits are considering the possibility of merging into one.

“We’re really in the talking stages,” said Cheryl Wright, president of the board of the Cooperstown Art Association.

“Both organizations have thought of this sporadically over the years,” said Henry Weil, president of the board of the Smithy Center for the Arts.

Both Weil and Wright have said that a possible merger is just something that both organizations are exploring, and there are no concrete plans yet.

In order to gauge the public’s attitude towards such a proposition, the CAA and the Smithy will be holding two public forums. The first forum will take place on March 14 and the second will take place on March 21. Both forums will be held at CAA’s Big Red Annex Art School at 5 Railroad Avenue in Cooperstown at 7 p.m.

Located in the village of Cooperstown, the CAA and the Smithy both provide art classes and gallery space for local artists.

The Smithy had already planned to hold two open forums in early March, in order to get the public’s input on the future of the Smithy, before issuing a job description for a new executive director.

Danielle Newell, the Smithy’s long time executive director, has accepted a job as director of education for both the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum. Weil said, however, that Newell’s departure was not the impetus for the talks.

“This discussion was starting before we knew about Danielle leaving,” said Weil.

Given the conversation on a possible merger, members of both boards agreed to be present at the forums, in order to gauge the public’s thoughts on the matter, and the future of the arts in Cooperstown.

“It seems like an opportune moment to see what people in the community are looking for,” said Weil. “I think that these public discussions are going to be very important in terms of whether next steps are taken.”

Those who wish to make written comments may submit them to Donald Raddatz, c/o The Smithy Center for the Arts, 55 Pioneer Street, Cooperstown.

Both Weil and Wright said that a possible merger wasn’t motivated by economic need.

“The Smithy is in a solid financial ... state of affairs,” said Weil.

Wright said that the CAA was also in good financial shape.

“If one can have a single organization with a smaller infrastructure … there’s more money that can be put in the arts,” said Weil.

“Having one organization that people could support … could be a factor,” said Wright, echoing Weil’s sentiments.

As for what a new organization might look like, Wright said that it could result in an improvement of programming. Weil, however, didn’t want to speculate on the shape of a merged organization, because he didn’t want to influence the public’s input at the open forums.

“The Smithy Board is really looking forward to hearing what the community is thinking,” said Weil. “The board thinks that the combination could be a wonderful idea.”