By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — After four years as executive director for the Smithy Center for the Arts, Danielle Newell is moving on.
“It’s been such a wonderful time that I’ve had with them,” said Newell, “It’s not easy to say goodbye.”
Newell has accepted a position at The Farmers’ Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum as director of education. She is scheduled to start on Feb. 18. Her last day at the Smithy will be Feb. 14.
“We really regretfully accepted Daniels resignation,” said Henry Weil, president of the Smithy board. “She brought creativity and vision … and commitment to improving the community’s experience of the arts.”
Newell said that the bigger stage that the two organizations offered attracted her to the position.
“The Fenimore and the Farmer’s Museum have a wider reach,” said Newell.
She also said that while she valued the different hats that working as the Smithy’s executive director has forced her to don, such as accountant and fundraiser, this new position will allow her to focus on education, which she said is a passion.
Newell said that when she was negotiating for her new job, she’d tried to make sure that she wouldn’t leave the Smithy in a way that would hurt the organization.
“It was very important to me that the Smithy not be left in the lurch,” said Newell.
Newell said that this concern was shared by Paul D’Ambrosio, president of The Farmers’ Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum, who she said has been very flexible in giving her enough time to make the transition.
“He’s been a good friend to the Smithy over the years,” said Newell.
Despite her fond feelings for the Smithy, Newell says she is excited to start her new job.
“It’s a really exciting move,” said Newell. “They have an incredible team and staff there.”
Newell said that she visited both the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum when she was younger and really enjoyed the experience. She said that her younger self had declared that she wanted to live in the Fenimore, and that she’d found the living history portion of The Farmers’ Museum particularly interesting.
“It’s your only opportunity really to have a window into the past,” said Newell. “That can be so vitally important to the way we live our lives.”
Newell says she is excited to begin shaping the programming at both institutions.
“It’ll be exciting to develop deeply compelling programs for both museums,” said Newell.
One element that Newell wants to explore as director of education at the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum is economic development. Specifically Newell, who serves as the vice president of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, is looking at stimulating the economy through the arts.
“Local economic development is something I’m really interested in,” said Newell.
Newell said that she wasn’t prepared to talk about any plans she had for programming yet, because she wants to meet with everyone in both museums first.
“I don’t want to do anything without being fully knowledgeable,” said Newell. “Whatever we do do it will be exciting.”
As for the adjustment of going from the executive director of one organization, to being a part of a management team in another, Newell says she doesn’t expect there to be much of one.
“I’ve always approached my work as a collaborative process,” said Newell. “In many ways I’m not going to change my approach that much.”
She also pointed out that she would be entering as a senior member of the staff.
One thing that Newell acknowledges will change with her new job is the amount of time she will have to devote to her more personal projects, specifically the Glimmer Globe Theatre and the effort to bring a cinema to Cooperstown.
“Obviously my priorities are going to be shifting,” said Newell.
The Glimmer Globe Theatre Company & Acting Studio was founded by Newell in 2010 near the beginning of her time at the Smithy. Although the Smithy board is still discussing the issue, Newell says they are considering keeping the Glimmer Globe Theatre as a Smithy program through the rest of this year.
“Would we like to do that (maintain the program), of course,” said Weil, who said the board was currently weighing which Smithy programs they could keep going with their reduced staff.
Newell says she will be stepping back from some of her duties with the theater, with the idea that her co-artistic director, Michael Henrici, and managing director, Steve Dillon, would take these over.
“My love of theater will certainly not wane,” said Newell, who says she fully intends to stay involved with the company, even as she steps back.
Even if The Glimmerglobe Theatre doesn’t stay a Smithy Program, the company already has three shows in the works for 2014: “Arcadia,” by Tom Stoppard, “The 39 Steps,” by Patrick Barlow and based off the 1935 movie of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock, and “A Christmas Carol,” adapted from the Charles Dickens novel and a revival of the collaboration the company did last year with The Farmers’ Museum.
“The community can feel secure that we’ll still be doing productions,” said Newell.
Another project that Newell’s new job will give her less time for is the effort to bring a movie theater to Cooperstown. Supported by Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz, State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and former Otsego County Economic Developer Carolyn Lewis, Newell says that a committee is being formed to help bring a cinema to the village.
Like her work with the Glimmerglobe Theatre, this effort is something that Newell says she will stay involved with, even as she takes a few steps back to devote more time to her new duties.
Newell says that these activities were known about by her soon to be new employers. Indeed, Newell, says that her community involvement was one of the reasons the two museums chose to hire her.
“I am deeply imbedded in this community,” said Newell.
On possible future collaborations between the Smithy and the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum, Newell said that would be something she’d be interested in.
“I would love to explore that possibility,” said Newell.
“We always are looking to collaborate,” said Weil, who added that no new collaborations between the two museums and the Smithy were in the works.
As for the Smithy, Weil said that they would be holding a series of focus groups with artists, art lovers and members to help determine what’s next for the organization. No date for these focus groups has been set as of this publication.