CATSKILL — After a year in hibernation, the CREATE Council on the Arts is hoping to renew its relationship with Greene County.
Greene County contributes $34,000 annually for the administration of the council and $40,000 for grants to be distributed to county arts groups. This year the county did not dispense the $34,000 in funds to the arts council for administrative costs while the group went on hiatus after the departure of former Executive Director Marline Martin.
Two of the agencies that annually receive arts funding from the council — the Bronck Museum in Coxsackie and the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre in East Durham — received their portions of the arts funding at $2,500 and $2,000, respectively, after contacting the county seeking their grant funding. The remainder of the $40,000 budgeted for arts group has yet to be disbursed this year.
“They basically went dormant,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said of CREATE on Thursday. “Without an executive director, all of the programmatic things were shelved. So they just kind of went dark. So we never got their annual application for funding, so the funding just sat there unexpended.”
With no administration in place at CREATE throughout the first half of 2022, the Legislature began seeking alternatives for dispersing its arts funding.
“They had no executive director or anyone running the show,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said. “We were not aware of that, but we started getting phone calls this year from some of the grantees who were not receiving funds and didn’t receive an application. They’re dependent on that funding. So there was a couple that we had taken up separately and looked into finding out what was going on. We looked at the Historical Society to possibly hand out the funding and they’re actually a recipient of the grant in most years. So it was going to be an administrative fee that we would just pay at the same amount that their grant normally would have been and they offered to disperse that funding for us.”
Former CREATE Executive Director Kay Stamer contacted the county this summer and said she was willing to volunteer to help jumpstart the arts council and soon thereafter a new executive team was in place.
Linger said CREATE subsequently called the county and informed them that the nonprofit had a new administrative team in place and would like to continue the prior arrangement with the county.
“This was all going on at the same time, so we said, ‘We’re in the middle of moving to a new direction here, so if you want to come in and give your pitch, then you’re more than welcome to do that, but we’re not going to guarantee anything,’” he said. “Now we’ll discuss it and see how we want to handle it.”
CREATE Council on the Arts interim Executive Director Nathan McLaughlin and new Council President Anthony DeSantis appeared before the Legislature’s County Resources Committee on Wednesday to express their commitment to Greene County and propose that the nonprofit group continue its arrangement in distributing the county’s arts grant funding.
“The core mission for us is to develop an artistic community with a distribution of grant funding,” McLaughlin said. “We provide that funding to individual artists, arts organizations and arts educators.”
McLaughlin said the group plans to stay in its headquarters at 398 Main St. in Catskill, where the group has resided since the 1980s.
“The funding that we give to Greene County artists or receive on the behalf of Greene County artists stays in Greene County,” McLaughlin said. “We have excellent reporting for that. We have a software system that tracks that.”
McLaughlin said in the group’s last grant cycle, the council dispersed 18 grants totaling $60,000.
“Looking towards the future of CREATE, we had a difficult time coming out of COVID,” he said. “I‘ve only been with CREATE about six weeks, I’m really here to help us rebuild and build towards the future. A big part of our future is board development and advisory committees. The advisory committees are really important because they have a county-centric focus.”
DeSantis cited the annual Cat’n Around Catskill display of ceramic cats and the success of the Foreland artistic campus as evidence of the county’s artistic vibrancy.
“We’re all fairly new to this particular organization,” he said. “My family has been here since the ’80s and I came back six years ago because I believe in Greene County and I invest in Greene County. I care about and love Greene County. I love that our building is on Main Street in Catskill.”
Greene County Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, asked the council if they could provide quarterly reports to the Legislature moving forward that would detail the organization’s spending for all county funding, which the representatives said would be agreeable.
Greene County Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, said he wants to see the grant funding dispersed.
“We didn’t really want to see the grants go away,” Luvera said. “We were actually in the process of renaming it the Greene County Cultural Fund so we could issue the funds.”