Nonprofit working on recovery after pandemic
Small businesses were not the only establishments hit hard by the pandemic shutdown. Nonprofits that depend on volunteers suffered attrition as well, emerging a touch stunned but also with pent-up energy ready to be channeled.
That’s the case with BeaconArts, the 20-year-old focal point of art and artists in the city. Matthew Agoglia, its president, joined the board in January 2020, about two months before the shutdown. Like everyone else, he had no idea what lay ahead.
“Our organization depends on participation from the community to make its programs a reality,” he said. “That all went right to sleep when everyone had to focus on their own well-being.”
The immediate goal for BeaconArts, Agoglia said, is to “design a stable infrastructure, to bring it back to where it was pre-pandemic. The next step is to come up with a real vision for taking BeaconArts somewhere else with new programs rather than just maintaining the old ones.
“If you walk around town now, you can sense a frenetic energy,” he said. “People want to go out and do stuff, start something. There are several initiatives around re-starting Second Saturdays [when galleries open exhibits and stores stay open late], but it has been difficult for BeaconArts to find a role for ourselves. We don’t know the new shop owners much yet. Ultimately, maybe it’s something for the Chamber of Commerce to take over and make it click. Though it would be great to pool our resources, we’re never sure what they do, and when you’re not sure, you tend to ignore it.
“I’ve heard the lament that Beacon has changed, that it used to be a community where everyone knows each other,” he added. “The right word is evolved. Some opportunities have left, others have appeared.”
As with any organization run by volunteers, the challenge is time. “Our board members are full-time professionals, usually with families, and it’s difficult to do things like manage membership and come up with and organize events,” Agoglia said. “But the board is dedicated and active. We have 12 business members, nine of whom are gallery owners — and that growth all happened in a little over a year.”
Most of BeaconArts’s projects are organized through a structure called fiscal sponsorship, in which the nonprofit partners with individuals, projects or organizations that are not tax-exempt so they can raise money through donations and grants. The sponsor can also provide governance, management and administrative oversight. BeaconArt’s current fiscally sponsored projects include the Beacon Film Society, Beacon Open Studios and the Creative Strings Improvisers Ensemble.
Many perceive BeaconArts as an organization solely dedicated to visual arts, but “we have members from many art forms, including music and dance,” Agoglia said. “We started out as a consortium of painters and sculptors, but, particularly now that KuBe has given us a physical home for events, workshops and lectures [in the old Beacon High School], we can sometimes bring in a mix.”
BeaconArts is attempting to evolve in a community that “has grown tremendously in the past few years,” he said. “Several high-profile musicians and dancers have come to us with their ideas. Sometimes a new organization is born through the process — Beacon Bonfires is one. BeaconArts doesn’t have to be the only game in town. We’re open to anyone in the community. Come in and tell us your idea. Hopefully that will continue, because as long as the community participates we’ll remain a healthy organization.”
Agoglia himself is an example of the breadth of the membership. He is connected to the arts through music. He studied music composition and ethnomusicology at Indiana University. In 2007, while working at Masterdisk in New York City, he found his calling as a mastering engineer. In 2013, Agoglia opened his own studio in Beacon (theranchmastering.com). His wife, Christina Jensen, who manages classical musicians, served on the BeaconArts board for six years.
As with any collective group of people advocating and generating projects related to the arts, there are gaps to fill. Agoglia said the board would love to have more access to legal expertise, particularly with contracts. They also could use volunteers with talents in internet publishing and social media.
“The board has plenty of ideas, and the tools are there,” he said. “It’s having the time to do them. Outreach and creating a presence online — agreeing on aesthetics — is more complicated than you’d think.”
The chief arts event in Beacon is the annual open studios, when artists open their workspaces to the public. It coincides with Upstate Art Weekend, from July 21 to 24. The Yard will serve as headquarters, with an outdoor concert planned for July 22 to showcase musical artists.
To make the project more accessible, BeaconArts tweaked some requirements for Open Studios in 2023, Agoglia said. This year, for the first time, non-members will be able to join BeaconArts and register for the event at the same time for $60.
One project BeaconArts hopes to regenerate is the Bus Shelter Art Project, in which panels of art were installed in partnership with the city. The project began in 2017 with five shelters. Their maintenance was derailed by the pandemic and the artwork, which was meant to be changed regularly, is in need of repair.
BeaconArts is looking for sponsors and donors to help with the cost of installing five new pieces, which will be chosen by committee from submissions by artist members. A benefit concert is scheduled for Wednesday (June 21) from 7 to 10 p.m. at Dogwood, 47 E. Main St.
The lineup will include the Creative Strings Improvisers Ensemble, featuring Gwen Laster and Damon Banks (who is a member of the board of Highlands Current Inc., which publishes this newspaper); Tony DePaolo; Paul Byrne & The Bleeders; Mimi Sun Longo; and Marsh Kings Daughter, featuring Emily Hague, Jon Slackman, Rafi and Sekaya. See beaconarts.org for tickets.
To round out its 2023 calendar, BeaconArts will be presenting its annual Artist Member Exhibition in October, and begin accepting grant applications for the Clara Lou Gould Fund for the Arts in November. The group offers annual memberships that begin at $25 for individuals, $35 for artists, $150 for galleries and $240 for businesses.
Behind The Story
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.