The ARTS Council has reached our $1 Million Endowment Goal! Thank you to all who donated. The endowment fund that you made a reality will support regional art making in perpetuity. View the complete list of our supporters here.

On Thursday, October 12 we took the opportunity to celebrate this momentous achievement with our amazing supporters. At the celebration, Executive Director Connie Sullivan-Blum made the following remarks.

Hello everyone. I’m Connie Sullivan-Blum, the Executive Director of The ARTS Council, and I am so glad to see you all here tonight. This event marks a tremendous accomplishment for The ARTS Council. One that requires us to pause and celebrate.

First and foremost, before going any further, I want to thank my staff: Casey, Chris, Christina, T.C. and Victoria, as well as Salem and Mei, for all the work they do every day. I think you all know this, but they’re the genuine article.

I also want to thank Karen, our board president, and Leslie, the Endowment Committee Chair, for their kindness towards me, their support of the staff, and their work on behalf of The ARTS Council. I want to thank our board members that are here tonight, and our former board members many of whom are here tonight!

Leslie has already thanked the members of the committee, but I want you all to know I value you and what you’ve done for us.

I must thank the Corning Incorporated Foundation, Corning Enterprises, the Community Foundation, the Hilliard Foundation, and the TRIPP Foundation for your support. So much of your work is behind the scenes of this community, but we would be poorer – literally and metaphorically – without it. We owe you a debt of gratitude that we intend to repay through our work.

And I want to thank everyone in this room, and many who are not, for helping us reach our goal. Thank you – each and every one! Saying thank you is necessary, but it is not sufficient. There is more to say.

Last night, I went to see a theatrical production of The Laramie Project, which describes the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998. The ARTS Council helped fund the event, which was a program of Southern Finger Lakes Pride and was performed at The Rockwell Museum. The audience was comprised of young and old from all walks of life. I met two middle aged lesbian parents who I’d never even seen, but who are my neighbors. I sat near a row of high schooled aged queer kids, most of whom knew very little about Matthew Shepard or about theater.

In these few sentences, I have described what I love about the work of The ARTS Council. We
do meaningful work in collaboration with partners, who themselves are doing meaningful work, for a community of people that needs to see themselves reflected in the world. We know some of these people, and we don’t know others. Some we don’t even realize are a part of the community.

Last year, The ARTS Council brought a Mexican dance ensemble called La Serpiente to Elmira. They taught a master class at a local dance studio, worked with high school Spanish students in Elmira Heights, performed at a schoolwide assembly, and later performed for free to the public. The event was followed by a “talk-back,” and The ARTS Council provided a translator thinking the dancers would need assistance with English. Instead, the audience was two-thirds, maybe even three-quarters, Spanish speakers and the translator ended up assisting the English speakers in the room. These are members of our community, my community, that I, at least, did not even realize are here – and I’ve lived here for more than two decades!

The services of The ARTS Council reach more people and different people than we can predict. The impact of our work surprises us. And it is valuable.

Last year, we were honored to receive the Anthony Novakowski Award from the Community Foundation. Anthony was the epitome of the “servant leader.” He was a man who built community in everything that he did. He invited people into the work of making our region a better, richer, kinder place. We were honored to be given an award in his name and aspire to his example.

This year, The ARTS Council was given the Partner of the Year award from Family Service Society in Corning. This was given in recognition of our support for youth programming. We were humbled to receive this from an organization like Family Service Society, which let’s face it, is doing yeoman’s work in our town.

We are sometimes surprised by the variety of people who are touched by our work, but we shouldn’t be. We at The ARTS Council believe what many of us know in our hearts, but haven’t articulated – Art is fundamental to the human experience. It’s not a secondary consideration after the so-called “basics”. It is basic. Even in the most dire circumstances, even now in places in the world where there is great suffering, people are making art. They are singing. They are writing poems. They are telling stories. They are scratching drawings into whatever surface they have in front of them. We do this because it is part of being human.

And I remembered that last night while I watched actors open up the experience of strangers with empathy and understanding. That’s what art does.

The endowment that you have made a reality will keep that experience happening in ways we cannot count and ways we cannot predict. The endowment fund will support art in perpetuity. That’s amazing. The next time you’re at an ARTS Council event or an ARTS Council supported event, you can take ownership. You made this happen. Thank you, thank you, for making this a reality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *