Sunday, December 30, 2012

SPAC we hardly know ye

Readers' View: SPAC headed in wrong direction

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center administration’s decision to restrict the New York City Ballet’s 2013 residency to one week is deeply troubling.

Their decision to push the New York City Ballet off a “fiscal cliff” will not just affect the economic vitality of businesses in Saratoga Springs and surrounding towns and cities. It will also place the future of SPAC in jeopardy by eroding its international reputation and prestige. It is the latest in bad management decisions plaguing SPAC since the 1970s.

The New York City Ballet is the world’s most celebrated dance company, as recognized recently by the prestigious CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

In the last three years, its Saratoga residency has fallen from three weeks to five days. New York City Ballet dancers, staff and orchestra members rent and buy homes here, eat in restaurants, shop and buy groceries and frequent local businesses during their residency. Tourists who are drawn here by the quality of NYCB performances and reputation spend money locally, too. The five days allotted to the New York City Ballet next summer is not a residency. It is merely a quick stint.

The dance companies with which SPAC will replace the New York City Ballet in July 2013 could not possibly draw as many people or as much fund-raising support. While these replacements would make a fine addition to programming, they can’t replace audiences built over nearly 50 years of Saratoga’s having the honor of calling itself “The Summer Home of the New York City Ballet.”

All around us, arts venues — from Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow in the Berkshires, to Proctors in Schenectady, to Glimmerglass in Cooperstown — survive and even thrive because they are run by experienced arts managers who have steeped themselves in dance or music all of their lives. Given proper fundraising and arts management skills, SPAC could thrive, too. But if SPAC sticks to its current course, its slide in artistic and financial health will worsen.

There are steps that SPAC’s administration must take to ensure its financial viability. Most of these recommendations were made in the New York State Parks and Recreation audit eight years ago and never followed. They are the key to building a thriving arts organization. Among them:

• Hire a professional fundraiser — SPAC’s financial difficulties are caused by inadequate fundraising and outside support.

• Analyze compensation and performance — The president, an employee of SPAC, does not perform at the level commensurate with her compensation, which takes up nearly 4 percent of the center’s budget.

• Reaffirm its commitment to the fine arts, centered on the music and dance residencies of the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York City Ballet, which have been at the core of its mission since 1966. Continued...

• Rely less on ticket sales and Live Nation and, instead, revitalize its Endowment Committee.

• Rely less on visually distracting gimmicks like mounting cellphone antennas on the amphitheater as a substitute for solid fundraising.

• Increase the size of the board of directors to include dance and music lovers regardless of their financial status.

• Join with the community — Due to past and present investment of public funds in SPAC, it is appropriate for the public to have a greater voice in the operation of the corporate affairs of SPAC.

Please join with us to let New York state know of your displeasure. Contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Rose Harvey and tell them that SPAC is headed in the wrong direction. Contact New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and request a new audit of SPAC’s books. Only political pressure may convince SPAC to reverse its course in 2014.

Louise Goldstein, Saratoga Springs; John Tighe, Saratoga Springs; Rhona Koretzky, Saratoga Springs; Lisa Akker, Saratoga Springs; Mary C. Mahoney, Malta; William McColl, Schenectady; Zoe Nousiainen, Saratoga Springs; Paul Sulzmann, Troy; Ron Barnell, Schenectady (freelance photographer/classical music reviewer); Helen Bayly, Troy (member of the Royal Academy of Dance, London); Don Drewecki, Galway (Capital Region music lover/recording engineer — attended the very first concert at SPAC Aug. 4, 1966); Ron Wasserman, New York City (double-bass player in the New York City Ballet Orchestra)

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hurricane Sandy takes its toll on our New York State Parks.

State Parks resources stretched thin by hurricane, budget woes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Hurricane Sandy’s devastation and already tight budget constraints are stretching state parks resources to the limit, officials say.

The late October storm caused an estimated $120 million worth of damage at Robert Moses and Jones Beach state parks on Long Island.

The federal government will pay for repairs, but much of the manpower needed to plan, design and do such work is coming from state personnel.

“We can’t catch a break,” said Alane Ball Chinian, Saratoga-Capital region director. “Sandy really hit us hard. We sent a crew down to FDR State Park to clean up trees for a week. It takes a tremendous amount of time and attention.

“It takes a toll.”

Some area sites, such as Schoharie Crossing, still haven’t been fixed following last year’s ravaging floods from Tropical Storm Lee. The parking lot there was washed away and a temporary one is in use until a permanent replacement can be installed.

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey has established a three-pronged plan for parks statewide in 2013. Goals are:

ä Keep existing parks open, safe, affordable and accessible.

ä Boost attendance by providing more value-added experiences for park visitors — anything from better restrooms to new campground grills, wheelchair accessible trails or educational programs.

“We really want to be responsive and provide all the little pieces our patrons are looking for,” said Heather Mabee, regional parks commission chairwoman. “We want to do things to attract new people to our parks, too.” Continued...

Mabee outlined priorities to commission board members Thursday at Saratoga Spa State Park.

ä Continue infrastructure improvements. Statewide, the parks system has a $1 billion backlog of capital projects. Last year the state budgeted $89 million for such work, the first such allocation in many years.

In 2013, plans call for trail and sidewalk improvements at Saratoga Spa State Park, along with a Route 50 pedestrian crossing, with an activated light, near the intersection of West Avenue. This roughly $150,000 project will connect Railroad Run trail to the park.

At Moreau Lake State Park, a new comfort station will be built near the main entrance parking lot.

Statewide attendance at parks was up 2 million visitors this year over 2011. Mabee attributed this to exceptional weather on Memorial and Labor day weekends, compared to washouts at those same times last year. Tropical Storm Lee hit right around Labor Day in 2011.

Attendance at the Saratoga-Capital region’s 10 state parks and 10 historic sites was up, too, mirroring the statewide trend, Mabee said.

Chinian said her regional office is continually pursuing cost-saving efficiencies to stretch her budget. For example, about one-fourth of Spa State Park’s parking lot lights have been replaced with new LED lights.

“We’ve saved about 30 kilowatts of electricity so far,” she said.

Plans call for installing more LED lights and replacing old boilers at various buildings throughout the region as funds become available.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rest in Peace "Haley Rose".

Our esteemed Board member, John Tighe, has written a fitting eulogy for a troubled but devoted Victoria Pool person below:

In sad news Edward Darren Beliveau of Beach Street in Ballston Spa died peacefully Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, at Saratoga Hospital after a long and courageous battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer. He was 42.

Better known at the Victoria Pool as “bikini man” he was a colorful if controversial figure who could be seen almost daily at the pool. Many children had their first introductions to a “alternative lifestyle” when they first saw “bikini man”. Many parents used this experience to teach their children respect and tolerance. I truly hope “Rose” as he liked to be called finds peace in his passing. God knows he found little in life.

Friday, December 07, 2012

maybe SPAC could ask APPLE for a few bucks to Save the New York City Ballet at SPAC.

Rumors are rampant that Apple,APPLE, as in Steve Jobs-RIP, the largest and richest company in the world is coming to Saratoga County......and SPAC is decimating the greatest ballet company in the world in Saratoga, the New York City Ballet.  They are dancing ONLY  5 days in 2013 and nothing certain for the future.  Surely, Saratoga County is being promoted for its great cultural offerings.  What is SPAC doing to continue that reputation?  Not much.  Article in today's Saratogian below:

SPAC unveils 2013 classical program dates; will break even in 2012

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Thursday unveiled its classical programming for 2013 that includes one week of New York City Ballet and two other ballet companies.

The schedule opens on June 29-30 with the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival and runs through August, which includes the Philadelphia Orchestra and Saratoga Chamber Music Festival.

SPAC also announced that it will break even financially in 2012, its eighth straight year of operating in the black.

“In 2013, more than 700 classical artists will be part of our season and more than 130 masterpieces will be performed live,” Marcia White, SPAC’s president and executive director, said in a statement.

However, next year marks the first time ever that the financially-plagued New York City Ballet will have a one-week Saratoga residency. The dance company lost $1.1 million and saw attendance drop 4 percent at SPAC this year.

In addition, the ballet cost SPAC more money this year than it did in 2008, when it still had a three-week summer season. One cause was the high cost of producing elaborate performances of “Romeo & Juliet.” Trucking, lighting and labor were some of the main expenses.

Overall, SPAC’s programming costs rose about 10 percent this year — roughly $400,000.

SPAC’s board on Thursday approved an $8.4 million budget for 2013.

Ticket sales pay for less than half the ballet and orchestra’s residencies. SPAC makes up the difference with membership fees, corporate sponsorships and individual gifts.

SPAC Chair Susan Philips Read has said she would like to get the ballet back for two weeks beginning in 2014. Next year, two other companies will make up for New York City Ballet’s shorter season. They are the National Ballet of Canada and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Continued...

Next Thursday, SPAC will make the first in a series of online programming announcements, called “Building a Season.” Each week, a selection of artists, works and events that are part of next year’s season will be announced at the website

By announcing programming online, SPAC can highlight each artist with streamed videos, YouTube interviews, photo galleries, media articles and reviews. A similar initiative, which debuted last year, increased off-season traffic to SPAC’s website by nearly 60 percent, White said.

The website had more than 1 million visitors this year, highlighting the importance of modern electronic marketing strategies. In addition to its website, SPAC will publicize the weekly announcements through digital channels including Facebook, Twitter, email and its digital sign on Route 50.

“The format and timing of ‘Building of a Season’ encourages people to explore the breadth and depth of that artistry, which ultimately enhances appreciation of the programs they’ll experience here at SPAC,” White said. “In this digital age, the series is also a powerful tool for educating people about the classical performing arts, which is a key component of SPAC’s mission.”

2013 SPAC classical program schedule

  • June 29-30 — Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival
  • July 9-13 — New York City Ballet
  • July 16-18 — National Ballet of Canada
  • July 24-25 — Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
  • Aug. 7-24 — Philadelphia Orchestra
  • Aug. 4-20 — Saratoga Chamber Music Festival
  • July 19-Aug. 3 — Live at the Algonquin Cabaret Series

Saturday, December 01, 2012

the committee to Save the New York City Ballet at SPAC strongly urges you to sign and send this letter to the NYS Comptroller to audit SPAC's finances.

sign and send this letter or your own to the two addresses listed for the Office of the New York State Comptroller to trigger an audit of SPAC's finances.

The Honorable Thomas P. DiNapoli
New York State Comptroller
Office of the State Comptroller
Division of State Government Accountability
110 State Street, 11th Floor
Albany, NY 12236

December 1, 2012

Dear Mr. DiNapoli,

I am writing today on behalf of the effort to save the New York City Ballet’s summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which, in 2013, will be diminished to merely one week. I believe this decision places the future of SPAC in jeopardy.

On February 27, 2004, more than eight years ago, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) commenced an audit of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Inc. (SPAC). Most of the findings and recommendations from that audit have never been instituted.

While SPAC is a private, non-profit entity, it is unique in that it enjoys a significant asset at public expense in the form of its rent-free license for its premises. It is dependent on the state’s ownership and responsibility for capital facilities and receives both direct and indirect publicly funded support for its purposes and programs. I ask that your office inquire into its current operations, based on recently legislated initiatives.

First, a Governor's task force was appointed to investigate the executive and administrator compensation levels at not-for-profits that receive taxpayer support from the State. The State Comptroller is responsible for ensuring that the taxpayers’ money is being used effectively and efficiently to promote the common good. The current administration at SPAC has ignored the recommendations made by the State and is not operating efficiently or effectively. The Executive Director’s salary and experience is not benchmarked against similar positions at like venues and is excessive.

Second, as part of an ongoing effort to make government more transparent, accessible and accountable to New Yorkers, the Comptroller’s office selected the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to be audited this year and a report was issued on October 26. As a follow-up to that procedure, I request that OPRHP initiate an audit to determine the financial standing at SPAC, a facility that receives significant public support, and why the recommendations from the OPRHP 2004 audit have not been followed.

Best regards,

ATT, Page 2: Pertinent recommendations

Pertinent Recommendations from 2004 Audit
Request for 2012 investigation

             SPAC’s financial difficulties are the result of inadequate fundraising and outside support.

             The President, an employee of SPAC, does not perform at the level commensurate with her compensation. The duties of the SPAC President and its Director of Development should be clearly defined, performance goals established, and compensation awarded based on attainment of those goals, commensurate with similar positions in like organizations.

             SPAC needs to reaffirm its mission and commitment to the fine arts.

             The fundamental purpose for SPAC is centered on its music and dance residencies, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet. These two internationally renowned cultural organizations are much more than tenants that occupy space at the performing arts center during the summer months, they are true partners with SPAC and have been at the core of its mission since its inception.

             Due to the past and continuing investment of public funds in SPAC, it would be appropriate for the public to have a greater voice in the operation of the corporate affairs of SPAC.

             Compensation provided should be tied to specific goals and performance expectations that are clearly defined at the beginning of each fiscal year and benchmarked to appropriate similar venues.

             SPAC is disproportionately dependent on ticket sales and on Clear Channel and needs to revitalize its Endowment Committee.

             SPAC should hire an experienced fundraiser.

             SPAC should analyze fundraising expenses on an annual basis and benchmark their dollars raised to expenses incurred.

             SPAC consider increasing the size of the Board of Directors and explore items such as members at large, term limits and rotating committee assignments.

happy December 1st, 6 months(more or less) to go till pooltime.