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Crises leave Hamilton Hill Arts Center searching for answers

A sign on the door of he Hamilton Hill Arts Center on Schenectady Street states it canceled it's activities Friday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
A sign on the door of he Hamilton Hill Arts Center on Schenectady Street states it canceled it's activities Friday.
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The Hamilton Hill Arts Center is facing a triple crisis as it heads into the new year. It has no leader. Director Mark Chaires resigned in December. It has little money, particularly because a federal $14,600 Community Development Block Grant was frozen. The center didn’t meet the eligibility requirements for the grant last year, and has just now rectified the problem. And it has few plans, relying mainly on volunteers to run programs. Hours have ...


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comments

reader1
January 18, 2014
8:48 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

HHAC is in need of money. That was one of the few things Moore got right in this article. Letter is being drafted to Gazette to correct these errors.

reader1
January 18, 2014
9:20 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

A few points:

CDBG funds were frozen because HHAC's Board of Directors did not meet the requirement that 51% of its members come from within a certain geographical area of the City. That was a result of a significant Board turnover. Simply put, the Board needed members with different skill sets (e.g., artists, musicians, business backgrounds, higher profile & credibility within the Hamilton Hill neighborhood). So, there was a concerted effort to recruit and bring people on Board who could really help the Center. The transition resulted in the Board not meeting the 51% requirement. While it was challenging to operate without the funds for a time, in the long run it will be better for HHAC because the Board members will be better able to assist HHAC.

Given its' size, HHAC can operate without an Executive Director. HHAC can operate with a Program Coordinator at the helm, duties split between administration and assisting with programming. And, HHAC has known since October that the former Director was leaving at the end of the year.

Biggest error was the assertion that there is no plan at HHAC. It revised its' mission statement. It retained the cultural component of its' previous mission but expanded on it, the new focus being on "healthy development and academic success of youth" and it is also expanding its' curriculum to meet the needs of its' customers - in that it will feature a literacy component.

Programs are not sporadically run. HHAC operates the following programs on a fixed schedule: Artreach (visual arts), steel drumming, Umoja (African dancing and drumming), and a brass band (program has grant funding available). It has three planned programs pending, awaiting either funding or available staff. To my mind, it looks like Moore took the cancellation of one day of programming to paint a picture of sporadic programming and this is simply wrong.

Clearly, HHAC needs funding but that has been a struggle for some time. Inaccurate hatchet job articles like this are certainly unhelpful.

reader1
January 18, 2014
10:18 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Kathleen: Made a quick call - The Arts Center was closed yesterday because the Arts Reach instructor had to take a rare day off for personal reasons. She is paid employee, not a volunteer. I learned that by making a phone call. Do you have phones in your office?

safny
January 18, 2014
11:12 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

reader1 - you seem to have a great deal of inside information. If you have a relationship to the HHAC, then you should say that. I do agree that some things in the article are vague - but it sounds like the AC's plans are as well. I also question why the HHAC in Schenectady relies on volunteers as it says in the article, but has a grant to run a program in Troy. I think some clarification will help.

reader1
January 18, 2014
12:36 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

AC's plans are not vague. They are operating under a new mission statement a broader more inclusive vision.

The issue is funding. It is a small non-profit and does not have a major benefactors. Again, there is a financial crisis but it is all based on funding.

It has specific programs in place, held on a regularly scheduled basis. It also has plans for renovating the building, but, again funding is an issue. They are currently working on grants and with some other non-profit agencies to obtain the funding.

HHAC has volunteers as do many non-profits. It also has paid staff. The article leads the reader to believe that because a volunteer did not show up the programs were cancelled. HHAC is not like the school district with a pool of substitute teachers. Unfortunately, on this rare occasion when a paid instructor had to take a day off, there was no available replacement. The report was unnecessarily inaccurate because the correct information was readily available. And it was thoroughly inaccurate to categorize the programs as sporadic. In fact, they have programming being held this morning and every Saturday morning.

RE: the program in Troy. The non-profit agency in Troy was the recipient of the grant. A few of the HHAC adult instructors give lessons there and they are compensated by means of the grant.

The vagueness of the article is not the problem, the inaccuracies are. But, that is typical for Kathleen Moore. And, you really have to wonder why the status of a non-profit with an annual budget of well under $200,000 is front page news.

And, on a side note - she spelled the Board President's name wrong.

safny
January 18, 2014
1:25 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Again - you seem to have all sorts of inside info but refuse to say how you came by it. I have no problem with someone defending an organization they believe in, but it sounds as though you have a connection to it and you should be upfront about that. If the grant in Troy was given to a different organization and it just happened to hire people who work at HHAC, then the article is incorrect in stating that it is HACC's grant and they are running the program. I have issues with the Gazette, but if they were criticizing someone or something I support, I would not hide my connection.

reader1
January 18, 2014
2:52 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Clearly, if I have inside info then there is some connection.

No one is hiding anything. If I choose to not identify myself - that's my choice. Believe what I post or don't believe - that's entirely up to you. I could identify myself and the info still not be accurate.

safny
January 18, 2014
7:52 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

The point is that if you are connected to and a supporter of this institution, how are you any more credible that the reporter you are trashing?

ChuckD
January 18, 2014
10:26 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Journalists use anonymous tips all the time. They don't need a name and address to consider it valid. They don't have to report the tipster's information as fact. But they should consider the apparent veracity of reader1's information as at least a possible lead to the truth. If they're motivated to the truth, anyway.

reader1
January 19, 2014
4:48 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Credibility is up to the reader to decide. If you do not want to believe what I am writing -don't.

And, I am not certain that you know what your point is. First, you are critical because I do not identify myself and any potential connection to HHAC. Now, while I am still remaining anonymous but have acknowledged some form of relationship with HHAC - you say that relationship calls into question my credibility? Which is it?

Moore has a history of inaccurate reporting. I'm certainly not the first person or reader to complain about it. And, I don't make that criticism of all their reporters.

reader1
January 19, 2014
5:01 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

But the issue remains that the Center is struggling financially - and, in my opinion, that is part of a larger problem.

HHAC and several other non-profits operating on Hamilton Hill, and other poor communities, have identified critical needs and many have compelling missions - but, I think the these home grown, independent non-profits face an uphill financial and possibly insurmountable struggle. If all of them consolidated or were absorbed by a larger and financially stable non-profit, with a compatible mission, the energy exerted keeping them independently operational could be better spent on programming and support resources.

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