Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 4
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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Arts Council Ends Year With Surplus, Annual Report Reveals Steady Growth

Dilshanie Perera

Despite the economic tribulations of recent years, the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) has managed to provide classes and programming serving the town, and expanding its purview during fiscal year 2009/2010. The recently released Annual Report shows how the institution ended the year with a surplus, and how it has increased its organizational budget in the past three years from $750,000 to more than $1.1 million.

“I would say that 2009/2010 was a year of working on our infrastructure —  getting our house in order so that we were capable of operating in this larger facility and that we could balance our program needs with our operational needs,” acknowledged Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Nathanson, adding that “2010/2011 is really about expanding our programs and learning from the community in terms of what is desired and needed to serve the community well.”

Over 40 faculty artists taught 201 art classes to 1,440 students during the past fiscal year. Scholarship funds totaled $15,578, which enabled children and adults to attend summer camps as well as classes. Community youth programming provided a total of 512 hours of free art instruction for 394 area students in the past year.

New collaborations with the Princeton Public Library, HiTops, Corner House, the Recreation Department, and the Princeton Senior Resource Center allowed for an expanded range of offerings for teens and seniors through the Arts Council. Mr. Nathanson described a class that debuted in the past year for caregivers for seniors. “They learned how to use art and creativity to help seniors have a more rich and healthy experience.”

Taking a thematic approach, Mr. Nathanson said that the idea of a “community portrait” would guide programming and exhibitions this year. Educational projects, community art projects, and shows will “utilize the portrait as a means of examining our identity,” he explained.

An exhibition opening in March entitled “Between You and Me” will feature photography by artists who “use the portrait as a vehicle for their own expression,” Mr. Nathanson remarked. A new class for 15- to 18-year-olds called “Teens Drawing Teens,” which is a figure drawing class with clothed teen models as subjects, also falls under the portraiture rubric.

Major fundraising at the non-profit institution continues as the “5 in 5” program seeks to raise 5 million dollars in 5 years in order to “retire our mortgage and build an endowment” for the Arts Council, Mr. Nathanson observed. Half will go toward paying off construction debts incurred by the new building, and approximately $2.5 million will be used to begin an endowment fund.

The Arts Council is also involved in a strategic planning process in order to look ahead to the future of the organization and detail the community’s vision vis-a-vis the arts.

Additionally, the institution and others in town are involved in a national economic impact study that will produce data on how the arts enhance economic prosperity in Princeton. The three-year process will involve participation by the Arts Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Princeton University, and other local organizations and institutions.

Calling the Arts Council and the Public Library key edifices downtown, Mr. Nathanson suggested that “what’s really anchoring the retail and the commercial aspects of our town … is education and culture. That says a lot.”

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