Multi-county arts group requests $11,500 from Allegany County to help fill budget gap

A committee of the Allegany County Board of Legislators is sending to the full board a proposal by a Cattaraugus County-based arts group to provide $11,500 in funding to help it reduce its current year’s budget gap.

Paula Berstein
Tri-County Arts Council Director
(Allegany County livestream photo)

The request comes from the Tri-County Arts Council (TCAC) of Olean and occurs after the demise this year of the Allegany Arts Association (AAA) which had been providing arts services, particularly for children, without local government funding.

The county’s Ways and Means Committee last week unanimously endorsed the funding proposal, to come from federal pandemic funds, referring final approval to the full board. There were indications during discussions that funding in future years may be requested from the county’s regular general fund.

TCAC Director Paula Berstein told the committee that her organization realized a $49,500 shortfall this year as a result of failing to receive state funding for services which, for the first time, were granted based on a state rating system.

Last year, she said, the organization held nine public gallery exhibitions for local artists across Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany counties, including one in Wellsville, Small Works shows of local artists, 60 classes in the tri-county area which drew more than 300 community members, 1,479 participants for Jamestown Community College classes and TCAC open studios and clay opportunities, and retail sales of more than 800 pieces of member artworks through various artisan markets.

She said that Cattaraugus County has been providing $8,000 in funding to the group for several years and is asking each of the three counties to provide $11,500 for 2023.

Allegany County Legislator Gary Barnes of Wellsville, who isn’t a member of the board committee, asked why Allegany County should contribute the same amount as the other two counties with much higher populations.

Cattaraugus County had 77,042 residents in 2020, according to Census data, and Chautauqua was at 127,657, with the two being over four times more than Allegany, at 46,456 population

Berstein said that TCAC was starting the funding search with Allegany County and indicated it had simply divided the shortfall evenly, after making reductions in staff and other expenses.

The director didn’t detail what specific services would be provided in Allegany County, but said the nine gallery exhibitions last year were being reduced to six in 2023.

The Allegany Arts Association, after 40 years of service, voted in January to disband due to lack of volunteers to serve on its governing board, with several thousand remaining dollars in its treasury to be distributed to local art groups in the county or other arts resources.

The group had determined that it didn’t have sufficient funding to hire a full or part-time administrator but hoped to retain some components of its previous efforts through independent means.

It has been receiving program funding through state pass-through monies from the Arts Council for Wyoming County, and memberships.

A major effort has included working with Allegany County libraries and local arts groups to provide a summer program involving a wide range of arts and cultural activities for all ages, particularly children.

It also published a quarterly newsletter of local arts information and last year conducted a 40th anniversary show of county artists at the David A. Howe Public Library in Wellsville.

A video of Berstein’s presentation to the county board committee is available at https://bit.ly/3JYvK5R, with information on the AAA at www.alleganyartsassociation.com and the Olean-based group at www.tricountyartscouncil.org.