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Editorial: A Potential Tragedy for Great Neck —- Losing the Arts Center

One of the finest institutions in our community, the Great Neck Arts Center, is in real danger of having to close due to a lack of funding. Created almost 20 years ago to nourish the body, mind and soul of the Great Neck peninsula, through the years the Arts Center has provided a magnificent array of performances, gallery exhibits, lectures, screenings, outreach programs to underserved students, vacation arts programs during school vacations, and art, music and dance classes for one and all.

The Arts Center is a one-of-a-kind center for Great Neck, indeed for Nassau County and beyond.

Funding for the Arts Center is basically through grants from the federal, state and local governments and from foundations, banks, and corporations, as well as gifts from individuals. And though the funds from seven of our nine villages (Kensington and Kings Point never provided funds) were small (ranging from $500 to $2500 each year), for sure the total $12,000 to $15,000 each year was a nice amount to count on. But today, sadly, only the villages of Great Neck Plaza, Great Neck Estates and Lake Success offer funding.

Arts Center Executive Director Regina Gil, the multi-talented founder, explained to the Great Neck Record that, legally, the villages are permitted to offer funding. This is not a gift, she said, but a legal contract where, in return for funds, a village may contract for a specific service (such as a discount to courses or events or maybe a concert) or choose not to do so, but to just recognize the cultural benefit of having the Arts Center in the community. This, she said, was developed a number of years ago by the New York State comptroller to allow municipalities to support the arts and keep arts centers thriving. “It was an implicit endorsement of the value that an arts center brings to its community,” Ms. Gill said.

Seven villages supported the Arts Center until now; today only three offer funding. And the answer is generally a tight budget and/or concern regarding the contract and the service provided. In our opinion, neither answer is truly valid. The Great Neck Arts Center provides invaluable service, invaluable opportunities to every member of this community and asks for very little in return. Even if a village chooses not to contract for a specific service, surely village officials and residents must recognize the tremendous cultural opportunities provided, the recognition brought to Great Neck, and the shoppers and restaurant patrons who are introduced to our wonderful community via their visits to the Arts Center. Even a small sum is greatly appreciated, yet can hardly ever match the benefits we all receive in return. And as for the financial/legal issue, well in reality that hardly seems to be an issue at all. Even a smaller than usual sum would be greatly appreciated and, legally, is not a gift, not a contribution at all but a contract in return for services always provided.

The Arts Center really put Great Neck “on the map” with last year’s Gold Coast International Film Festival. The Arts Center has provided us all with enrichment and joy beyond expectation. It’s time for everyone, every village, to recognize all that we have gained individually and as a community, and step up to the plate and find some funding to offer to this invaluable resource in our midst.

Regina Gil told the Record: “If the Arts Center leaves, it’s gone forever.” No one and nothing can ever take its place!

Please, step forward and speak up. Let’s all do our part in supporting, preserving and nurturing this shining star in our midst!

- Wendy Karpel Kreitzman