Arts Group Looks at Strength in Numbers
The Newton Cultural Alliance looks to join arts groups in Newton to better promote culture within the city.
Newton arts groups used to be on their own in attracting an audience--but that has all changed.
The Newton Cultural Alliance, an umbrella organization of 16 Newton theater, art and music groups, is spearheading an effort to promote and build awareness of arts in the city.
The ultimate dream of the NCA is to have a permanent cultural and performance facility in Newton, and part of that effort will involve fostering ties with businesses in cooperative ventures, according to board member and State Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton).
"We can give them some muscle they don't have individually," said former mayor Tom Concannon, chairman of the NCA.
Newton Alderman Vicki Danberg--who also sits on the NCA Board of Directors-- echoed Concannon's sentiments.
"Newton has an unusual number of wonderful cultural and arts groups that need audiences," Danberg said.
The alliance formed about five years ago, but moved slowly and quietly and within the past year, it received tax-exempt status, according to Danberg.
The NCA held its first collaborative cultural event, "Community in Concert," in early November, an event that featured musical and singing groups as well as art displays.
"There were some of us who felt we would really benefit by working together to increase the presence of arts organizations in the city so that its inhabitants and others in the region would know how many opportunities there really were in Newton," said Adrienne Hartzell, executive director of the New Philharmonia Orchestra and an NCA board member.
"What we would all like to have is bigger audiences," Hartzell added, "Audiences for small non-profit organizations are tough to come by."
Most of them are made up of families and friends. We believe a lot more people in our community would come if they just knew."
The alliance's web site includes a calendar with the events of the various member organizations.
"It's a great consolidated picture of the vibrancy of the arts in Newton," said Newton Arts Center Board President Liz Hiser. "We as members get to be featured in that."
The NCA hopes to eventually partner restaurants with the cultural groups. That could involve, for example, getting a discount at a restaurant before or after a performance or having small musical and singing groups playing inside a restaurant.
Another concept could involve having artists display their work on the walls of restaurants at no charge to the restaurant with the NCA advertising the program, according to Danberg.
"If you get people out more and more aware of what's going on and attending concerts, you'll get people into the restaurants," said Khan. "It's also about economic development and enriching the city."
Concannon acknowledged, though, that money is needed by the alliance.
"We've (received) a couple of grants (three from the state's Mass Cultural Council), and we want to get an income stream so we can help the members," he said.
Concannon said he would like to raise at least $100,000, calling fundraising a "necessity."
Currently, the NCA's offices are located at the Andover-Newton Theological School, but as for the long-term, the alliance has discussed the concept of having a performance center.
"First of all, you have find a place that works," Khan said. "That has been on our agenda from the very beginning, and, in fact, was one of the things that pulled us together initially. It's not on the way back burner. It's out there."
"It's always been a concern about where these groups can perform, locate, practice," Khan added. "We're filing a gap that will give much more emphasis, interest and excitement about what's happening here in the city."
The alliance has looked at several existing spaces within the city and has considered renovating a historic building or joining a potential building, according to Danberg.
Partnering with someone would be especially helpful during the tough economic times, Khan said, as the potential center would not likely receive any state or city funds.
"We keep going because people are very interested, excited, want to help," said Khan. "It's really about community and supporting arts."
Members of the NCA include the Boston Ballet School, Suzuki School of Newton, Turtle Lane Playhouse, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Newton Symphony Orchestra, The Newton Art Association, The Highland Glee Club, Historic Newton, Newton Choral Society, New Art Center, New TV, Zamir Chorale, Highland Jazz Pub, Cappella Clausura, Sharing a New Song and Newton Country Players.
For more information, visit www.newtonculture.org.