Arts Center Seeks New Home
While agreeing with this article (“Finding the Center,” January 24, 2013) about the need for full support of the arts in Northampton, I do wish to correct any idea that First Churches Northampton is part of the problem. We continue to offer strong support as a regular venue for performing arts and by offering our space for free as a prime venue every First Night, and we have continued to hold other events promoted by the Center for the Arts after the acquisition talks ended. First Churches offers affordable space for over 25 groups involved not only in the performing arts, but also Twelve Step groups, social activists, dance, yoga, a food coop, homeless outreach, food pantry, and many other community activities. We share our space with everyone. Many people were concerned about what would happen to many of the social service programs if we sold a major part of our building.
I am new to the church and was not involved in the dialogue, and have heard many differing opinions regarding why the Center did not move to First Churches. Our theological tradition is to include all members in decisionmaking rather than making top-down decisions. This kind of process takes a great deal of time and patience. We never reached a point of taking a vote and many in the congregation had not made up their minds at the time the Arts Center decided to formally end discussion. I hope people understand what a major decision it is to sell a significant part of its real estate for an organization that has nearly 400 years of history at this site. On behalf of the congregation I wish the Center for the Arts well and hope they will continue their fine work in Northampton.
I would like to second the comments made by the Reverend Todd Weir and take responsibility for being expedient in my own description about what happened during discussions with First Churches. The decisionmaking process was much more complicated than it appears in this article. It involved hours of meetings among various groups and thoughtful conversation over a period of many months. The relationship between the Center for the Arts and First Churches has been long and fruitful. Aside from First Night, both organizations have overlapping commitments to supporting community arts groups and activities. I expect that we will continue to work together.
Penny Burke, Executive Director
My impression is that there was inadequate concern when Northampton artists began moving out of the city (out of necessity) to less expensive studio and living quarters, and they still brought their work into Northampton to show/perform—likely at a financial loss—but because of the city’s reputation as a vibrant arts center. Now, however, that those other towns (Easthampton, Holyoke, Pittsfield) are growing their own successful venues with substantial public support for the arts, and the veneer/prestige of the Northampton arts scene is fading, artists are increasingly showing their work where they actually live and create. That the Northampton Center for the Arts cannot relocate itself, despite years of thoughtful and aggressive planning by many individuals like Burke, is essentially the most difficult-to-ignore symptom of a long-simmering systemic problem.
If you weren’t convinced before that the two major U.S. political parties are wholly corporate-owned and not working in the interest of the people, Dr. Jill Stein’s fact-filled but easily understood article should have convinced you (“Off the Cliff: Why the Fiscal Deal Passed by Congress Last Week Is Only the Beginning of the Betrayal,” January 10, 2013).
Why shouldn’t people who earn $250,000 to $450,000 pay their proportionate share of the taxes that keep roads clear, keep the fire house open, and keep cops on the beat? So what if they earned their money (the fast food worker also earned his pay)? We’re not saying “Pay all your money”—just a fair share of it.
If President Obama agreed to pay the $4 trillion to reduce the deficit but has only managed to scrape together $600 billion (while at the same time finding the money to to start new racetracks and to give Goldman Sachs $1.6 billion in tax breaks), where do you think the rest of the money to balance the deficit will come from? From the programs that directly benefit the people (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and state and municipal budgets).
Corporations are not people! The Green Party looks out for people, not for ways to take advantage of the people!
Correction: In “Social Security: Clearing the Air,” January 17, 2013, we reported that in 2010, Social Security had a $2.6 billion surplus. The figure should have been $2.6 trillion.