Artists Collective not out of the woods yet
Word that a partnership agreement could help pump badly needed cash into Hartford’s ailing Artists Collective is a welcome sign of optimism, but those painting it as a sign that the venerable city institution is out of the woods are overstating the reality.
Under the deal, Capital Community College and the Artists Collective would launch a series of non-credit arts courses to be held at the collective’s Albany Avenue building, with the two parties sharing tuition revenue. The deal, according to both sides, could pump up to $250,000 into the Artists Collective’s dwindling coffers.
The focus should be on the phrase “up to.” If the two parties split all proceeds, they’d have to generate $500,000 in revenue to get that number. That’s a lot of classes and a lot of students. Better to call it an aspirational number than a guarantee.
Even if it’s not a magic cure-all, the collaboration with Capital Community College does seem to make sense. The arrangement will give CCC a foothold in the neighborhood and in a community of artistically minded young people, and it will provide critical support to the collective.
This is a pivotal time. Dollie McLean, the collective’s CEO and widow of founder Jackie McLean, plans to retire soon, after essentially donating her time for decades. She’s left a legacy, and the collective must seek out a new leader who will build upon it, with vision and direction.
That vision and direction will be crucial. The collective needs a leader who understands the organization’s mission but who is not afraid to sacrifice a sacred cow if it costs more than it’s worth to keep. With luck, the collaboration with Capital Community College will open doors and spark ideas that dramatically reinvigorate the institution.
The Artists Collective has been a hub of music and drama education for untold numbers of Hartford youths, but it has drawn down its modest endowment over the years to pay for upkeep to the multimillion-dollar building on Albany Avenue. Years of deficits and eroding support from donors have put the venerable city institution in jeopardy. Its closing would be a devastating loss, as the collective has been a source of inspiration and hope in Hartford’s troubled North End.
It’s going to take more than this latest effort to save the Artists Collective. Those leading the effort cannot afford to sit back and hope this partnership produces enough revenue to fix the problem. Keep going.