Artists Col­lec­tive not out of the woods yet

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Opinion -

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.

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