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Paramount Chair: Peekskill Venue Needs Fundraising Help

The nonprofit Paramount Center for the Arts on Brown Street in Peekskill is launching a grass-roots fundraising campaign in September.
The nonprofit Paramount Center for the Arts on Brown Street in Peekskill is launching a grass-roots fundraising campaign in September. Photo Credit: Art Cusano

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. - The Daily Voice accepts signed, original letters to the editor. Letters may be emailed to peekskill@dailyvoice.com .

Letter to the Editor:

Sometimes success is not enough. In spite of record box office numbers and strategic spending cuts, it has become increasingly clear that the Paramount Center for the Arts , a hub of cultural activity in Peekskill, will face an uncertain future without public support.

Like so many not-for-profit art centers, the venerable Paramount – long recognized as a driving force for commerce as well as art throughout northern Westchester – will have to develop new sources of income to offset cuts in private and public funding to the arts.

In an effort to balance its finances, the Paramount's governing board has taken steps to restructure management, cut costs and trim waste. A new management team led by Executive Director Lisa Reiss has also succeeded in attracting bigger box office names like Kenny Loggins, Glen Campbell, Foreigner and Amos Lee to offset community programs like the Arts in Education performances that attract thousands of area students but often require underwriting.

Despite greater success at the box office, more is needed. Faced with a fundraising goal of $300,000 (roughly the shortfall due to cuts in grants and other traditional sources of contributed income), the Paramount is launching a September fundraising campaign that will reach out to the 40,000 people on its mailing list, as well as current members and corporate sponsors. While taking full advantage of modern fundraising tools, including an email-based pledge drive, the campaign will emphasize the traditional: the deeply rooted, community-enhancing role that the historic Paramount has played throughout the region.

Unlike private pop-music venues, the Paramount is part of a vital network of institutions whose productions of cultural and artistic merit often supersede commercial viability. SF Jazz Collective was made possible because of the 2012 Mid Atlantic Jazz Touring Network grant program. "Fantastical Classical," a series opening Oct. 21, will be hosted by the radio celebrity Elliott Forrest (WQXR, WNYC) and feature world-renowned performers like Mark O'Connor, Sharon Isbin and the New Philharmonic Principal Brass Quintet.

Expanding its base and reaching out to Westchester's more affluent communities through this type of programming has been an important aspect of the Paramount's development strategy and has inspired fundraisers like the May 26 concert at "Cat Rock" in Garrison, which featured a private performance by virtuoso violinist Mark O'Connor.

But in September, as the Paramount starts its crucial grass-roots campaign, the theater's mission and future will be placed squarely in the hands of the people it serves. Their response will define local arts and cultural programming not only for the immediate community, but for much of northern Westchester and Putnam County, for decades to come.

Vinnie C. Vesce Chairman, Board of Trustees Paramount Center for the Arts

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