The Great Neck Arts Center will become the Gold Coast Arts Center, serving the entire town of North Hempstead, as a result of a new partnership in which the town will buy the building presently occupied by the center.
Under the arrangement, North Hempstead, through the Business & Tourism Development Corporation, its local development corporation, will take over the Arts Center building, investing $3.5 million to pay off its mortgage and have some capital left over for administrative functions, and will maintain the building. In exchange, the arts center will pay the town the equivalent of annual rent and provide cultural services for the entire town.
The arrangement should keep the arts center solvent for at least 10 years, but there is also room for new revenue streams.
The breaking news, which followed a unanimous vote of the Town Council the night before, was revealed as a dramatic climax during the arts center’s star-studded gala, held at the historic mansion hotel Oheka Castle in Huntington, Long Island, on Wednesday, October 24.
“The fifth largest town in the country deserves a facility and an organization like Gold Coast Arts Center,” North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman said in addressing the gathering of donors, sponsors and supporters of the Arts Center at the gala, which also was the kick-off event for the second annual Gold Coast International Film Festival, also a collaboration between the arts center and the Town of North Hempstead.
“This is a town-wide approach to the arts, which we’ve been working on,” Kaiman commented. “We have arts projects in Westbury, Port Washington, Roslyn, Manhasset. There is some synergy. There is a need for the arts from a cultural perspective and an economic development perspective. Our goal is to take this broader perspective. We think it will generate additional benefits for the town.”
The innovative financial structure comes at a time when nonprofit groups everywhere are struggling to survive, and tens of thousands have closed.
“As we approach the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Great Neck Arts Center,” said Regina Gil, the founder and executive director of the Great Neck Arts Center as well as the Gold Coast International Film Festival, “we should pause and look around the room to see the number and caliber of people who have turned out to help us keep this Arts Center alive and well.
Everywhere else in this country, arts groups are closing their doors, arts classes are being crossed off the curriculum, and arts funding is being cut.”
Gil started the Great Neck Arts Center (a successor to the North Shore Arts Council which had closed) in the basement of St. Paul’s Church and within just a couple of years had its own space for classes, exhibits and performance, in a building where the Squire movie theater is based, which also provided a venue for its film premieres and Furman Film Series.
“I will not tell you that we are here because we are the best arts center in the world, even though we strive to be, because other arts groups at least as good are gone,” Gil told the Gala audience. “I will tell you that we are the only multi-arts center in Nassau County that offers art, music, dance, theatre and film under one roof.
“I will not tell you that this hasn’t been the most difficult year we’ve ever gone through, other than our founding year, because it has been painful this year to deal with the results of the economic downturn, when people will enroll for one class instead of two or three; where donors say they have to cut back on their giving, where competing for grants is more difficult because the money is shrinking and there are more organizations applying for help. But I will tell you that our friends have rallied around us in an effort to protect and ensure the future of our arts center.
“I will not tell you that launching an international film festival in the midst of all our other activities and financial struggles has been anything but stressful and challenging in a variety of ways. But I can tell you that it has also been exciting and has helped us reach thousands of people who would otherwise not have known that we exist. The Gold Coast International Film Festival is a success, thanks to our friends and sponsors and something that we can grow and that we can all be proud of here in our Long Island community. Our tagline is “Everyone’s invited” and I hope that you will all take advantage of our presence out here and enjoy some films and events as they officially begin tomorrow. “
The arts center is also the organizer for the Gold Coast International Film Festival, now in its second year. The gala served as the opening event for the film festival as well as the art center’s annual gathering.
During the gala, Regina Gil announced that the film festival has just entered into discussions with the Chaplin Association based in Vevey, Switzerland (essentially the Charlie Chaplin family), and the Chaplin Museum in Paris to be able to offer a sanctioned series of workshops, screenings at the 2013-4 festival honoring Charlie Chaplin and commemorating the 100th anniversary of Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
Earlier in the week, Chaplin’s granddaughter, Keira Chaplin, was part of a pre-festival panel featuring Hollywood talent agent Budd Burton Moss and friends, and one of the festival events featured a screening of silent film classics “the Mark of Zorro” with Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin’s short film, “The Immigrant,” (both with live accompaniment on a historic theater organ by Bernie Anderson, Jr.
US Congressman Gary Ackerman, who received the Arts Center’s first-ever Honorary Founders Award (more typically, an original Founder of the center is honored), was humble when he said he did not equate himself with a true founder.
“When I think of a founder,” Ackerman said, “I think of John Adams I think of him particularly through a famous letter to Abigail when the war was raging: ‘I study war and politics so my sons can study math and science and history, so their sons can study art and music and dance and architecture and porcelain.’
“So said a real founder. these tasks he ascribed to different generations…. would evolve with mixed results.
“What you study [at arts center] is essence of culture. the work you do is make possible so that someday children will have chance to hear live performance rather than live ammunition and have a chance to be in a marching band and not a marching army.”
The Great Neck Arts Center Gala, themed “Celebrate the Arts,” also honored famed Author Nelson DeMille who received the Arts Center’s “Gold Coast Legend Award;” cabaret singer KT Sullivan was honored with this year’s Artist Of Distinction in Music and Great Neck businessman Michael T. Lamoretti was the headline honoree as “Man of the Year.”
DeMille, who had just heard that his latest novel, “the Panther,” had hit Number One on the New York Times booklist as he was driving over, was gracious enough to present each of the guests with a book, which he autographed while sitting in the grand library of the Oheka Castle. Indeed, he noted that his son, a filmmaker, filmed some scenes at the Oheka Castle.
DeMille is the author of numerous award-winning novels that are regularly at the top of best-seller lists. His first major work, By the Rivers of Babylon, was published in 1978 and is still in print. It was followed by Cathedral, Word of Honor, The Charm School, The Gold Coast, The General’s Daughter, Plum Island, Wild Fire, and The Gate House, among many others. His book, The General’s Daughter, was a hit film starring John Travolta. The Gold Coast is currently being developed by Castle Rock Entertainment, Word of Honor is being developed by Dino De Laurentiis, and his books The Lion’s Game and Plum Island have just been purchased by Columbia Motion Pictures.
He holds honorary doctorates from Hofstra University, Long Island University and Dowling College. Mr. DeMille, a graduate of Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, spent three years at Hofstra, then joined the Army and attended Officer Candidate School. He was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and saw action as an infantry platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He was decorated with the Air Medal, Bronze Star, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He returned to Hofstra, where he received his degree in political science and history.
KT Sullivan was this year’s recipient of the Arts Center’s Artist Of Distinction in Music – a reminder that the Arts Center is a place for performing as well as visual arts. The New Yorker called her “as vocally, comically and theatrically assured as contemporary cabaret performers get.” She recently appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC with Brian Stokes Mitchell in Broadway Today, at the Humanities Festival in Chicago with Dave Frishberg and at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall with Michael Feinstein. She is an annual headliner at the Oak Room of New York’s Algonquin Hotel, at Neue Galerie’s Café Sabarsky on Fifth Avenue, The Rrazz Room in San Francisco, Pizza on the Park and Jermyn Street Theatre in London. KT has headlined at Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Caramoor Festival. She has performed internationally at The Spoleto Festival, The Nouvelle Eve in Paris, The Chichester Festival in England and the Adelaide Festival in Australia.
Lamoretti, the Arts Center’s “Man of the Year,” has been the vice president of real estate operations for Great Neck-based United Capital Corp. for more than 20 years. The diversified and publicly traded company has more than 500 employees and a national portfolio of real estate investments, hotel operations and manufacturing subsidiaries. He is intricately involved in the daily operations of the company’s real estate investments in more than 150 properties with over five million rentable square feet.
He is also an active member of the community, serving on many boards and committees, including one that he says is dear to his heart, The Great Neck Arts Center. “The Arts Center is a tremendous asset to our community and beyond. It serves more than 15,000 underprivileged children and adults throughout Long Island at little or no cost to them and their families.
“My children, who are much more fortunate, have enjoyed classes and programs there for years,” said Lamoretti who with his wife, Jill, live in Great Neck with their three children, Briana, Vanessa and Attilio. “Whether it was watching them in an acting class or seeing their smiles as they showed me a piece of pottery they made, I feel that The Arts Center is a beautiful place and should be embraced.”
Indeed, Jill Lamoretti chaired the Gala, along with co-chairs Attilio and Beverly Petrocelli. The honorary co-chairs were Terri Carr Muran (last year’s Woman of the Year) and Eileen and Alan Sarroff. The Town of North Hempstead is a pioneer sponsor of The Gold Coast International Film Festival and co-hosted the gala.
Proceeds from the Gala benefit the educational programs at the Great Neck Arts Center’s School for the Arts.
“The Arts Center has a great future ahead,” North Hempstead Supervisor Kaiman said.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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