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State of the Economy Focuses on Arts Sector’s Recovery

From left, Laura deBuys, Janet Langsam, Ed Lewis, Peter Shapiro, and Masha Turchinsky

The Business Council of Westchester’s State of the Economy series focused on the arts sector’s recovery during a panel discussion this week with the leaders of five prominent cultural institutions.

The session’s panelists included Laura deBuys, Executive Director of the Pelham Picture House; Janet Langsam, CEO of ArtsWestchester; Ed Lewis, President and CEO of Caramoor; Peter Shapiro, owner of the Capitol Theatre; and Masha Turchinsky, Director and CEO of the Hudson River Museum.

“The arts and culture sector, which was frankly the hardest hit during the pandemic, is coming back strong and evolving and being innovative and transforming in Westchester County,” said BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon, who moderated the panel.

This year’s State of the Economy series is focused on innovation as part of the BCW’s Westchester Innovation Network’s push to enhance the region’s culture of new ideas and grow the local economy.

DeBuys announced that the Pelham Picture House will launch a new film festival this fall that celebrates the local film industry and its creative workforce. “We’re excited about the state of film in Westchester County,” said deBuys. “What we’ve seen during the pandemic is that an already healthy film industry has just taken off…. Lionsgate has built a huge studio in Yonkers.”

The Capitol Theatre’s innovation has been harnessing the power of its audiences by creating community-service events for them. “I doubt that there are many venues that organize fans to do community activities. That’s really unique to the Cap and the nature of those Westchester fans,” said Shapiro.

The Hudson River Museum’s new approach to building expanded networks of partnerships and collaboration has enabled the Yonkers-based institution to host more expensive and expansive shows. “The Hudson River Museum is one of the very few cultural institutions in the United States that was selected by Art Bridges to bring outstanding works of American art to the local community. That means we get to bring in world-class artists, especially those whose works we might not be able to bring in with our operating budget,” said Turchinsky.

Caramoor is developing ways to allow its audiences to play greater roles in programming decisions. “Audiences want to see themselves reflected from the stage and to hear themselves in the music, so we are sharing the curatorial control of some of our engagement events to help not only serve the community, but build a diverse audience for the future,” said Lewis.

Langsam noted that innovation includes giving new life to outdated spaces. “We are all in historic buildings,” Langsam said of the participating institutions. “That’s another one of the marvelous things about the arts community in Westchester—how we’ve transformed theaters and banks and old buildings into new and vital places.”

The next State of the Economy will focus on the non-profit sector and the webinar is at 9 a.m. on May 11. Click here to register for the free event. The State of the Economy Series is sponsored by PCSB Bank.  Supporting Sponsors are Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts and Westchester County Office of Economic Development. A recording of the State of the Economy’s arts session is posted on the BCW’s Facebook page..

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