Throughout history artistic expression has played a critical role in defining who we are as a society.  Whether its through traditional media (such as painting and such) or more expressive means the arts are a form of communication and fosters our need for creativity and fulfillment.  We probably all agree on this, Yet the arts have historically been underfunded.  Especially when it pertains to individuals who are striving to create and advance their craft.  Enter the Arts Council of Rockland.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Cheryl Baun Executive Director at ACOR and several members of their Board of Directors in what is probably one of the coolest offices in Rockland (located in the Garnerville Arts Center).  The ACOR team shared with me a vision that they had regarding their goal to be able to support artists who needed funds to support their work.  We talked some about what this dream looked like.  The conversation was really eye opening in that it I learned a great deal more about what the needs were in our community.  Through the work and dedication of the board, the Artist’s Support Fund was born!  The first round of grants was awarded several months ago to the following talented individuals…

Bill Batson:  An art activist, writer and publisher of the Nyack Sketch Log Vols 1 & 2, a compilation of short essays and sketches that chronicle a diverse Hudson River Valley community.  He is also co-publisher, columnist and illustrator for Nyack News and Views.

Shirley Crabbe: An award-winning, jazz vocalist, voice-over artist, and educator who is also a veteran music teacher with over 30 years of experience as a choral conductor, NYSSMA adjudicator and private voice instructor.

A few words from Shirley!

Adam Falcon:  An accomplished guitarist, singer/songwriter and educator, whose music is rooted in the blues and early soul.  A teacher at the Rockland Conservancy of Music, Adam has resided in Rockland County for over 40 years.

Samuel Harps: An award-winning playwright, and the Founder and Artist Director of Shades Repertory Theater, located in West Haverstraw, a multicultural professional theater company serving North Rockland for over 20 years.

Conor MacFinn: A Nyack-based animator, filmmaker, and performer of Americana music. Conor’s music has been particularly influenced by his heritage from Appalachia, Scotland and Ireland.

These fabulous five people will be using their grants for a variety of things that will help them to continue to fine-tune their respective artistic endeavors.

The Arts Council of Rockland plans to grant to the artistic community two times per year. 

Funding may be used for a variety of things…. everything from studio rental and costumes, to professional development fees and supplies.  The minimum grant awarded is $250 and the max is $500.

“Grants for artists are often project-based.  We wanted to offer funds to would essentially cover ‘general operating expenses because every artist needs those to keep their everyday practice going.” stated Cheryl.

The deadline for the next grant is December 4, 2020.  You can learn more about this opportunity and access the application here (insert link).  I believe that there is an artist that resides in all of us. ACOR’s beautifully designed logo hosts the following words – write, dance, perform, paint, create.  I think I’ll stick to my artistic strength of writing.  I’ll forgo the dancing and the like and trust me…you will thank me for that!

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A Board Member, A Backpack and a Dream

A Board Member, A Backpack and a Dream

Spotlight on Emily Dominguez and the Haverstraw Neighborhood Fund

On a frigid January morning back in 2018 I went for a second interview at the City Line Diner.  Greeting me at the corner table, way in the back were a few members of the Rockland Community Foundation Executive Board.  That was the first time I ever met Emily Dominguez, then RCF Board President.  Her name was familiar, it seemed like everybody knew her in some capacity.  The group round-robin’ed me with the usual drill of interview questions.  I held my own, I thought.  And then Emily asked a pretty simple, yet tough question….”Why RCF”.  Damn!  I had thought about all the quintessential interview questions but the simplicity of this one did catch me off guard.  So, I answered it to the best of my ability (and apparently it was good enough ‘cause here I sit 1.5 years later). But I got to say, the moment stuck with me.

For some reason, this memory percolated back in my head a few days ago, but the ironic part is I thought about the reverse aspect of this question.  “Why RCF” for Emily Dominguez.  Why did she even get involved with RCF and subsequently start one of the most important & successful Funds that we steward.

Emily loves to tell the story about how she was asked to lunch by Rhea Vogel  (One of the RCF Founders).  She then joined the board, was fast tracked to the Executive Board & worked her way up to becoming Board President. She also established the Haverstraw Neighborhood Fund whose purpose was to help support community initiatives that were started more than 25 years ago by her mom and a local reverend.   Ten years ago, Emily saw a need in her community after speaking with some of the local teachers and parents about a shortage on school supplies and how parents were struggling in the community. She had a few conversations with other community leaders, at which point they decided to organize a Backpack Drive to help the children in the community.  The first iteration of this was back in 2010 and about 200 students received back packs at the beginning of the school year that contained essential school supplies so they could start of the year right.  Fast forward to 2020, where 940 backpacks were distributed to students in a time of great need (aka COVID).  The fund has now grown significantly and has garnered support from community minded businesses such as The Haverstraw Elks, North Rockland Rotary, Sterling National Bank, O’Kane Enterprise, Pathway Capital Corp. and Orange & Rockland.   Because of this fund, which continues to spin off good in the community, a void and need were filled.  When I asked Emily recently “Why RCF” she laughed (and had a few pithy things to say to me!) and then shared the following….

I’m very blessed and thankful for the women & mentors who have been influential throughout my life and have left impressions within me.  I love organizing these events and giving back to our community but I can not take credit for any of this because there is no I in TEAM and this truly is a TEAM effort of volunteers, donors, sponsors, elected officials, my friends, family who I drive nuts prior to our annual event every year but the reward of seeing the SMILES on these kids faces getting a backpack filled with supplies, talking about school, seeing friends, is just PRICELESS.   

This year truly was a challenging one and we are so grateful we were able to make it happen because not only did smiles happen but we gave parents and children confidence during these uncertain times.  My personal life quote that I try to live by is  “Love what you do, Volunteer when you can” and I very proud that we did accomplish it for our Back-to-School Backpack Drive.” 

I really do love my job and its these types of stories that really keep me energized and passionate about the work we do at RCF.  Our mission really is to grow the face of philanthropy in Rockland and to help strengthen the power of giving.  Stay tuned for my next blog and feel free to reach out if your fund or another nonprofit related idea would like to be the focus of my next round of words and wisdom!