Leading up to last night’s forum with the Bridgeport Arts & Cultural Council, there were two questions — how many artists would attend such a meeting, and would its existence provoke hostility or hope?
The small retail space at the Arcade, where the BACC mounts small exhibits and serves as a information center, was just about large enough for the 35 or so who attended last night. It was generally a friendly affair.
An umbrella organization to promote the arts community and bring in grants money, the BACC was established early last year and opened its Arcade space in November.
How much it balances its focus on local artists with a mission of engaging the artistic world-at-large will never be settled. Executive Director Kenneth Kahn said he favors a 50-50 balance: “Bridgeport centric, but not Bridgeport exclusive.” Given that artists enjoy exposure outside city limits, there is no great push toward isolationism. Still, it all has to add up to something that helps the community.
“Part of what we want to do for Bridgeport is to bring the outside in to Bridgeport,” said Robin Zella, president of the BACC.
The BACC is a fledgling organization — it’s operating under the wing of the Housatonic Community College Foundation, and will continue to be until its 501(c)(3) status, which makes it a standalone IRS-approved non-profit, is settled. Mr. Kahn projected that would happen by June 1.
The meeting was a reaction to, at least in part, to complaints on the BACC Facebook page — which allows unmoderated commenting — that an artist from Fairfield was put in charge of the council’s branding, like its logo, posters and website. Why the website so far is a one-page placeholder is another gripe on Facebook.
“Phineas T Barnum” on Facebook had a good point about the website. Mr. Kahn said the BACC has tight funds and has been working piecemeal, doing a little bit here and there. The Arcade storefront, which allows for personal encounters, has been a priority over the website.
Last night, Mr. Kahn opened the meeting by handing out the BACC brochure that laid out its philosophy and mission, a printout of a Connecticut Post article, a leaflet with a list of past accomplishments and future plans, and another leaflet naming its board members. This was new information for a number of artists in the room. A website would have taken care of that groundwork months ago.
Moreover, a website would have let the BACC be independent of Facebook, a social networking site where you just can’t win with hecklers. Keep their comments up, and you worry potential funders. Delete their comments, or disable posts, and you lose transparency.
So what does the BACC have planned? A Vault Gallery show with steel sculptures, and an “exchange exhibition” with Port Jefferson, Long Island — which Bridgeport links to by ferry — are in the works. The Arcade site has two more shows planned and a “Meet the Artists” luncheon series is being developed.
They will also need a second round of funding. In this economic climate, let’s see how that goes.