thiscangobacktothearchives

October 23, 2014

Cultural Arts at Federation

The files of the Cultural Arts Department in the Community Services Division (8 Bankers boxes) at Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP) were recently processed. From 1979 to 1986, the date range of files in the collection, the Cultural Arts Coordinator (CAC) position at Federation was held by three people: Terry E. Sutton (1979-1981), Jeanne B. Siegel (1981-1984), and Rabbi Daniel Landsman (1984-1986). The CAC position was established under the Community Centers and Y’s umbrella and it is unclear whether the position continued after the merger of Federation with UJA in 1986. No additional files have been found.

According to the documentation, prior to 1979 FJP and its agencies had limited involvement or interest in Jewish arts and culture programming. It was not until the 1970s that Federation began to encourage agency programming that emphasized a Jewish component. For example, in the field of Jewish Education, outreach to unaffiliated Jews and informal Jewish education was a low priority goal. In 1979 FJP began to expand its role into the area of Jewish arts and culture when they obtained a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for $5,000. It was this grant that served as the leverage for obtaining an additional $22,500 from three outside foundations. In 1980, the Cultural Arts Committee of Federation created an incentive grant program to see if seed grants could influence new initiatives in agency programming in the Cultural Arts.

From 1980 to 1985, the CAC compiled the “Guide to the Arts and Culture: The New York Jewish Experience”, a listing of Jewish art events in New York. It was published in The Jewish Week, and cosponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC) and the Jewish Art Subsidy Fund (JASF). It started out as a quarterly four page supplement and became a weekly full page feature. Even if one could not attend the concerts, plays, lectures, or special events, it made one feel that there was something exciting going on. In 1983, the first of three Jewish Arts Festivals of Long Island was held, and the William Petschek Music Fund was established, both demonstrating Federation’s new commitment to the Jewish arts.

The Cultural Arts Coordinator was a leader and specialist in the cultural and arts worlds. The CAC acted on behalf of Federation to carry out a variety of functions in providing assistance to agencies and coordinating activities throughout the metropolitan area. The Coordinator provided technical assistance to arts workers at Federation’s community centers and other agencies, through individual consultation, workshops and seminars. Topics included the use of media, grantsmanship and public relations. In addition to coordinating activities and programs among the community centers, the CAC created a clearinghouse for the performing artists who joined Federation’s affiliate artists program, to encourage the development of programs by individual centers throughout the New York City area. In 1984, the clearinghouse turned into a directory of Jewish Artists, a published resource guide for agencies’ use. Finally, the Coordinator participated in fundraising to help agencies submit proposals to government sources.

The Cultural Arts files are interesting for their coverage of different facets of arts and culture and for giving a flavor of the Jewish arts scene in the 1970s and early 1980s. There are many files on the directory, which was called, “In The Jewish Tradition: Directory of Performing Artists.” Included are the files and photographs of artists who were included in the Directory as well as files of artists to be published in its Supplement. The artists were exclusively performing artists, including actors/actresses, singers, mimes, storytellers and poets. Below are several images from the Artists’ directory files.

Aida Weiss

Aida Weiss, international songstress

Donald Heller, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (puppet theater)

Donald Heller, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (puppet theater)

Joe Elias (folksinger)

Joe Elias, folksinger

The Kol Golan Duo, folksinging duo

The Kol Golan Duo, folksinging duo

The Western Wind, Vocal Ensemble

The Western Wind, Vocal Ensemble

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