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Moving forward with GO Art! means continuing to do 'cool things'

By Joanne Beck
Gregory Hallock gives annual report
GO Art! Executive Director Gregory Hallock shares the good news of receiving more grant money during the Human Services meeting this week, along with the caveat that some of the online community complains about taxpayer dollars being spent. "We're excited they're being spent here, as opposed to everywhere else in the state," he said. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Genesee Orleans Regional Arts Council received the second largest funding in New York State, falling only behind Manhattan, of $336,000, which will be dispersed to artists in both counties, Executive Director Gregory Hallock says.

He considers that a pretty major deal, and rightly so. The money will go somewhere, and he figures it might as well go into the hands of local people for their creative projects. 

“So we were pretty ecstatic about that. Hoping to continue to increase that. When I came in, we were about $47,000 that we were giving out, so we've jumped up dramatically. And last year was $210,000. So we did a big leap from last year to this year. We had nearly $400,000 in requests this year, so I would like to give credit to the community for jumping up to put on more stuff, but a big credit goes to our statewide community regrant coordinators at GO Art,” Hallock said while presenting his annual report to legislators this week. “We have two of them now that the state funds. We stressed that in our area, it's not just about putting an advertisement out there that people might not necessarily see, but even if they see that, grants scare people. They see grants, and they run. So our coordinators basically hold hands all the way through. They answer every question that anybody has, they basically help with anything but write the grants. But if you write the grant, they will review the grant afterward and give you suggestions and all that.”

He said the nonprofit’s goal is to continue asking for more money and “make more of that happen out here,” which has recently also meant a spate of responses online. 

“We'll continue to get more of the negative comments on social media and everywhere else. And we're okay with that. It was a harsh year for that for us. But, people getting upset saying ‘our dollars being spent, our tax dollars being spent,’ but we're excited they're being spent here, as opposed to everywhere else in the state,” he said. “So we're gonna keep pushing for that to happen here. We really like to stress, I don't think most people know that if they're going to something that's arts related, that generally GO Art! is funding that. The $336,000 doesn't go a long way, but it goes quite the way out here, so we will continue to do that.”

He said the agency had more than 100 events this past year in Genesee and Orleans counties and is planning to do the same volume with new types of programs, such as a capital campaign that will draw more use out of the basement. The basement has an entrance and will include an emergency exit that will open up into the music garden portion of the building at 201 E. Main St., Batavia. That expansion will add about 4,000 square feet to GO Art!’s use, he said.

“We’ll be putting a whole bunch of studios and space down there. We just got a grant called black space. We’ll be working with the community and Black architects out of Brooklyn to bring in the Black community to help them help us design something that will be inviting to them to come into our space,” he said. “We’re putting in a dark room, pottery studio, wood shop, and a whole bunch of other studios to expand our happenings and our classes. Our classes have been doing really well; the last four that we’ve offered have all completely sold out. And we’ve had to add additional classes that have also sold out. So we’re really finally starting to get up there, and people know about us.

“We’re really excited about the expansion. It includes an elevator, somebody who can’t get up and down the stairs … I think that’s our major thing.”

He also mentioned The Harve, where artists MaryJo Whitman and Brian Kemp “took a space and artified it” to make use of an industrial building by painting and decorating walls directly or using them as backdrops for exhibits and live musical performances. “We’re going to keep doing cool things,” Hallock said.

It takes money to do those cool things, and the agency runs on a budget of nearly 62 percent public support, or $601,050; $200,661 in Foundation support; $107,334 from individual and corporate donations; and $64,272 from events and earned income. Expenses for the year were $225,800 for grants, $166,190 for programs and events, $16,773 toward fundraising efforts, and $324,744 for administration costs.

The Batavia building includes dance, podcast, film, and music studios, a library and cabaret theater, a darkroom, a pottery studio, a cultural culinary kitchen (used for demonstrations), a gallery with seven exhibition spaces (maintaining a collection of donated and permanent on loan works by highly esteemed local artists), and a bar area that is also used as a small gallery space. 

GO Art! has hired a consultant to put out a request for proposal as part of a GLOW region cultural plan, he said. He submitted a grant application last year for $150,000 that was turned down for a larger scope of Western New York that he fine-tuned down to opening a new space in Medina, expanding in the space currently in Batavia, and adding a cultural garden. Hallock hopes to receive a more positive response to the request this year.

“This is possible by the relationships we have already forged and the ones we hope to build. Through our arts education initiatives, workshops, events, and outreach, we continue to establish new and growing community relationships,” he said in his annual letter. “The accomplishments of the past year make our members, board of directors, and dedicated staff excited about the thriving and diverse arts in Genesee and Orleans Counties. Together we will continue to ‘Make Art Happen.’

"We already have everything ready to get that moving, so that we can put together our cultural plan and figure out how we're going to progress, and bringing tourism into the glow region for arts and culture, and continuing to expand upon what we have for our region,” he said. 

County Manager Matt Landers, in his yearly allocations request for GO Art!, asked for $7,500 — the same amount as for 2023 and 2022. That total was increased by $1,000 from 2021, when it was $6,500 since 2018. Funding for the nonprofit was at all-time high in 1997 of $10,000, including a $4,000 matching funds state grant. Before that, county funding was $2,500 in 1993, but it took a big leap four years later and has hovered around the $6,500 to $9,000 mark.

Genesee County Legislature is to vote on the request during its meeting on March 13. 

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