“I grew up in Syracuse and I remember the CRC back in the 1970s when its mission was to operate the Civic Center,” said Butler during a recent phone interview. “I watched as it transitioned over the years, and if you look at the programs we are involved with now, we do everything from youth theater to helping out individual artists and everything else in between.”
Established more than 50 years ago, the CRC’s objective is to enhance the arts and cultural environment of the region through support and services to individual artists, grass-roots arts and cultural groups, and established institutions. These endeavors collaborate with groups that ensure the vitality and cultural diversity of Central New York, and development and distribution of grants to help art students in Onondaga and Cortland counties get their foot in the art world door and also to allocate funds for nonprofits planning cultural activity.
Butler ensured he will stay the course and continue to pursue the longevity of the arts here, but the art world parallels the real world, which is where he sees the biggest change coming. “A recession always gives you a reality check,” continued Butler. “There will be a restructuring based on our budget because of the current fiscal climate and we will hopefully create better efficiencies using modern technology to become more effective.”
The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) was established in 1960 with the backing of then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, with the intent of awarding financial resources each year to arts organizations in every arts discipline. Butler noted the CRC received close to $400,000 this year from NYSCA, but he insisted that number cannot be taken at face value, leading to his decision for restructuring.
“Although it looks like a hefty chunk of cash a lot of it is immediately re-granted out,” he noted. “Our big concern right now is most of the arts groups get funding from NYSCA and they have proposed one cut in funding which would also be retroactive. A lot of arts groups in the region pull in money from the state and a lot of them are facing this uncertain situation and restructuring dilemma.”
Stephen Butler: “An action step I plan on taking is to improve local and regional signage to help people find galleries and venues.” MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
A graduate of C.W. Baker High School in Baldwinsville, Butler, 51, received a bachelor’s degree in theater from SUNY Oswego before attaining a master’s in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Prior to this position, Butler was the director of a New York City drama therapy clinic for the mentally challenged called Creative Alternatives of New York, and was also the executive director for the Mental Health Association of Onondaga County.
And after many years of travels throughout Central New York, Butler also hopes to improve one aspect he has seen lacking on his journey. “An action step I plan on taking is to improve local and regional signage to help people find galleries and venues,” continued Butler. “This is also not just directed toward galleries, but also for the performing arts as well such as theater, dance and music.”
Butler also noted the CRC has a working relationship with SU, and said working with them to improve the Connective Corridor would be a logical step locally. But he also believes that we must look beyond our immediate parameters to really make a change within our community.
“The Cultural Resources Council is here to serve the arts arena that’s in Central New York,” he continued. “But we are looking at the arts regionally and trying to make connections and links across the region instead of in smaller territories. And I think within time, we will see the arts community in Central New York thrive through this economic turmoil and expand and branch out like it never has before.”