Sunday, November 17, 2013

ROTA At Turning Point

Jenn Allen (center) gestures to make a point during a ROTA membership meeting that discussed problems faced by the art co-op.

(C) 2013  Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Sunday 11/17/13

Stress – both financial and personal – has compelled changes at the ROTA Gallery and Studio.

It's been noticeable lately that activity has slowed down at the art co-op.  Fewer music events.  More afternoons being dark, the CLOSED sign hanging in the window.  Was the group suffering from entropy?

Difficulties pop up easily for a not-for-profit organization operating with unpaid volunteers while lacking stable sources of funding.

Last Wednesday evening I sat in (as a observer in the background, to be precise) at a membership meeting which discussed the problems ROTA faced.

A new Board of Directors was elected including Jenn Allen as president.  My quick impression of Jenn: young (especially compared to this aging blogger), energetic but focused.  

She and others at the meeting offered solutions.  Jenn said that there was a problem with board members suffering from stress from taking on too many responsibilities.  She suggested that there should be activity coordinators handling the more immediate details with the board providing overall guidance.  This division of duties would help to alleviate burn out.

Burn out?  With an easy-going and fun organization like ROTA?

ROTA involves much more than just fun, hanging around and enjoying music and art shows.  Planning and presenting such activities involves Work.  Previous board members were trying to hold down regular jobs, keeping their own personal schedules and budgets under control, let alone ROTA's.

ROTA has reached out to young people by offering all-ages music shows – DAMN LOUD BANDS!, yes, in many cases – but no drugs or alcohol allowed.  Plattsburgh City still lacks a youth center but had the money to beef up its police department even more.  Apparently policing and prosecution are preferred over prevention.

The band Invasive Species performs at ROTA during the wrap up to last month's Zombie Walk.

Despite offering a positive alternative to hanging around on the streets, attendance has been dropping at the all-ages shows.  To help pay for the bands, especially the ones on tour, ROTA charged an affordable sliding scale for donations, $3 - $10.  But even that didn't keep the crowds coming.

There's a story a ROTA member helped to pay for a band's expenses out of his own pocket after one low-attendance show.  From what I know about the situation that generosity couldn't continue unless he won the lottery.  He has his own expenses to meet.  

Recently ROTA made its monthly rent but only through a considerable donation by a community member.

Previous to the general meeting there was talk that to bring its budget under control ROTA might move to a cheaper space or even try to function without a physical center.

A lot would be lost if the group had to give up its present downtown location at 50 Margaret Street.  The main street spot provides more visibility, is easier to find than its former location tucked in on a side street.

The space is the right size, just large enough for art exhibits and quieter music performances.  It's well lit with large front windows and ceiling fluorescent lights, a large reflective white wall adding to the comfortable illumination.

And there's the donated piano available for lessons and concerts provided through the efforts of musician-composer Adrian Carr.  The space is a good set-up all around.

While I sat in during part of the membership meeting I didn't hear any discussion related to keeping the present space.  That and other issues such as funding sources and whether to maintain ROTA as both an art and community center still have to be discussed.

As ROTA President Jenn Allen explained in an email, responding to a couple of questions I had after the meeting: 

"We will continue on as we have been for now, and any changes in focus will be discussed over the coming month with the new Board and Coordinators. We are currently both an art gallery and a center for community activities, but our priority is the mission of ROTA and the furthering of art, music, and creative culture in Plattsburgh."

She noted that the new leadership had just started and that they would know more in the next couple of weeks.

ROTA moves on, going through another transitional period.

On November 29th at 7 PM it will hold a benefit show with local musicians.  More info can be found at the ROTA Facebook page,

So the bands play on.  And not in the Titanic sense.

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