There’s a new advisory council in town, and its mission is steadily becoming clearer.
On March 26, the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees introduced the Arts Advisory Council, an arts-focused body modeled after the village’s other advisory councils, whose interests range from technology to parks and recreation.
“This is something that has been discussed for some time,” Village Trustee Justin Arest said. “I’m excited. I look forward to seeing ... what can possibly come of it.”
The AAC will consult the village board on arts-related issues and coordinate events, while building relationships with existing arts organizations in the area, such as ArtsWestchester.
On April 9, the board appointed seven members to the AAC: ML Perlman, Abigail Sroka, Simone Kestelman, Gabrielle Wise, Dr. Robert Shire, Lee Miller and Miles Rubin. Like other advisory councils, the members will be limited to two-year terms with a two-term maximum, which can be waived by approval of the village board. Perlman will serve as chair through April 6, 2020, unless a successor is appointed before that date.
The AAC is already cooking up several projects, Perlman said, including several music and art events slated for spring. The goal is to create engaging arts experiences in Scarsdale and draw attention to downtown revitalization efforts.
“Scarsdale is already rich and vibrant with the arts,” Perlman said. “It’s one of the things I’ve found is distinctive in the community. I look forward to working with [the village] and the public to celebrate that.”
The new council is not to be confused with the Scarsdale Arts Council, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that has promoted arts in the village and throughout Westchester for two decades. The SAC has more than 20 “members,” which run the gamut from individual artists to arts organizations, including Hoff-Barthelson Music School, the New Choral Society and — to add to the confusion — the Scarsdale Art Association.
Former Village Mayor Edward Morgan, president of the SAC, said the council was intended to “stimulate awareness and availability of the arts of all sorts — performing, visual, literary — in Scarsdale,” including through public events, arts improvement projects, networking, publicity and financial support.
If those missions sound similar, it’s because they are. “[The AAC] isn’t a replacement,” Arest said. “Our goals may be the same and our hopes of promoting art in Scarsdale are the same. The change is more [one] of process than it is substance.”
The AAC, he explained, should boost the board’s efficiency by creating a team directly under the tutelage of the village. “[The SAC] has been acting as a de facto advisory council to the board,” he said. “[It] has a definite role in the village, no doubt about it. ... But it’s not really part of the village [board] like an advisory council would be.”
Morgan shared his thoughts on the AAC during public comment at the board of trustees meeting April 9. Before the new council was announced, Morgan said he was briefed on the project, and it seemed to be “just that — advisory — improving village management of its own involvements in village arts matters.”
He acknowledged the SAC was not designed as an advisory body, “although we have, on occasion, willingly provided advice and could do so again as appropriate.” Instead, the SAC was structured as an umbrella organization with an action agenda.
Now that the mission of the AAC has evolved, Morgan said, “That functional distinction is less clear.”
He described the basic principles of the SAC’s mission: creativity, practicality and mutual respect. Morgan encouraged the AAC to adopt these values from the outset, and suggested both groups provide each other with advance notice of their meetings out of consideration.
Perlman was once active on the Scarsdale Arts Council. She and fellow AAC members Kestelman and Wise spearheaded the SAC event “Music in Chase Park” in May 2016.
“It’s the same people,” Perlman said of the new venture. “Now we are bringing that same effort to the AAC,” which will comprise members of the public who will advise the trustees on matters concerning the arts. Establishing the new council, she said, was a milestone in that the board voted on a resolution specifically to facilitate the arts in the community.
The Carstensen Road resident called the SAC a “wonderful organization” and said she looks forward to collaborating, and stressed “the value of the AAC is that it’s a direct relationship with both the board [of trustees] and all of the different arts organizations, not just the SAC.”
Arest said he agrees the two groups will ally, and the newly forming AAC will likely glean inspiration and advice from the SAC, but they will also work independently.
“There isn’t a mandatory overlap between the new council, which is part of the village, and [the SAC],” he said. “There doesn’t have to be. I hope they work together, just as I hope the new advisory council will work with ArtsWestchester and other artists in the community.”
Morgan said the SAC is on board. “We’re pleased to try to work with these folks and ... liaise with them.”