SPRINGVILLE — The Springville Center for the Arts’ grant application process, which began more than five years ago, paid off on Dec. 19, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council awarded the SCA with a total of $829,120 for its two local projects.
Seven grants – three for the SCA’s property at 37 North Buffalo St. and four for its new acquisition of 5 East Main St. – were awarded under the umbrella of the Regional Economic Development Council, which was set up by Cuomo and is now in its second cycle of funding.
“Everything has been brought under the consolidated funding application,” SCA Executive Director Seth Wochensky said. “This forced the state agencies to talk to each other. It created a new focus, for each grant, and awarded points for economic development.”
In 2001, the National Governor’s Association published a report documenting five “major ways the arts can be the catalyst for economic development.”
Wochensky said that, while rural, southern states such as North Carolina and Kentucky were highlighted on the association’s report, “New York state was largely absent, which was kind of embarrassing.”
The SCA used that report as a reference, when applying for this year’s grants. While the Springville organization had unsuccessfully applied for funding to pay for updates to its Baptist Church facility on North Buffalo Street, three times before, the SCA’s two projects were both selected as grant recipients, this year.
“We didn’t do anything special,” Wochensky said. “The projects simply fit the criteria.”
During the past year, the council created guidelines with smart growth language, focusing on rural areas. “They acknowledged that priority should also be given to the downtown of small villages,” Wochensky said. “A walkable community with mixed-use spaces in a commercial area.”
He said that the council’s having a new focus on rural villages opened the door for the SCA to make a case for itself. “We have 10,000 visitors per year,” he said. “And that’s going up, every year. That translates to a lot of money in the community.”
A recent University at Buffalo study reported that, for every $1 spent on the arts, $9 is then spent in the local community. “We’re growing,” Wochensky said. “That’s a key factor. We were able to demonstrate that we have an economic impact on the community. Springville is a marvelous place and the arts center brings another level to the quality of life [in the community].”
The 5 East Main St. building and its renovations were awarded $394,810. The former church building, on North Buffalo Street, was awarded $434,310.
“The regional councils have been on the forefront of rebuilding New York state’s economy,” Cuomo said. “For too many years, top-down economic development policies have failed communities, across the state, and not truly invested in the unique resources and strengths of each of New York’s regions. Now a new, bottom-up approach is in place that brings local communities together, to chart their own economic destiny.”
Wochensky said that this funding has been a long time in coming, but gives the SCA something tangible to show its membership. “What’s nice is that, given we’ve been talking about [the 37 North Buffalo St.] project for five years, this major announcement will be reaffirming to people who’ve done so much for us, for so many years,” he said.
Wochensky acknowledged Springville community members for their support of the arts center. “So many people have helped make this possible,” he said, “and 5 East Main would never have occurred, without these sizeable donations.
“The arts center started in 1998 with a grassroots group of people who began taking charge of their community,” he added. “They did not say, ‘Woe is me.’ They had a vision and they committed to it.”
Wochensky said that it is his hope that these grant programs will “create a paradigm shift. People have stopped believing in the village of Springville for too long. I’ve always been a believer. We believe in downtown Springville.
“People outside are starting to look at us differently,” he added. “Our organization has made this fundamental shift, where we see that the community has to be successful if we are to be successful. We are not an island. We must strengthen the community, as a whole.”
More information about the specific grant programs, as well as projects in the works for the SCA’s two structures, will be printed in a future edition of the Springville Journal.