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Here’s Evidence That The Arts
Can Be Entrepreneurial, Too

When the going gets tough, the entrepreneurs get going.

At the first “Coffee With Coop,” Glimmerglass Festival’s Francesca Zambello outlines plans for the Andrew J. Martin-Weber Lawn Stage, which will ensure a robust 2021 season, despite COVID.

A corollary: The entrepreneurial spirit isn’t limited to entrepreneurs. (Per Merriam-Webster: “A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater-than-normal financial risks in order to do so.”)

So it was telling to watch the Cooperstown Chamber’s first “Coffee With Coop” panel discussion via Zoom last Friday, March 19. Kudos to the Chamber, and Executive Director Tara Burke, who was also an adept emcee.

It was a little disheartening to hear a recitation of all the Hall of Fame cancellations, although the scope of its undertakings – an estimated 80,000 fans were expected at Derek Jeter’s Induction – make them particularly fraught, not to mention dangerous, in Time of COVID.

And yet, the entrepreneurial spirit lived in presentations by, first, Fenimore President/CEO Paul D’Ambrosio and then, in Glimmerglass Opera General & Artistic Director Francesca Zambello.

Under D’Ambrosio’s leadership – as previously, when he was chief curator – The Fenimore’s been pushing the boundaries, from Grandma Moses in 2006 to the first Monet (2012) to Olympian skater and renowned broadcaster Dick Button’s funky “Art of Figure Skating Through the Ages” in 2016. (It ranged from Currier & Ives’ prints to, yes, the oldest ice skate extant. Plus, meeting
Dorothy Hammill was a thrill to many.)

This year’s “Keith Haring: Radiant Vision” continues that boundary-pushing tradition, featuring a “simple, cheerful” style married to cutting-edge issues, from beating AIDS to global amity.

The outreach to teens – free admission is offered, plus trained teenage docents to guide their peers through Haring’s offerings – is a piece of the novelty we’ve come to expect from The Fenimore.

Hearing Zambello revisit plans for this year’s Glimmerglass season put entrepreneurial aspiration at center stage.

We can be hopeful, but who really knows what the COVID threat will look like in July? Under Zambello’s plan, it doesn’t matter.

Because, regardless, this season will be staged in the airy/COVID-unfriendly outdoors, with an Andrew J. Martin-Weber Lawn Stage that will soon be under construction at the Cary Mede end of the property, by the south entrance.

Instead of seats, opera-goers will buy “Festival Squares,” socially distanced from each other and designed to be shared by up to four people. Bring your (low-slung) lawn chair or blanket!

Or, ramp up to Glimmerglass Boxes, booths with cover and seats for up to six people.

The new set-up is driven by COVID safety precautions, but, as Zambello put it, it’s “in harmony with what people love about Glimmerglass — innovative art and performances in a beautiful location.”

Different can be fun, but not all is different.

The main offerings include the traditional – Mozart (“The Magic Flute”), a Verdi (“Il Trovatore”), Offenbach (“Songbird”) and the edgier “Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson,” about the National Negro Opera Company. The one edgier staple is also a staple of recent seasons, thus familiar in the face of so much change.

All this cultural entrepreneurism matters because the county’s economy, as we’ve learned in the last year, is more dependent on music and arts tourism (as well as baseball) than is probably wise.

If the county moves to a more diverse economy in the future, fine. But, for now, music and arts really matter, and D’Ambrosio and Zambello’s entrepreneurial initiatives – and the tourists and patrons they may draw here from near and far – will be a boon to us all.


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