Month: March 2017

Cutting Arts Funding Will Hurt Our Communities and Local Commerce

Sketches for “Jam City”, a 2013 collaborative design project re-imagining Newburgh, at the Boys & Girls Club of Newburgh

The Hudson Valley is arguably the birthplace of arts in America. Last week, in a Poughkeepsie Journal op-ed, writer Sandi Sonnenfeld convincingly argued that the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), along with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) would have massive negative consequences for the reemerging arts communities here, where it all began.

Sonnenfeld, who lives in Poughkeepsie, cited a 2014 Benjamin Center study that examined the economic impact of arts and culture in the Mid-Hudson Valley, defined as Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester Counties. She wrote:

“The elimination of federal funding for the arts and humanities is especially problematic for those of us who live in the Hudson Valley. According to a study conducted by SUNY New Paltz’s Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach [now the Benjamin Center], Mid-Hudson arts and culture organizations attract 2.6 million day visitors and 1 million overnight visitors to the region for cultural events, injecting $498 million directly into our local economy every year. The local arts scene also directly and indirectly employs nearly 5,000 residents. In Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties, Arts Mid-Hudson helps provide grants to 393 organizations and individual artists. Guess where the majority of Arts Mid-Hudson’s funding comes from? From the New York [State] Council for the Arts (NYSCA), which is funded by New York state and yes, the NEA.”

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Volunteerism in Ulster County Is Robust, But Is It Sustainable?

Volunteerism is alive and well in Ulster County, but we face major challenges in the years ahead if we are to sustain key services in our communities.

In a recently published Benjamin Center Discussion Brief on The Who-What-Where-When-Why of Volunteerism in Ulster County we report that nearly half (45 percent) of adult Ulster County residents volunteer, twenty points higher than the national rate. In the context of falling national rates, the reasons for this breadth of volunteerism in our home county are documented with the use of national and local survey data, and are further explored and informed through interviews with nineteen leaders in volunteer-reliant organizations.

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How SUNY New Paltz Students View Trump’s Impact on Their Lives and Futures

Guest post by Karla Vermeulen, SUNY New Paltz Assistant Professor of Psychology and Deputy Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health

Since the election in November, our students’ reactions at SUNY New Paltz have been on display in protest demonstrations, in the classroom, and in a small but disturbing number of acts of vandalism on campus. Their level of passion is evident, but what do students actually believe about the Trump administration’s likely effect on their lives? To find out, Psychology MA student Melissa Blankstein and I launched a survey at the beginning of the semester, “Election 2016: How Will the Outcome Impact You?”

We received 358 web survey responses from current New Paltz students. Obviously this group was self-selected, and is not necessarily representative of the entire student body, but the intensity of responses among those who chose to participate was remarkable, and seems important and worthwhile to share.

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Celebrating Women’s History: Announcing our upcoming New York State 2017 Women’s Right to Vote Centennial Conference

This year we kick off women’s history month with the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, rapidly approaching. That victory, of course, finally won women the vote across the United States just one hundred years ago. Yes, it took much too long for women to be able to vote in our democracy. Less widely known and acknowledged, however is that three years earlier that hard-fought suffrage victory was foreshadowed in New York, when women here won the vote at the state level. The state effort was equally hard-fought. It is a source of pride that New York’s 1917 referendum legalized full voting rights for women, preceding the national action and making ours the only east coast state to enfranchise women before 1920.

This spring we seek to share this pride with all New Yorkers with a conference that celebrates the victory of women’s suffrage in New York. At this event, we will look back on how women in New York State won the vote, consider women’s contemporary status and engagement with public life and leadership, and envision women’s future in politics. The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities program in collaboration with our partners the Departments of History, Political Science, and Sociology at SUNY New Paltz; The Rockefeller Institute of the State University of New York; the FDR Library; and the League of Women Voters of New York State have worked together to plan this examination of the history, the present situation, and the future of women in the public sphere. Continue reading

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