BAM Versus the Economy
I’ve heard people use a lot of words to describe the current economic climate: Grim. Horrible. Disastrous. Which is why it's good to see that there are at least a few indications of non-profits that are looking to grow and expand despite all the dour talk and depressing economic numbers. This recent New York Times article is about the Brooklyn Academy of Music going ahead with a giant expansion effort even in the face of economically tenuous times.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music has the advantage of having the stability to be more than the usual artistic organization. Due to their established position in the New York community and their strong foundation base, BAM isn’t hurting for money like many hand-to-mouth non-profits. The result is that they are moving on a different cycle than most groups.
Some of the cash for the $300 million expansion was collected before things turned for the worse earlier this year, but much of the strength of BAM’s position comes from the fact that they are considered a valuable enough philanthropic organization that individuals still consider them worth supporting when budgets are tight. In some ways, it harkens back to the Great Depression during which a few extremely wealthy donors created a movement that no one else could.
Not to compare BAM to the Rockefellers, but for those of us who live in the Brooklyn area, this sort of philanthropic project is an incredibly important deal. Beyond the artistic implications, this plan means development: construction jobs, expanded retail and show space, and cash flow in a community that suddenly is lacking. It is exciting to see BAM playing an important roll in the community, and it’s exciting to see that people are still invested enough in the arts to have theaters and buildings (and even roofs?) named after them.