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New Director Says NACC May be Stronger Thanks to Last Year's Loss of City Aid

By Tony Farina

The painful loss of $30,000 in bed tax money from the city last year as lawmakers struggled to deal with the loss of revenue from the casino gaming stalemate may have been a blessing in disguise, according to Bob Drozdowski, the new executive director of the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NAAC).

"It made things difficult, but it also made us more self-sufficient," Drozdowski told the Niagara Falls Reporter as he steps into his new role as executive director, the only full-time employee at the NACC which is home to more than 50 tenants, an eclectic group of artists who have taken up residence at the NACC.

The NACC survived the loss of city aid, which was about 10 percent of it's budget, with help from a $15,000 challenge grant from Buffalo's Oishei Foundation which the center was able to match thanks to stepped up fund-raising efforts.

Now, with the city aid restored by the incoming council, Drozdowski, who has been the director of operations at the NACC for the last five years, is hoping to move things forward on all fronts, including trying to be as self-sufficient as possible.

"I'm hoping to take us to another level," said the Niagara Falls native. "We've been at a certain place for a long time and it is time to move on, and that's the way I am looking at things as I accept this new challenge."

Drozdowski is replacing Kathie Kudela as executive director who will continue with the NACC in a smaller role with particular emphasis on renovation of the grand theater with the idea to establish it as a reliable revenue-generating tool. Kudela served as the unpaid executive director before stepping down to make way for Drozdowski who was approved by board vote on Jan. 15. Edith Sanfilippo will take over as board president.

The new executive director says he is hoping to recruit volunteers to help put together the gallery exhibits that are important fund-raising events for the NACC which is headquartered in the old Niagara Falls High School on Pine Avenue.

The NACC will continue to focus a lot of energy and creativity on the three main fund-raising events of the year, with the first, the Art of Beer, coming up Feb. 27.

"It is our biggest fund-raiser of the year, and we usually bring in more than $10,000 and attract 400 to 500 visitors," said Drozdowski who added that there will be new food and beer vendors at this year's event. "We will also continue to emphasize our two other main shows, Beyond the Barrel in June and the Artists and Friends exhibit in December."

The NAAC is home to two music studios, a photography studio, and a wide range of artists who call the popular arts center their home.

Some political observers have even suggested that last year's council, which included Sam Fruscione, made a grave error when it cut aid to the NACC and some of them blame Fruscione's defeat in the September primary on his vote against supporting the NACC as the then-majority looked for ways to cut costs and promote self-sufficiency among groups that had come to rely on city aid. In a way, that goal may have been realized as the NACC is now more focused than ever on trying to be self-sufficient.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jan 21, 2014