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North Hempstead adopts cultural plan for post-pandemic times

Lisa Grossman, executive director of The Art Guild,

Lisa Grossman, executive director of The Art Guild, on Wednesday outside The Art Guild in Manhasset, where studios are rented by artist and classes are held for art students. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Town of North Hempstead has adopted a cultural master plan — believed to be the first of its kind on Long Island — at the same time local arts and cultural institutions are struggling for survival during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 167-page plan that the town board adopted last week, however, did not mention coronavirus. Despite the omission of the pandemic, Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said she believed the plan is more vital than ever.

"Staying fixated on COVID will not help us plan for the future," Bosworth said in an interview Tuesday. "Because of COVID, we are not having crowds or groups of people. But that will not continue. There will be an end to the pandemic. … Once that happens, we will be poised and ready to have this spring into action."

The master plan grew out of a 2016 town project to take inventory of every cultural site in North Hempstead. Later in December 2017, the town approved spending $94,600 to hire Massachusetts-based CivicMoxie to craft it.

The final plan was released earlier this month. It laid out goals and strategies to make North Hempstead a tourism destination that would bring in visitors who will also shop and dine at local establishments.

The document recommended the town to set up a nonprofit Cultural, Commerce and Tourism Council and create a website or smartphone application that would feature town happenings and a calendar of events — suggestions that Bosworth said won’t be implemented right away.

The next step, the supervisor said, is to seek input from members of the town’s Arts Advisory Council and hire a culture, commerce and tourism coordinator, a $110,000 position to oversee the plan.

For Lisa Grossman, the timing of the plan’s release was perfect.

"We are very happy that the plan is coming out now because we feel like anything that can help us at this time is great," said Grossman, executive director of The Art Guild in Manhasset. "All the cultural institutions really need all the help they can get."

Grossman said she hopes the plan will help highlight what arts bring to a community.

"Part of what attracts people to a community is the arts," she said. "A community with no arts is just boring. It becomes a commuter town. That’s not what you want."

Caroline Sorokoff, associate director of Gold Coast Arts Center who is on the town’s advisory council, said she's glad the plan has come to fruition.

"Certainly COVID has made things a little bit different," Sorokoff said. "But I would assume the principles of the master plan and why the town undertook that [are] still relevant. And we are just glad the town is supportive of making the arts an integral part of our community."

The challenge, however, is what lies ahead.

"Now is when the real work begins," she said.

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