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OPINION: The arts on Long Island need patrons

Larry Austin lives in Dix Hills.

A month ago, on New Year's Eve, my wife and I sat in the Tilles Center, thoroughly enjoying a performance of "Forbidden Broadway" by the Long Island Philharmonic. It felt good to see people sitting in every one of the 2,085 seats there - particularly since Long Island had been hit that morning with a snowstorm.

I've been reading a lot recently about how the economy has hurt the arts on Long Island. The Long Island Philharmonic has been no exception. If it hadn't been for the dedicated board of directors - of which I'm the chairman - and some very special board members, the Philharmonic might well have had to close its doors. What a loss that would have been for Long Island.

But where does the money come from to continue to support the arts here? State funding has been reduced, federal funding is almost nonexistent, and ticket prices alone cannot sustain arts organizations. So corporate sponsors and individual donors have to step up to fill in the gaps. Last year, after more than two decades of bringing live music to Huntington, the Inter-Media Art Center closed down, leaving the theater vacant. What a shame!

Still, there are also good things happening. Thanks to people like Kevin O'Neill, who redid the Northport Theater and brought great entertainment to that town, the stores and restaurants in Northport have had a resurgence.

The same thing is happening in Patchogue, due to the excellent efforts of Mayor Paul Pontieri.

But last summer, because of a lack of funding, the New York Philharmonic had to cancel its annual free concert at Heckscher State Park. The Islip Arts Council turned it over to the Long Island Philharmonic, but fundraising efforts came up $30,000 short and we could not hold the concert.

Long Island is rich in arts organizations, but when there is an economic recession, they really suffer. This is a great place to live, but to enjoy our lives here, the arts must be supported. Ask any of the 2,085 people who attended that New Year's Eve concert, and I'm sure they will agree.

Come on out and enjoy the great entertainment that is provided by these fine organizations for the people of Long Island. That's what makes this such a great place to live, work and play.


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