Updated: Marc Courtade will bow out Friday from his full-time role as executive director of the Huntington Arts Council, retiring after seven years at the helm.
The Freeport resident isn’t completely leaving; he said he expects to help out his successor, who has not been named, through the transition.
“I’m just retiring from full time employment at Huntington arts, not retiring from life and I’m definitely not retiring from the arts. I’ll be around,” he said. He has had a long career, mostly working in non-profits, including at the New York City Opera and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He also freelances as a speaker, frequently at public libraries, and teaches in the arts management program at Long Island University.
The last couple of years haven’t been the easiest.
Neither he nor the arts council could escape the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic anymore than families, schools or businesses could. There were shutdowns, bans or severe limitations on the number of patrons, the need to rethink artistic space, reshuffling of staff, a need to pay the bills, and figure out ways to cope with increased interest in artistic works, sometimes on very short notice.
The dark, early days of the epidemic in the spring of 2020 led to disruptions of schedules, changing day to day and even hour to hour in some cases. For the arts world, that meant eventually bigger events were canceled outright, with artistic discussions and programming sometimes turning into streaming events, which brought its own complications.
“We did stream a lot of last summer but there’s certain rights issues now. There are things you don’t know that you’re going to have to worry about going in,” he said. Streaming led to questions about artistic rights, sometimes payments, involving various legal issues about ownership rights, he said. Of the Chapin family, a big part of the Huntington arts scene, he said, “We’re still grateful, just so grateful, because they’d say, ‘we own the rights to most of our music, and go ahead’ and use their works without complications.”
This summer, “We hope we’re back to normal,” he said, with a full schedule planned but, “We’re hoping, knocking on wood, back to the festival as we knew it.”
He said that despite the obstacles related to the epidemic, the council had been able to present about 95 percent of its programming.
“I’m very positive and very nervous about the next year,” he said. “This year looks rockier economically, he said, than the past two years, “because we’ve been giving our product away and some funding streams have dried up. Some people think we’re rich–I don’t know where they get that,” he said with a laugh.
He had praise for public libraries, many of which jumped into the loss of in-person events around town and found ways to regularly deliver information and entertainment. But his highest praise came for the arts teachers in Huntington schools. “I hope the students in the schools in Huntington realize the quality arts education they are getting. They’re getting top, top notch education, so kudos to the districts. It is the future of the arts.”
Suffolk County Legislator Tom Donnelly, D-Huntington Station, recently surprised Courtade by presenting him with a proclamation to honor and thank him for his years of service
to the organization and the community. “It has been a pleasure working with Marc, particularly in securing grants for the wonderful organization he has led for 7 years,” Donnelly said. “His genuine dedication to the arts and the Huntington Arts Council will be truly missed.”