Volume 20, Number 45 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 3 - 9, 2010
Downtown Express photo by John Bayles
Senator Daniel Squadron (right) and Kevin Cunninham relax in 3 Legged Dog’s theater last week.
3 Legged Dog is gaining ground
BY John Bayles
Last May, facing a looming eviction, 3-Legged Dog owner Kevin Cunninham said if his organization could remain in its Lower Manhattan location through September, the arts group “would be back on its feet again.”
Today, while he admits everything is not perfect, Cunninham is certainly sleeping easier at night, having just made a second rent payment to his landlord, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, under an agreement reached by the two parties earlier in the summer.
Cunninham, together with other cultural arts leaders like Kate Pelia of Dance New Amsterdam who is also dealing with “landlord issues,” have come to the realization that the “system is broken.” He has adopted a revenue model at 3 L.D. he hope will eventually win out and remedy the problem. The model includes a pro-active attitude when faced with uncontrollable forces such as the current recession. At a time when foundations cut support and grants were extremely difficult to come by, Cunninham still managed to increase his audience thanks to branching out in terms of the type of work his organization was doing.
He is also a realist in the sense that he understands, contrary to popular belief, that the arts will never be totally self sustainable, free from depending on the subsidized support of outsiders, namely government and foundation.
And it was the government, in a sense, that came to Cunninham’s aid last May and essentially convinced the M.T.A. to come to the table and negotiate with the renowned arts group.
“At the end of the day, the MTA has more money today than they would’ve had if they would’ve evicted 3-Legged Dog in July,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron.
Squadron was not the lone guardian angel in the saga of 3 L.D. and the M.T.A. He had the help of other elected officials such as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Councilmember Margaret Chin and Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin, all of who wrote letters in support his Cunninham, his organization and its place in Lower Manhattan’s art scene.
Squadron is no stranger to the role of government in creating and preserving an arts culture. His father played a role in the creation of the Westbeth Artists Housing on Bethune Street in the 1960s. But working with 3 L.D. did prove to be a learning experience for the senator.
“I knew about the interplay between government and the arts,” said Squadron. “But the fact that the arts also have to be valued for their role in the community…I knew it, but this illustrated it for me.”
Squadron said one reason New York City seems to be doing better than the rest of the country in these tough economic times is due in part to the role institutions like 3 L.D. play.
“Young people are still coming to the city,” said Squadron. “And that’s because there’s something about New York City’s cultural life that appeals to them.”