Tompkins County resident Megan Barber recently returned home to enter a career combining her passions. Before she left the area to attend college, Barber grew up in Enfield and Caroline. After living in Massachusetts for 25 years, she and her family have settled in Brooktondale and she has taken on the Executive Director position at the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County (CAP).
Barber has always felt a strong connection to the vibrant county arts community and to the community itself. As a violinist, she holds a great appreciation for music and all other art forms. Her passion for art, her home, and roles in leadership and management led her to join CAP and its mission to support and promote local artists.
“I was, and still am, inspired by the opportunity to continually put the arts in service to the community, strengthen partnerships with businesses and local governments, and support a system of artists to inspire, transform, and remind us who we are,” Barber said.
Barber officially took over the executive director position on Feb. 11, 2020. In the past two months, she has worked with Program Director Robin Schwartz and CAP board members to continue to develop partnerships and aid artists and art organizations. Barber was proud to join CAP and its commitment to showcasing local works.
“I feel very fortunate to have come into a strong organization with experienced staff and a committed board,” Barber said.
CAP provides grants to artists, art organizations and nonprofits in the area. There is a grant application process and then panels of community members select who will be funded. Artists can also apply to be featured in events like the CAP ArtSpace Gallery, the Greater Ithaca Art Trail, the Ithaca Artist Market, and the Spring Writes Literary Festival. Networking events and workshops organized by CAP are open to anyone and are a great way to meet other people in the community. This is Barber’s favorite aspect of her job.
“The Community Arts Partnership is truly that – a partnership,” Barber said. “I have loved getting to know so many of our partners: arts organizations and artists, individual donors and business supporters, collaborating agencies and municipalities.”
Though Barber expected to be preparing spring CAP events at this time, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced her and other CAP members to adapt their focus and mission within the community. Throughout the difficulty of postponed events, funding cuts and overall uncertainty of what challenges each day will bring, CAP remains committed to helping as many local artists as possible while still offering art-focused events to the community.
CAP has implemented a new grant titled the CAP Emergency Arts Relief Fund aimed to help local artists who have lost income due to postponed art events and programs. As of April 18, the fund was able to help over 15 artists, but donations and artist applications were accepted through April 20 in the hope to maximize support.
Barber’s workdays have shifted out of main offices and gallery spaces, but she continues to connect with the community virtually. Events that have been postponed, including the Spring Writes Literary Festival and the Greater Ithaca Art Trail, are being reimagined for possible live streaming and virtual experiences. Barber is also excited for CAP to host new virtual workshops and networking opportunities in May.
“It’s really a team effort among local arts organizations and our sister arts councils around the state,” Barber said. “Everyone is gathering and sharing information, and I know it’s been helpful to many of our community artists and arts organizations.”
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Tompkins County residents can still enjoy local art. Donating to CAP and local cultural organizations, attending virtual events, and buying work from artists are all ways Barber suggests to show support. To stay updated with CAP resources and offerings, visit www.artspartner.org to sign up for the CAP newsletter.
“We want all of Tompkins County’s artists and arts organizations to come through this, and supporting them now keeps our community vibrant, our economy stable and our hearts uplifted.” Barber said.
In a time of distancing, Barber believes art can be used to unite people. Human connection and creativity in art can help individuals feel less isolated and the community feel more supportive.
“I am excited to see what new possibilities emerge from this disruption,” Barber said. “I’m excited to see a flowering of artwork to help us make meaning of this experience. I’m excited for CAP and our network of collaborators to be a part of this.”