The departure of Bob Garcia as director for the Strand Center for the Arts in downtown Plattsburgh has been disturbing news to many in the community in recent days.
Garcia was seen largely as doing a fantastic job since taking over the Strand about a year ago, and the decision to remove him by the Strand Board of Directors was shocking and left many people downright angry.
Of course in situations like this, details about what really happened are hard to come by, confusing and often unclear.
We aim to uncover more about this story, but the bottom line for now is the decision by the board of directors is not sitting well with the public based on what the public has been led to believe.
Garcia took over the Strand about a year ago and made sweeping changes.
A veteran of the New York City theater scene with decades of experience, Garcia knew that in order for the Strand to sustain and flourish, revenue had to start coming in at a healthy pace.
He spent the first few weeks observing the programming and saw many areas to change right away.
There were no opening acts, only one set, and no intermission for people to buy things at the concession.
There was also a lack of diversity in the crowd.
Garcia said it was the same people at most shows: "People who lived on the lake. People who had money. People that were friends of the board."
In order to fix things, Garcia started bringing in tribute rock bands with the idea that it would generate a more "blue-collar" feel, and more cash.
It started with Dave Mason, and the formula seemed to work.
Many shows were packed, and people began talking about the Strand in a different way. A buzz was created that you couldn't put a price on.
The idea was to use the tribute bands, which people loved, to generate revenue to pay the bills and operate the company.
While that was a good approach, it is not the most solid business model for the theater industry.
Garcia stressed that it is crucial that a theater have a strong capital base in order to function at its highest level.
A strong capital base, along with a steady stream of revenue from tribute shows, would normally be enough to provide a mix of arts, including the community based arts that the board desires.
The capital base is largely accrued through fundraising, which Garcia said was, or at least was supposed to be, a main function of the Board of Directors.
But apparently it wasn't.
The changes created by Garcia's vision of running the Strand no doubt caused tension and conflict inside the operation.
Add to that some internal staff dramas and we could see why the board felt a need to make the move to relieve Garcia.
But we don't really know what the board has to say. Citing personnel confidentiality, they are not talking about what happened.
Could there be deeper problems that Garcia and his supporters are not mentioning?
Surely, but we remain in the dark for now.
The result is you have a potentially viable theater venue with a future that is in serious doubt.
And you also have a disheartened public.
The venue will be hard pressed to shake off the negativity the departure of Garcia has caused in the community.
It's a shame too, because the Strand seemed to be on the rise.
Perhaps a lengthy sit-down between key board members and Garcia could have settled a lot of the concerns.
An independent audit of the books would be welcome too.
But instead we have a major shakeup with little or no explanation from the board.
We hope the board has a plan to move forward and make it work, and make that plan public soon.
The community, not to mention the Clinton County Legislature, which loaned the Strand $100,000, due to be paid back starting in 2021, demands it.