In 2017, after the initial launch our Financial Services program offering low-cost bookkeeping and financial services to local nonprofit organizations, CEPA Gallery reached out to ASI and became our first fiscal client. Several years and reports later, we caught up with Lawrence Brose, the executive director of CEPA, to learn more about the gallery’s mission and how ASI’s services have helped them pursue it.
ASI: Tell me about CEPA: its programs, history, and mission.
LB: CEPA’s mission is to foster the exploration of photography and contemporary visual art, to nurture creativity, and to encourage active learning. Its vision is to continue being a globally recognized incubator of artistic creation whose programs drive engagement with art as an essential facet of life and community. Beyond its recognition as “one of the most relevant and important alternative art spaces in the United States” (European Journal of Media Art, 2015), CEPA is an innovator in the field of arts education. It is equally committed to promoting artists and their practices as it is to creating opportunities for youth and adults throughout Western New York to learn new forms of expression. CEPA’s educational programming is unparalleled in the local market and recognized among the best in the nation: funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, honored with a National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award (the nation’s highest honor for community-based arts education), and consistently ranked #1 by the New York State Council on the Arts’ Arts Education Program.
ASI: In which chapter of CEPA’s history did the organization find ASI? What were the circumstances that led CEPA staff to want to work with ASI?
LB: We had known about ASI for some time but became involved when it began to offer bookkeeping services. We met with ASI Fiscal Associate Mark Banaszak and was very impressed with his knowledge of nonprofit bookkeeping, including the reports that we needed for our Board of Directors to review as well as reports on our various programs to help the executive director and the rest of the staff. We were also attracted to the fact that we didn’t have to make a commitment to a set number of hours each month but instead would be billed according to the hours that were used. That flexibility was key to our decision to engage with ASI’s financial services.
ASI: What types of financial services does ASI provide for CEPA?
LB: In addition to weekly bookkeeping, Mark has provided monthly financial reports and cashflow projections, worked with us on budgets for our major grants, assisted with financials for grant reports, and more. It also helps that he works with several other organizations because it keeps him informed on what we need for a particular grant and gets us ahead of the financial questions.
ASI: How have ASI’s services strengthened CEPA and helped it pursue its mission?
LB: There are numerous ways that ASI’s financial services have been helpful. Our reporting to the Board is much clearer, which helps them guide and support the executive director. With the financial forecasting, we have been able to stay ahead of cashflow issues and be more proactive. It has helped us in our programming and managing our education programs and artist projects.
ASI: Which qualities of the Western New York arts and culture sector make it the ideal region for CEPA to be located and run its programming?
LB: CEPA Gallery has been in the community for 45 years and is a major contributor to the cultural sector of the region. I think that the vast number and quality of the cultural organizations in this region make it easier to thrive because we have a very culturally educated and engaged community that appreciates the arts.
ASI: What’s next for CEPA?
LB: We are very excited about the upcoming season of exhibitions and programs. We are currently involved with more than 40 veterans and caregivers through The Odyssey Workshops, which will culminate with a major exhibition opening the night of Curtain Up! This program has made a major impact on veterans’ lives (see this cover story in The Buffalo News). We also are expanding our Education Program with additional partnerships, serving more communities and youth, and implementing the Photography Works program, a professional development mentoring project for young people to explore the many careers in the arena of photography.
Photo: CEPA Gallery is located in the historic Market Arcade building at 617 Main Street. It has multiple galleries on four floors, a ten-station digital imaging facility and learning lab (sponsored by the National Fuel Gas Co. Foundation), darkrooms in the underground space, and administrative offices on the second floor.