The Greenwich Arts Council has a new lease on life.
The Board of Selectmen has unanimously approved renewing the GAC's lease for 10 years, with an annual rent of a $1. The agreement — which now goes to the Representative Town Meeting for approval — will last until 2014.
"I think the Greenwich Arts Council is a tremendous resource to this community," said First Selectman Peter Tesei. "There is no doubt that it is a cultural venue, both visual and performing and they are what gives vibrancy to the town. They have been very wise partner with other organizations."
Tesei added, "I think this fulfills what Robert Bruce wanted, to provide a public benefit for citizens of this town. I am very optimistic we will finally have this renewal granted and the GAC can do what they do best."
Robert Bruce donated the building to the town in 1905 with deed restrictions that it be used for public betterment, Tesei said. Before the building became the Greenwich Senior Center — which is housed on the first floor — and the GAC on the second and third floors in the 1970s, the building housed Town Hall and the town courts.
The selectmen and the RTM have been at odds in recent years over the terms of leases of public facilities. The RTM has pushed for fair market value rents, a move that the selectmen and nonprofit agencies have opposed.
Last fall, the RTM voted to consider leases on a case-by-case basis. The GAC has been operating on a month-to-month lease agreement since 2010.
The GAC Executive Director Paul Master-Karnik said there are six arts organizations including the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra, the Greenwich Choral Society and the Connecticut School of Dancing, that are headquartered in the building. "These are entities that if you multiply what they do beyond what we do, this is just stunning. You wouldn't have a symphony if they didn’t have the ability to rent" offices at a reduced cost,," Master-Karnik said.
"Alliance Francaise is another ... there is a very, very, very large Francophile community in Greenwich that is a part of that urban life, the diversity that makes Greenwich so special. We’re collaborating all the time…with our limited resources," he added.
One of those collaborative efforts is the Alliance Francaise will be hosting its annual Focus on French Cinema film festival in Greenwich this spring, according to Master-Karnik. "It will bring in thousands of people to Greenwich...to the businesses, the restaurants, the shops." Master-Karnik said.
The festival will be held April 4 through April 6 at Bow Tie Cinemas on Railroad Avenue.