Gold Coast Arts Center uses creativity to survive COVID-19

The Gold Coast Arts Center, as seen from Middle Neck Road. (Photo courtesy of the Gold Coast Arts Center)

After more than a year of uncertainty and losing virtually half a year’s worth of revenue, a sense of normalcy is returning to Great Neck’s Gold Coast Arts Center as restrictions are loosened and previously canceled events get back onto the calendar. 

In an interview with the Great Neck News, Executive Director Regina Gil shed light on how the Middle Neck Road venue survived the COVID-19 pandemic — and it had a lot to do with creativity. 

“We had to be nimble, and we had to pivot and find other ways of presenting our product which is classes, programs, films, art, music, dance and all the things that you would expect from a vibrant and lively art center,” said Gil, who founded the center 25 years ago. “I would have to say that everybody rose to the occasion and we really were able to do it.”

The Gold Coast Arts Center has long provided an assortment of classes, programs and festivals in Great Neck and across Long Island to promote outreach, support and education. Other services include its non-profit arts center, yearlong art school, public gallery, performance venue, film program and film festival.

The center’s educational programs were crucial to its pandemic pivot, Gil said, noting that the venue turned as many of its classes as possible into online offerings.

“In terms of school, I would say that we probably were able to offer 90% of the classes,” she said. “You just can’t offer fencing online.”

Those efforts were important because despite the center’s wide range of programs, the school and festival are main drivers of revenue. 

“The film festival is important because it’s regional,” Gil said. “We had seven movie theaters at one point, including Hofstra University, so you know we had grown tremendously. The festival attracted both sponsors and movie stars to come so we had a high profile.”

Earlier this year, Hofstra and the Gold Coast Arts Center teamed up for a virtual filmmaking workshop offered to kids for their annual Youth Film Day. 

The arts center also got help from two loans it received through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which was established to help struggling businesses and nonprofits keep their workers on the payroll during the pandemic.

But the center said it did not qualify for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, the program U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) strongly advocated to help support beleaguered performance spaces.

“We would apply in the future if the guidelines allow organizations like ours to apply,” the center said.

However, with so much passion and persistence to adage “the show must go on,” no one on staff at the Gold Coast Arts Center had to give up their jobs due to the pandemic. 

“It was very important to me and to the board that we should not lose our own people, not our staff nor our administrators. We have a lot of heads of departments that we did not want to lose,” Gil said. “I have brilliant people at the head of my executive board, the size of my staff from the beginning to the end remains the same.”

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