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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

A Few Thoughts From Elsie and Serenity Smith


I sent a few questions to Elsie and Serentity Smith, founder of New England Center for Circus Arts. While wishing to stay out of the fray, they did have a statement and a few answers to some of the questions I sent them.

First, their statement:

“The NECCA Board and Executive Director leadership, who are our superiors in position at the organization we founded, have let us down and are making decisions we do not believe are in the best interest of NECCA. We have attempted to carry on under their leadership, but they have different goals and we are unable to support the NECCA leadership as it currently stands. We are enormously grateful for the outpouring of support from our community and hope a future for NECCA can be found.”

NECCA has been growing and expanding, and you just completed the building of a spectacular circus facility. Why are things imploding just as the community is expecting greatness? Shouldn't this be a grand new era of circus arts in Brattleboro?

Elsie and I have been astonished and honored by the success of NECCA since we founded it as a not for profit in 2007, 10 years ago. There has been steady interest in the circus arts as taught and visioned by the coaches at NECCA and students come from locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to train with these experts who share their circus knowledge. So NECCA has been expanding ever since we founded it.

Elsie and I anticipated this year of construction and moving to be one of opportunity and challenges. NECCA needed to balance the excitement of a new space and expanded high level programming with attention also on the outreach and community programing mission of the school. At this time we feel completely let down by the leadership of our Board and the Executive Director who by their very definition of responsibilities are tasked with the fiscal and organizational integrity of the organization.

The ‘grand new era’ that you mention has imploded and we are deeply sorrowful.

Why were you let go?

NECCA’s Board put out a statement saying they had a new artistic vision for the school.

What did you think when Kate Anderson stepped down as president in May?

NECCA has had an ongoing slew of resignations at a leadership level. The Board's first hire for Managing Director position lasted 6 months before resigning stating challenges with the Board. There have been multiple Board member resignation beginning at the end of 2016 and Kate Anderson stepping down was not the last resignation as there have been at least 4 since that time that I know of.

Is there any hope for the school? How can this best be resolved?

Elsie and I maintain hope — the outpouring of sorrow and consideration from around the world has been astonishingly beautiful. If we can find a path forward this is actually an amazing opportunity to harness their love and energy and ideas to rebuild the future of NECCA.

This all seems sudden to the community. What are your next steps?

At this time, we aren’t thinking of ‘what else’. This was sprung on us on Monday, July 10th at 3:20 pm! Elsie and I are trying to stay focused what is the best way we can help NECCA and the community of people deeply affected by this turmoil.

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 #

"This community is home."

Some Salient Points from the Reformer

(REFORMER) The former president of the board of directors of the New England Center for Circus Arts announced Friday night she is resigning from the board. She also urged the public to "further your investigation into the recent terminations for transparency, clarity, and the overall health of the organization going forward if it is to survive." The email was in response to a correspondence from community members asking her to step down but not before re-instating founding sisters Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion, who were terminated as artistic directors on Monday. And in a second email in response to a thank you for resigning, (she) cryptically wrote "You're welcome. I do hope the lemmings understand. Ask for an audit and see where you get."

One of the bones of contention between the founders and the executive director and some members of the board was the connection between (nonprofit) NECCA and Nimble Arts, which the founding sisters started as a for-profit business. Sources have told the Reformer there was some concern the sisters were blurring the line between the two organizations, which both Forchion and Smith deny, endangering the non-profit status of NECCA.

Billy Higgins, a coach at NECCA, said on Friday he heard that the board was worried that keeping the founders on was endangering a certain amount of donations yet to be collected to pay for NECCA's new facility on Putney Road. But even if that was true, he noted, the lost donations in no way came close to the amount NECCA might have lost from cancellations and demands for refunds. "We do everything we can to not let exterior, adult-world, problems filter through to camp," Higgins said.

Former NECCA PROtrack director Jamie Hodgson reminded everybody that, no matter what happened they'd always have a home. "This building isn't your home," she said, pointing to the new NECCA building behind her. "This board certainly isn't your home." "NECCA is home," she said. "This community is home."

NECCA’s Board put out a statement saying they had a new artistic vision for the school.

Other former and current board members did not return requests for comments.

[See also:
Draft Agreement Between NECCA Coaches and Board of Trustees By cgrotke | Sun, July 16 2017 http://ibrattleboro.com/sections/town-news/draft-agreement-between-necca... ]

 

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