Letter from the Chairman of the Board
Welcome to VLA’s 41st Year.
In 1969, a man walked on the moon, it rained in Woodstock, and the Amazin’ New York Mets won the World Series. Other notable things occurred that year, but in New York the most amazing thing grew from an idea by a young associate at a major law firm to start a free legal service for artists and arts organizations. As VLA’s founder Paul Epstein has been quoted: “Michelangelo had the Popes paying him. He didn’t need people to help him with tax-exempt status.”
Forty years later, VLA is thriving and the arts community needs us more than ever. When I first took on the role of Chairman I was asked the question, “who does VLA serve?” VLA has four core constituencies: the clients we serve; our volunteer lawyers and the law students who help out in our office; our law firm and corporate supporters; and other individuals, foundations and government agencies that fund our important endeavors. Our 40th Anniversary is a good occasion to say a few words about each.
The VLA clients are a hugely talented group, varied in discipline and level of business and legal sophistication. They are our daily reminders of why we became lawyers. For every Twyla Tharp, Tony Kushner, Wooster Group or Mark Morris (all early VLA clients), VLA has helped thousands of others earn a living from their artistic activities. We are grateful to have been of assistance and for the opportunity to get to know them and their work. Our volunteers include law students and lawyers in private practice. It is our privilege to match lawyers who are passionate about their practices with the artists who are just as passionate about their work. As our esteemed former board member I. Fred Koenigsberg said at a recent VLA event: “the organization gives lawyers the opportunity to do well by doing good.” Many lawyers remember their experiences volunteering for VLA as some of the most important work they did early in their careers. I know I did. That is why we started our new “YAMS” program and hope that more and more lawyers will participate in that exciting program as they begin their careers. VLA exists thanks to the financial support of our Law Firm and Corporate Supporters as well as their generosity in supporting the pro bono work of the many lawyers who devote their time to our clients and to serving on our Board. Other supporters played an equally important role in the creation of VLA (our first donor was The National Endowment For The Arts) and our ongoing operations by offering support for our excellent staff attorneys, some of the best in their fields in the city, and for specific projects like our “Legal and Business Bootcamp For Arts Professionals™.” Even through difficult economic times our best supporters have stuck with us, and we have managed a balanced budget for the tenth consecutive year (the same amount of time that Elena M. Paul has been our Executive Director and Peter Stern was our Chair – a direct correlation).
Today, the arts community needs us more than ever and as our imaginative staff come up with more and better ways to serve, we thank all our supporters but also ask for their ongoing financial assistance and active participation to keep our innovative programs growing.
As we celebrate the past with this wonderful anniversary, we also look forward to the future – so raise a glass to the next forty years! (Maybe by then law firms will have offices on the Moon, Jefferson Airplane will reunite, and the Mets will win another World Series.)
David Leichtman, Esq.
Chairman of the Board