At McCabe and Mack LLP, Attorneys at Law, we all make time to give back to our community. Our lawyers not only represent clients, but also represent a collective spirit of volunteerism that we hope will help enrich the lives of Hudson Valley residents from all walks of life.
This month, we caught up with Partner Richard R. DuVall (“Rick”). When he’s not busy working with clients on cases that involve his practice areas of Business, Estate, and Real Property Litigation, Corporate and Partnership Transactions, Real Estate Transactions, and Banking, he serves on the Board of Directors of The Art Effect (among other things!). A father of two, Rick values being part of an organization that creates opportunities for young people to learn, grow, and discover. Here’s more about his good work with The Art Effect (formerly Mill Street Loft and Spark Media):
Rick, tell me more about The Art Effect:
A. Per their website (feelthearteffect.org), “The Art Effect empowers young people to develop their creative voice to shape their futures and bring about positive social change. From in-school residences to art immersion summer programs; from one day workshops to professional apprentice programs; and from diverse summer programs in the arts to year-round art explorations, we have it all.”
I’d go on to share that their programs, which include Forge Media, The Art Institute, Residencies, and an Arts Camp, are really incredible for those who participate. I was a board member of Mill Street Loft which merged with Spark Media to become The Art Effect. The combined entity carries a longtime stellar reputation for cultivating the kind of creativity and curiosity that leads to self-confidence and success.
Q. What is your history with The Art Effect, and what was it like to move the organization into its new chapter?
A. It was back in the 1990s when it was still Mill Street Loft when I was first approached to serve on the Board by an acquaintance of mine who was stepping down. I was in my thirties at the time, a young lawyer and a busy dad to little kids – after several years the timing was tough and I ended up shifting over to the Advisory Board. About 10 years ago, I was asked to return to the Board of Directors and I said ‘yes’. I’ve since served in leadership roles as treasurer and president. We all worked very well together when founder of Mill Street Loft, Carol Wolf, announced she was ready to plan for her retirement. Many small nonprofits struggle to sustain themselves when a founder who’s been running the organization retires, but we conducted a search and found Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt, who was a perfect successor to Carol. Nicole was previously the director of Children’s Media Project, which was rebranded as Spark Media Project. She had also developed an apprentice production outfit for local businesses and launched an International Youth Film Festival. Her interests were completely aligned with ours; we knew she’d be a great fit. So in January 2017, our Board officially announced Nicole as our new ED and we’ve since continued to build on Carol’s efforts to bring arts education to local youth while expanding on our offerings. It’s an honor to serve on a Board through a leadership transition that’s resulted in even more comprehensive arts programs for all whom we serve.
Q. What inspires you to give so much of your time and energy to The Art Effect?
A. While some boards tend to be fundraising vehicles, this Board allows me to be really hands-on. And we’ve got a great group – some are artists, some are former students who started off in disadvantaged situations but are now very successful in their careers and lives, others are local community leaders. I love being involved with an organization that can boast so many incredible outcomes; we offer so much to kids who really need help developing their sense of purpose. It shapes their entire lives. We teach them that there’s a work world for creatives out there. We give them a chance to find meaning by using their artistic skills in ways that bring them success and fulfillment. The stories are awe-inspiring.
Q. Is there one story in particular that demonstrates the organization’s success?
A. We had one young woman who had never left Poughkeepsie; she was growing up in a very tough environment – and we took her on a field trip to Mexico, where she and the other kids on the trip realized that there was a big world outside Poughkeepsie. She ended up becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school, and got a full ride to College. Our programs opened her eyes and changed the trajectory of her entire life.
Q. Rick, what’s one of the most critical takeaways for kids who participate?
A. My kids were very committed to their music growing up; they learned through Stringendo that if you practice, you get better and better. For me, I got that lesson through sports. The young people who enjoy programs through The Art Effect get that through the discipline of completing projects for their instructors and being part of a supportive community there to keep them motivated. Whatever the venue, it’s important for kids to learn the value of commitment – and being committed to something you genuinely like to do. The success stories follow.
Q. Do you feel we all have a responsibility to mentoring young people?
A. Yes – but as so many say, you get back just as much as you give. Throughout the pandemic, even though so much of what we normally do at The Art Effect was shut down, the staff found ways to pivot so that they could meet the incredible demand for creative and educational programs. They conducted remote drawing, film, and art classes – even held an international film festival remotely. The kids continued to produce videos and create. We all learned that even in the tough times of Covid, our young people could continue to have real-world experience and impact, and in many cases even get paid for their work! It was an extraordinary reminder to not let anything get in the way of our mission. Even a global health crisis shouldn’t stop us from doing what we can to support our youth. In fact, they needed The Art Effect and these types of outlets even more.
Q. What do you think is important for people to know about serving on a Board?
A. I think about this when I see people first come onto the Board. I realized early on that in the beginning, even though it was important that I just listen and try to absorb, it was when I started to talk and ask questions that I really got engaged. As they say, there’s no such thing as a dumb question – and the truth is that most of the time if you have a question, someone else is wondering the same thing. Whatever the organization, you tend to see that there are people who dominate and others who stay quiet. My hope is that those who are quiet gain the confidence to speak out, ask questions, and get engaged, because that’s when a group can really achieve great things.
Q. Are you an artist yourself?
A. No, but right around the time I joined the board, my girls (who are now grown up) were attending Dutchess Arts Camp at Mill Street Loft. You’d think arts camp could be chaotic, but it was the most orderly, well-run, immaculately-prepared situation. My girls were busy, active and had fun the whole time – and I saw just how incredible art could be as a channel for self-discovery and expression.
Rick DuVall is responsible for overseeing and in many cases acting as the primary litigator in the firm’s Commercial Litigation Department. These matters vary widely, and include disputes involving everything from corporate dissolutions, business torts, commercial and residential construction, real estate contracts, easements and other real estate issues, to disputed trust accountings, probate contests, other matters involving estates and wills and trusts and also include creditor’s rights matters, such as mortgage foreclosures, collections, bankruptcies and many other forms of commercial disputes.
Rick lives in the Village of Rhinebeck with his wife Lisa Rubenstein. He has served on the Board of Directors of Literacy Volunteers of America-Dutchess County, and served as a Trustee of the Pleasant Valley Free Library. He is on the Board of Directors of The Art Effect, formerly Mill Street Loft. Rick plays squash and golf and rides his bicycle all over the Hudson Valley.
Learn more at https://feelthearteffect.org/.