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Local Lawyer Pulls Nonprofit Out of Debt Crisis

To manage your finances responsibly, do not live above your means, says Weston resident Michael Widland.

That rule of thumb, which is just as applicable to corporations as it is to family budgets, came in especially useful three years ago when Widland, a partner with the local law firm Shipman & Goodwin LLP, helped the Stamford Center for the Arts out of a financial crisis caused by debt.

“You have to set goals in a realistic nature of what you can afford and what your marketplace is," he said. "When we developed a budget, we only hosted programs that fit within that budget."

His first step as board chair of the Stamford Center for the Arts was to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and eliminate programming that was too costly. By gathering the expertise of the Stamford business community and support from the public, the center was then able to start fresh.

Three years later, some educational programs that were previously eliminated are now back, and the Palace Theatre has even hosted crowd-pleasing performers such as B.B. King and Tony Bennett.

“We’ve now stabilized, and we’ve been able to spread our wings a little bit in the performances we bring in. It’s a difficult environment out there," Widland said.

On March 30, Widland will be honored for his contribution to the Stamford Center for the Arts at its third Palace Gala, where he will receive the annual Arts Ovation Award along with Moira Lyons. He says he is humbled by the nomination but insists that the whole Stamford community deserves a bit of recognition.

“A lot of people did their part to make it all work,” Widland said. “It certainly wasn’t the work of a small group of people or one person.”

In addition to his contributions to Stamford Center for the Arts, he also lends time as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk and served as director of the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce for 5 years.

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