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SARATOGA SPRINGS – A family friendly kickoff to fall featuring food, music and individual and group art projects will take place Saturday afternoon at Pitney Meadows Community Farm.  Attendees will have the opportunity to create kites, flower crowns and a collaborative sculpture project - which will be installed at the farm.

The event is hosted by C.R.E.A.T.E Community Studios, a nonprofit organization that works with children and adults to promote freedom of expression, personal growth, and community connection through art.

 “We were formed by a group of art therapists and art educators,” says group co-founder Julie Lewis. “Our mission is really about bringing the expressive arts to an underserved population and working with communities to bring health and wellness - through the expressive arts - as a medium through which community togetherness can happen.”

The focus is on the process of art-making, which includes interacting with subjects, creatively working from a feeling, or becoming inspired by community issues. It is about using the creative process as a vehicle for personal growth, communication and social change.

“My interest came from my background of working in schools and specifically working with some low-income at-risk populations,” says Lewis, a NY State certified teacher. 

“I saw half of my students struggling so much with the academic side of things and what I realized is they weren’t struggling because of academic needs – they’re extremely bright – but because there was so much change and trauma and difficulty in their family lives. And they didn’t have a proper outlet for that in school,” she says. “The kids were clearly showing me that there were ways they wanted to utilize activities in terms of the arts and physical activity, music and the movement to express themselves. I felt a little powerless trying to change that in a school structure. I realized I really wanted to find a way to make a space for that.”

Inspired to seek like-minded collaborators, Lewis connected with Heather Hutchison – a state licensed creative arts therapist, and Aili Lopez, a licensed mental health counselor. “They both had a similar dream of opening up some type of community center focused around using all the arts – movement, music, visual, performance everything to help bring communities together and to heal,” Lewis says. 

C.R.E.A.T.E is located on Broadway in Saratoga Springs in the Collamer Building and on State Street in Schenectady and offers a variety of affordable art-based workshops for all age groups. The organization has also partnered with veterans’ groups and agencies such as the Franklin Community Center, Wellspring, and Shelters of Saratoga to offer programs for specific populations.

“We’re really focused on trying to meet all the needs of our community members,” Lewis says. A list of programs may be found on the organization’s website at: http://www.createcommunitystudios.org/.

Saturday’s events take place 3 to 6 p.m. at Pitney Meadows Community Farm, 223 West Ave. Tickets are $30 per family and $15 per individual and may be purchased in advance on the organization’s website, or at the farm on the day of the event.

Funds raised support C.R.E.A.T.E.’s mission to serve everyone who walks through their doors by providing a space where the benefits of art-making impact each person’s overall mental, emotion-al and physical health through free and low-cost open studio time, expressive arts groups for kids, teens and adults, arts workshops and community wellness activities, community building events and imperative outreach programming.  

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 14 September 2018 15:34

Neighbors: Lawrence White & Saratoga Fantastique

Who: Lawrence White

Where: The Grove, on Lake Avenue.

Q. Where are you originally from and when did you come to Saratoga?

A. I’m originally from California. I was living in New York City and first came up to Saratoga in 2002. I was very sick from the terrorist attacks and there was no business (in downtown New York). At that time, Jacques Burgering, who was the director at the National Museum of Dance had been my neighbor in Soho for about 10 years. He gave me an exhibition at the museum. At the same time, my doctor said “you’ve got to relocate,” so I was like: well, this is beautiful here. It reminded me so much of where I grew in Northern California.

Q. Artistically, what have you found in Saratoga?

A. The level of culture here is just so high and has been for so long, that you can hook into that line of heritage very easily. As a photographer, I’m always looking for the light and Saratoga is the ultimate light-catcher. Such beautiful qualities of light here, so it makes my job easy. I just go around and visually feast on how light falls here. Another one of the great things about this area is the history. It goes way back but comes right up through the Industrial Age, so you have these great buildings that were once flourishing and now have this incredible texture.

Q. What is your background as an artist?

A. I went to the San Francisco Art Institute and got a master’s degree in ’75. When I was there I worked with some great artists – everybody from Imogen Cunningham to Eugene Smith, Robert Frank and Kenneth Anger. As artists we got to work next to them. Robert Mapplethorpe. Can you imagine seeing them printing seeing that technique and realizing, basically they’re all a bunch of knuckleheads like the rest of us, but they were able to develop their own technique that worked for them. They understood the rules, but the rules were bent to their shape and not the other way around. That was the key of being an artist: to get within the rules, understand them, become a master, but then break the rules in ways that created art.

Q. Tell us about your upcoming exhibition “Saratoga Fantastique.”

A. It’s finding the incredible things that lurk beneath the surface. All these little nuances - things we may have seen before, but places where I lingered on and playfully manipulated the images. For me as an artist, I’m able to stretch my wings.

Q. Having come to Saratoga only during the past 15 years or so you have seen things with relatively fresh eyes. 

A. I hope my photographs help people look at Saratoga in a different way than what they might normally see and that this interpretation allows them to absorb themselves even further into their own history. To see things differently - that’s really the key of life. It’s easy to get bored. We do the same mundane things every day, but as a photographer we see light and the way light falls on the same thing every day as always different. The further we dig into that maybe the further we learn about ourselves. And I think that’s the message here. And that’s why “Saratoga Fantastique,” because it is fantastic. It’s not mundane and we should be continually reminded of that.

As artists, we have different tools to express our voice, which comes from the ether, our muse.  Our physical body is our instrument and we can have many different ways to express what this voice is. It’s a gift, but it’s temporary gift. My ability to see. My ability to move is very temporary and I can only use it for so long. That’s why I think it’s so important to respect it for what it is. Time. The sand is falling through the glass all the time and we have to be aware of that. It’s precious. Don’t just squander it.

   

Lawrence White’s “Saratoga Fantastique” will be on exhibit at The Grove, on Lake Avenue.  An opening reception takes place 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Show hours will be 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, by appointment.  

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Performance artist. Writer. Poet. Experimental theatre maker. Penny Arcade has authored 10 scripted performance plays and hundreds of performance art pieces. Her work has been produced everywhere from London to Vienna.

Born Susana Ventura in the small factory town of New Britain, Connecticut, she named herself Penny Arcade at age 17 while living on her own in New York City, where her mentor, photographer/artist Jaimie Andrews, introduced her to legendary director John Vaccaro and The Playhouse of the Ridiculous. She was subsequently recruited, while still a teenager, by Andy Warhol to be a Factory Superstar.

Arcade and longtime collaborator Steve Zehentner are in Saratoga Springs this week on a 10-day residency for The Orchard Project – which supports artists’ new work and the development of shows in the theater world.

Arcade says she recalls visiting the city decades earlier with Louden Wainwright, who was performing at Caffe Lena. A clothesline of words and typed scenarios depicting their current work-in-progress, tentatively titled “Old Queen,” clings in blue painters’ tape to the walls of the apartment where she is housed – a converted apartment complex on the city’s east side which once staged major music concerts as the Great Saratoga Music Hall. Arcade, appropriately enough, wears a T-shirt that reads: Love Saves the East Village. Here is some of what was said:

“The first time I came to New York I landed right across the street from the Village Gate. I’m from a factory town, New Britain, Connecticut and I ran away when I was 16. I went to Provincetown, then to Boston.”

On her name: I had the name ‘Penny Arcade’ since I was 17 years old. I named myself and it was supposed to be a joke. I was saving Susana Ventura for when I did something good. Unfortunately, it’s taken so long, haha, I’ve gotten stuck with Penny Arcade.

On the ‘60s: I’m part of the original youth culture. it was a very philosophical time. That’s one of the things we want to bring into the show. While there was a lot of low energy in the sixties, there was also a lot of high-mindedness: Paul Krassner, Abbie Hoffman, Lenny Bruce, James Baldwin. I come from an era when Gore Vidal was on television. Maybe if you were a bright kid, you were tuned in to these kinds of things. Regardless of what brightness you had, the mentality that was being driven was that of a seeker. You talked about how you were going to change things. You were metaphysically connected to a group of people. It was about evolution.

On Performing: I work improvisationally. Steve and I have worked together for 26 years. I improvise directly to Steve, and Steve writes it down. I can go anywhere and improvise an hour show, just off the top of my head by drawing from different shows of mine. I have 12 full-length plays and hundreds and hundreds of hours of performances.

On Andy Warhol: It’s taken me years and years and years to understand Andy. He was a very complex figure. I kind of resented him because I viewed him as a user.  You have to remember Andy Warhol did not become famous until he became shot. He was not the most important Pop artist. He was not Claes Oldenburg, he was not seen at that level. He was seen more as a freak. And he was kind of a prankster. Andy’s greatest feat was convincing the art world that he was a painter, when what he actually was, was an art director. We see the results and high impact of Andy Warhol not in art, but in advertising. That’s where you can see his influence. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate him as a conceptualist.

When she was 17: I took a $25 shuttle from Boston to New York City. I met these very kind of bizarre drag queens who are in this play. In Provincetown they said: you belong in New York. Eventually I re-met Jamie Andrews, who’s also in this play and who I’d first met in Provincetown. With him, I met John Waters and all these people. When Jamie saw me in New York, I was living on the street. I was definitely an at-risk teenager, like many, many teenagers who were there. Jamie saw me one day on the street, quite by accident, and he said: you don’t look too good. He goes, ‘I think you should come live with me.’ And he took me in. And as I say in the show, show me the 27-year-old gay man who’s taking in the 17-year-old girl off the street. Jamie is a fascinating person in his own right. He was the person who first brought me to the Playhouse of the Ridiculous. 

The Playhouse of the Ridiculous: All the elements in my work come from the Playhouse of the Ridiculous, except I do costumes. (Playhouse founder) John Vaccaro’s work is still not understood. I am his protegee. Vaccaro’s work was political. He wasn’t interested in Man’s struggle against Man, he was interested in society.

On Patti Smith: I was very close to Patti in 1969- ‘70. When I met her she had just become a poet. But first, was her paintings. She used to write on her paintings which she’d show me, and they were extremely interesting. I was in the first play she was in, (Jackie Curtis’) “Femme Fatale.” There was something that was transferred between the two of us. Patti’s an interesting person. Recently I’ve come to realize that Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe kind of heralded, in 1969, the first wave of young people where fame was more important than accomplishment. Patti wanted to be famous. We had a joke at Max’s (Kansas City) one night which went on for several weeks that Patti and I were going to start a band. She and I really bonded at being working-class girls in a scene of debutants.

On Bowie: Angela Bowie, from what I heard back then, was really the interesting figure. David Bowie was this boring kind of folk singer and then they started dressing David like Angela – and the rest is history.

On Punk: Wayne County to me is the most important person in the punk scene and far more important than Patti, Richard Hell or any of them...rock and roll was our religion, and Wayne County was the person who took it to heart. What else can a poor boy do except play in a rock and roll band?

On The Orchard Project: “We like the way Orchard Project works. It has a core of 15 kids interested in theater, in performance, so we like having those conversations. We’ve worked a lot with young people in our video projects. Steve and I have a video project we’ve been doing for 19 years called Stemming the Tide of Cultural Amnesia: The Lower East Side Biography Project – which anyone can watch. (Website: http://pennyarcade.tv/) . This is my way of injecting inter-generational voices into the culture, because it’s not 1980 or 1990 or 1970 for that matter when young people move to New York and meet older artists. The whole idea of lineage has changed. The whole idea of what it means to be an artist has changed. Those ideas have been gentrified.

On Purpose: “I think we all glom onto whatever resonates with us personally on a spiritual level, on a metaphysical level. We come here with purpose. I believe that we are born with purpose. That we all have certain lessons we are here to learn. That’s the purpose of life: for evolution. And it’s not a complete evolution. Whatever my standards are of who I think I should be, I’m not attaining them in this lifetime, you know? I think evolution continues.”

    

    

    

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Every morning, Elizabeth Sobol begins her day driving down the Avenue of the Pines. Since taking over the reins in October at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Sobol has been forming a vision in her mind’s eye of a park for the arts.

“When I saw the reflecting pool, the Victoria Pool, the beautiful porticos and the baths, the Jazz Bar downstairs, the Hall of Springs and all sorts of these other nooks and crannies, I was like: wow. I started thinking about all sorts of site-specific work,” SPAC’s president and CEO said.

 She asked about the jazz bar, and was surprised to learn no live music is played there; When she saw the reflecting pool, she was reminded of John Luther Adams’ 2014 piece “Become Ocean,” which was performed at Lincoln Center around that venue’s reflecting pool. 

“I see the park filled with art-making. Music. Maybe some outdoor sculpture and interactive experiences. I think of the park as this magnificent convergence of man-made beauty and natural beauty.”

Sobol said she wants to eliminate any preconceived barriers that may exist separating the SPAC amphitheater – where the arts are staged – and the surrounding grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park.

“I’m all about no boundaries. Let people experience art in unexpected places where it catches them off-guard,” Sobol said. “I feel like this is a park for the arts, with so many spectacular places we can do performances.”

The other thing she wants to dispel is the bipolar notion that SPAC is either pop music, or classical music. “I think SPAC is one organism.  It’s a world-class venue, and as long as everything that appears on the stage is world-class, it belongs without respect to genre.”  

Teaming-up with other organizations is key, and already collaborations have been struck with Caffè Lena for a six-concert series, Skidmore College – for a performance that will be staged in June - and with UPH and Proctors for a yet-to-be announced event that will take place in the fall. There are also ongoing conversations with the nearby National Museum of Dance, and Saratoga Auto Museum regarding a potential Cuban festival that would feature live music, dance classes and a curated show of classic cars that would involve all three venues in their respective area of expertise.

“You’d walk in here and have this immersive experience, pulling it all together for you rather than a kind of silo experience,” Sobol said. “I think the more you feel art connects with basic human experiences, then it touches you in different ways.” The idea is to host year-round events that would fan out beyond SPAC’s geographical borders and into the Saratoga Spa State Park, “giving people these sublime experiences out in nature.”

“Some of it would be formal collaboration, some of it would be ‘pop-up,’ but I’m also imagining a poet’s corner here, where people can come and read their work,” Sobol said. “I want people to learn they can just come here in the same way they can go to a fair and entertain themselves, there’s food and rides and animals there’s all sorts of stuff – but with a proliferation of artistic experiences they can have here.”

“I’m also imagining having this whole day based on science and music that would end with Holst – ‘The Planets’ - performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra with massive screens of NASA space footage and hundreds of telescopes placed down in the football field, so kids could go from not just being taught these connections between astronomy and music, but seeing and hearing and feeling it,” Sobol said.

 

Saratoga’s Arts Ranking

On April 24, SMU’s National Center for Arts Research released its third annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which ranks communities across the country, examining the level of supply, demand, and government support for the arts in each city.

The “arts vibrancy” is measured by nonprofit cultural institutions, organizations and venues particularly attractive to artists or tourists, levels of government support, and being robust in a variety of arts sectors.

The cities of Bennington, Vermont, and Hudson, and Oneonta, N.Y. placed high on the list. As a county, Saratoga placed in the 92nd percentile, meaning of the 3,144 counties across the country, Saratoga County ranks higher than 92 percent of the rest of the country, according to the report, which may be viewed at:  https://sites.smu.edu/meadows/heatmap/index.html

 

Saratoga Springs Arts Commission Involvement

City Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who in 2015 appointed members to the city’s first Arts Commission, is in the process of attempting to strike a collaborative partnership with the city of Nashville, Tennessee.  

 “We’re identifying what that exchange and partnership will look like,” Yepsen said. “The first step will be sending an invitation to their arts commission to invite some performers, musicians to Saratoga Springs to begin the partnership and we’re hoping to do this in August or September. It might even turn into a mini-festival of national performers, so we’re going to move forward as an Arts Commission.”  The creative pipeline could also result in the Spa City hosting music workshops featuring performers from “Music City.”

 

How It’s Done in Music City

Nashville with a population about 678,000, is more than 20 times the size of Saratoga Springs. 

Overseeing things in the “Music City” is the 15-member Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, which was formed in 1978. The arts commission has an approximate $3 million annual operating budget, promotes and supports that city’s visual, performing and literary arts.  The commission has autonomy from the council, meaning the granting process – while going through a transparent public process, don’t have to return to the City Council for approval, said Jennifer Cole, director of Nashville’s arts commission. Of the $3 million budget, $2.3 million is awarded to civic and nonprofit civic and charitable organizations that assist the commission in its goals, with the balance of monies used to fund special projects and administrative costs.

The arts commission in Nashville also receives separate funding for public art, through the city’s Capital Budget.  In 2000, the council adopted a measure that ensures 1 percent of all city-issued bonds for public city buildings is targeted for public art projects. Potential public art projects are subsequently scored by “citizen panelists” - members of a seven-member Public Art Committee - and taxpayers are also permitted to weigh in regarding the art projects that will be placed in public areas, Cole said.    

A separate group, the all-volunteer Music City Music Council was started in 2009, which doesn’t have governing powers but works as an advisory group to the mayor .  They are an association of business leaders charged with developing strategies toward heightening the awareness and development of Nashville’s world-wide reputation as Music City. Music is to Nashville as horses is to Saratoga, with core employment in the music industry in Nashville per 1,000 population exceeding all other U.S. cities by large margins and New York and Los Angeles by 2.5 to 4 times.

Recently, the Saratoga Springs Arts Commission has held discussions recently regarding the impending loss of the 300-seat Saratoga Music Hall when converted to a court room. Yepsen said to compensate, there are plans underway to potentially enlarge and enhance the Dee Sarno Theater at the Saratoga Arts building on Broadway. Joel Reed, executive director of Saratoga Arts, said with some interior re-configuration, the theater could double its capacity from 100 to 200 people.  

New Incubator Opens in Saratoga Springs

“There’s an opportunity for the city of Saratoga Springs with an incubator right here, through SEDC’s (Saratoga Economic Development Corporation) good work,” said Yepsen, referencing other existing regional incubators at the Center For the Gravity in Troy and The Albany Barn. “It could be a space for people to create inventions, or art, or a combination.”

By its own definition, the Tech Valley Center of Gravity in Troy cultivates a community of makers, innovators and entrepreneurs to initiate creative collisions resulting in economic and personal growth. In Albany, that City, its Housing Authority, and the Barn partnered to redevelop the St. Joseph’s Academy building into 22 low-cost live/work residences for artists, and a multi-tenant creative arts incubator, enterprise and program space that includes work and rehearsal suites, a dance studio, and digital media lab.

Ryan Van Amburgh, Economic Development Specialist with SEDC, met with the city Arts Commission during its monthly meeting in April, shortly after launching SPARK Saratoga to empower locally based entrepreneurs. On Wednesday, the non-profit consulting firm announced a collaborative agreement with Saratoga CoWorks to site a new business incubator on Regent Street.  Van Amburgh said discussions with the city’s Arts Commission are ongoing regarding a potential arts component, and that SEDC is engaged in a willingness to play a role in the city’s creative economy.       

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 07 October 2016 11:01

Artists Raise Funds For Preservation

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A portrait of ladies lunching at a Broadway café stood near a framed sketch of a pair of pink ballet slippers.

Landscapes of Yaddo, the racecourse and Universal Preservation Hall were accompanied by displays of Caffe Lena, Congress Park and an abundance of thoroughbreds portrayed in oil, watercolor, and digital print.

More than 140 different art works inspired by the spirit of Saratoga Springs were exhibited inside the historic Canfield Casino, depicting a varied vision through the eyes of 60 different artists. The inspiration of the exhibit was the 2016 TRASK Art Show and Sale, a popular art auction that provides vital funding for the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation in their ongoing efforts to preserve Saratoga Springs through restoration projects. Those efforts include the recent successful completion of the restoration of the Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial in Congress Park – a piece initially commissioned by Katrina and George Foster Peabody, after Spencer Trask’s death in 1909.

Spencer is largely credited with preserving the Spa’s spring waters, and along with wife Katrina bequeathed their 55-room mansion and adjoining grounds on Union Avenue to artists of all kinds. Since 1926, their Yaddo estate has welcomed more than 6,000 visiting artists.

Ironically, Trask’s anti-gambling stance put him at odds with John Morrissey, who established his gaming house in Congress Park and the venue where the TRASK Art Show and Sale was staged. A $500 prize for Best in Show was awarded to Matt Chinian for his oil and canvas display titled: Juniper Swamp.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and selling paintings is nearly impossible, so this is a big boost,” said the artist from Cambridge, who specializes in painting outdoor scenes. Artists Robert Whiting Chris O’Leary and Dave Papa each received honorable mention. Ian Berry, director of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, and Kathy Greenwood, director of the Art and Culture Program at Albany International Airport, served as show judges. Artists received 50 percent of their artwork’s sale price, with the balance of sales benefiting restoration projects and ongoing efforts to preserve Saratoga Springs. The event was attended by 250 people. A final tally of funds raised during the event was not yet available.

Published in Entertainment

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