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2002 A YEAR OF GROWTH

2002 A YEAR OF GROWTH

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petteys@poststar.com and

STACEY MORRIS

morris@poststar.com

It would not be a stretch to proclaim 2002 a good year for the area arts and entertainment scene.

The past year was marked by successful fund-raising, experimental projects, the continuation of popular music and theatrical festivals, and the announcement of a major renovation by The Hyde Collection art museum.

Community support for the Woolworth Theater Project in 2002 means Glens Falls is that much closer to the reality of having its own community performing arts center.

It was also a year of continued success for area galleries and theater groups, that reported steadily ascending attendance throughout 2002. The region's affection for art and artisan is obvious when, on certain weekends, a once-abandoned factory building teems with foot traffic in and out of three floors of art galleries.

If 2002 is any indication, community support for the arts is more solid than ever.

The Woolworth Theater Project received numerous donations over the past year, bringing the total raised for the project to $2.3 million, said project Director Andrea Lyons.

The group has been working to raise funds to transform the former Woolworth building on Glen Street in Glens Falls into a 300-seat multi-purpose community performing arts center.

Project officials had originally believed that $2.8 million would be sufficient to complete the project, but earlier this year, they acknowledged that it would likely cost a bit more.

Three groups - Adirondack Theatre Festival, Glens Falls Community Theater and Adirondack Children's Troupe - will be anchor tenants of the facility, which will offer performance, rehearsal and administrative space for the groups. Construction on the project is slated to begin in 2003.

The Hyde Collection unveiled its plans to renovate and expand the art museum. Under the plan, the existing stucco on the exterior of the nearly century-old Neo-Italian Renaissance style villa will be replaced, and the interior of the house will be redecorated to resemble its appearance in 1936, said Randall Suffolk, the museum's director.

Construction recently began on a two-story addition to the educational wing. The Hyde house will be closed for six to eight months, starting in July, though the museum will continue to show artwork in its three galleries and conduct educational programs.

Museum officials have not yet estimated a total cost for the renovation and related projects, Suffolk said, although the museum is seeking a $2 million loan through the Warren and Washington Counties Industrial Development Agency.

The former Troy Shirt factory building is continuing to make its mark as a destination for artists and other creative businesses. Over the past year, more than two dozen tenants have signed leases, nearly filling the historic warehouse to capacity, said building owner Eric Unkauf.

The artists in the building have hosted several successful open houses throughout the year, drawing 1,000 to 1,500 people to each event.

"Every time they have one of those shows, there is a lot of positive feedback that people are happy to see something like this happen," Unkauf said.

A percentage of the proceeds from the open houses is being pooled to pay for renovations to a first-floor space, which will serve as a gallery in which artists can show and sell their works. The gallery is tentatively set to open in the spring.

Unkauf said he and the tenants are now looking into ways to make the building more "user-friendly" for visitors. Unkauf plans to put kiosks at each of the building entrances, where artists and business can post their literature and list office hours.

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center continued to draw large concert crowds this summer, despite higher ticket prices.

Three years ago, Clear Channel Entertainment Inc., formerly SFX, took over concert booking at the venue, resulting in a nearly 50 percent increase in ticket prices since the changeover.

Higher prices, however, didn't stop 50,000 people from pouring through the gates for the back-to-back Dave Matthews Band concerts. Matthews was perhaps the king of the SPAC season.

This year's lineup also had rock stars from decades past, like Rush and Tom Petty while still giving a nod to the younger generation with Wyclef Jean and Custom.

The Adirondack Theatre Festival continued on its path of steady growth, ending its eighth season this summer with a slim profit. The nonprofit group expanded its season to four shows and netted $1,000 after paying all its expenses.

The six-week festival featured the ice-fishing musical, "Guys on Ice"; the one-man show based on the short stories of Richard Wright, "At Home in an Alien Land"; a musical revue of 2001, "Fish Wrap: Yesterday's News, Tomorrow's Songs"; and Claudia Shear's off-Broadway hit, "Blown Sideways Through Life."

Another former Adirondack Theatre Festival show has been enjoying success. The one-man show "Fully Committed," which was performed in workshop at the festival in 1998, ran at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany this month.

The show by Becky Mode has had sold-out audiences around the continent, and was named one of the 10 best plays of 2000 by Time magazine.

Several area groups joined forces for "Summertime Blues in Glens Falls," a cooperative project geared to promote Glens Falls as a cultural center.

Pat Joyce, executive director of the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council, said the project was the biggest cultural collaboration she had seen in her 20-year tenure. Ten local groups created a blues-related cultural calendar. LARAC, for example, hosted a juried art exhibition called, "Blue By You," and The Hyde Collection hosted the traveling exhibit, "Visualizing the Blues: Images of the American South 1862-1999."

The groups received a $20,000 matching grant from the state to promote the project. Radio, print, Internet and direct-mail advertisement were used to promote the region's offerings.

Other groups participating in the project included The Chapman Historical Museum, Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra, the World Awareness Children's Museum, Adirondack Community College, Hometown Blues Inc. and Crandall Public Library.

Project organizers said they would like to do more collaborative projects in the future.

City businesses used art as a way to promote downtown this fall, launching the first "Downtown Fest" in September. The daylong event featured an art auction and sale, and several musical acts, in addition to children's activities and sidewalk sales.

"Without question, it was a success," said Mary Beth Fitscher, owner of Mommi & Me on Glen Street. "Our goal was to get people circulating. It was constant action, from Glen Street to the Civic Center to the skate park. People were everywhere."

The event drew an estimated 2,000 people. Organizers hosted a similar event during the Hometown Holiday festival in December, and they plan to have similar celebrations several times a year.

One year ago, the certainty of the 10th annual Hometown Blues Festival happening in June was left hanging the balance with the sudden loss of Coca-Cola's corporate sponsorship.

The $5,000 hole created by Coca-Cola's vacancy meant Marian Marzola, president of the nonprofit Hometown Blues Inc. and the festival's director, had to do some fast thinking or the festival would be canceled.

When word of her predicament spread throughout the community, Marzola was flooded with an outpouring of financial support from individuals and businesses.

Rick Davidson, owner of Davidson Bros. Brewery and Restaurant in Glens Falls, began advertising the festival on six-packs of the company's IPA beer, and XLPAYSU.com, a Lake George-based company owned by Tom and Chris Diddus, made a $5,000 donation.

Coca-Cola even stepped in to make a donation after hearing about the flood of publicity caused by its lack of corporate sponsorship.

Marzola accepted a $2,500 donation, but the cola company's last-minute gesture meant they no longer retained exclusive 'pouring rights' during the festival.

With the emergence of trance DJs on South Street's Club 22, all-aged concerts at the Courthouse, hard-core rock performed in neighborhood attics, burning tracks onto CDs and touring, the area's music scene is becoming as edgy and eclectic as Seattle's.

Wednesday nights have become known as electronica nights at Club 22 on 22 South Street.

Walk in the club on a Wednesday and you'll be greeted by the molecule-penetrating sounds of electronica, an intense blending of techno and house music.

This fall, with no permanent venue to host hard-core rock bands, Chris Roberts took on the task of hosting concerts in the attic of his mother's Maple Street apartment.

Sometimes, as many as 50 people would show up. Roberts was booked solid for November, but with the winter cold setting in, he and other hard-core devotees were actively looking for a permanent concert home - somewhere within walking distance of downtown, since most hard-core fans are in the 16-year-old age range and don't drive.

A triple-bill concert starring Livingston Bramble was held at the Courthouse Theatre in Hudson Falls in April. A show in March was met with success, promoter Chuck Vosganian decided to do another one. He envisions also having comedy acts perform there as well as the screening of classic movies.

The Glens Falls Civic Center continued to be a mecca for area sporting events with crowds converging on the center for Ice Hawks games, the Adirondack League Basketball tournament, high school hockey games, wrestling tournaments and federation basketball.

The emergence of the Adirondack Wildcats in May also proved to be an added downtown draw for sports fans.

But Suzanna Bernd, the Civic Center's executive director, said family-oriented events such as "Sesame Street Live!" (which broke attendance records), Gaelforce Dance, the Adirondack Stampede rodeo and The Harlem Globetrotters were also events that created heavy public interest in the region.

The success of last year's performance of "Tchaikovsky's, "Sleeping Beauty," by the St. Petersburg State Ballet on ice took the Civic Center in a new direction Bernd plans to continue next year.

Not only will the ballet company return this year, with a March 7 performance on ice of "Swan Lake," but Bernd plans to implement an arts and cultural subscription program in 2003.

"We're definitely pursuing an arts angle for 2003," Bernd said.

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