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Change of Pace
Photo by Joe Putrock

Changes that have been brewing for months at one of the area’s most prominent arts organizations came to a head on Feb. 12, when Doug Pace worked his last day as executive director of the Albany-Schenectady League of Arts. Although various parties involved stress that Pace played a pivotal role in preserving and strengthening the organization during his 16 years with the league, it appears that his vision for the organization’s future was no longer the same as that of the board of directors.

On Feb. 13, the league’s business manager, Mark Walthers, took over as interim executive director following Pace’s abrupt departure. The board hasn’t yet decided whether to put out a search for a replacement, so Walthers could occupy the organization’s top post temporarily or permanently. Pace, who could not be reached for comment, “has decided to pursue other interests,” according to a League of Arts press release.

Pace is widely credited with saving the league from ruin in the 1980s, when the organization—which provides resources for individual artists and other arts organizations—was harshly affected by an economic recession. “We are grateful to Doug for his fine and devoted service,” board president Mary Kate McCarty said in the press release. In recent months, however, league activities have been erratic, as seen by the cancellation of an annual fundraiser that was scheduled to take place last summer.

For his part, Walthers says he’s eager to affect whatever positive changes he can during his tenure, be it brief or long. He already has a history with the league—he’s been the business manager for the past five years—and he says he hopes to help the raise the league’s public profile.

“Really, the board looks at this as a chance to reevaluate the programs we have—what’s working, what isn’t,” he says. “I’m very excited about the direction the league can move in.”

Walthers sites Come Sunday!, a program of black music and dance presented every September, as a league program that could be handled better than it has been in the past, and notes that ArtWork, a seminar series presented annually, has been tabled for 2002 so it can be reconfigured. “We’ve put that on hiatus for this year,” he says, “but we want to come back to it.”

The league’s new leader says that one of his priorities is informing more people about what the league actually is. “The mission of the league—it’s hard to define,” he says. “It’s a service organization to our members and to the arts community at large. The best way to describe it is that we are like a chamber of commerce for individual artists and arts organizations.”

Walthers lists several programs that he considers key to the league’s role in the local arts community, such as arts-in-education showcases at which members meet with school representatives, pro bono legal services, a monthly newsletter called Apollo, and a grant program funded by the New York State Council on the Arts. He says he can’t think of anything that the league should be doing that it isn’t, and he notes that it’s important for the league to work in concert with other organizations. “The Arts Center of the Capital Region—one of their big focuses is classes,” he says. “That’s something they do very well, and it’s something we don’t need to get into.”

Although the future of his role in league activities is uncertain, Walthers says he’d be excited about taking over Pace’s job on a permanent basis. “One of my big selling points is that I’ve been here for so long and I know the ins and outs,” he says. “I’m comfortable with them putting out a search. I want the best person for the job, whether that’s me or not. First and foremost, I want to stabilize things a little bit.”

—Peter Hanson

Word up
Photo by Mark Gallucci

Free speech and free verse were celebrated on Saturday at Valentine’s, when a slew of area poets and activists hit the stage of the Albany nightclub for A Poet’s Day—An Evening of Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Expression. Above, local luminary Mary Panza reads her work, with live musical accompaniment, at the event, which was organized by Albany poetry guru R.M. Engelhardt.

Art Beat

Here are a couple of updates from Lake George Opera, the organization that presents productions every year at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. First, the troupe’s name has formally been changed to Lake George Opera at Saratoga to reflect its commitment to SPAC. And second, the troupe just began an extensive series of in-school performances featuring Little Red’s Most Unusual Day, a kid-oriented piece featuring music by Offenbach and Rossini that’s directed by the troupe’s general director, William Florescu. The “opera to go” program will be presented at schools throughout the Capital Region all month, and public performances include a March 13 show at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. For more info, call 584-6018. . . . The history of the Albany-Rensselaer train station—the old one, that is, not the shiny new one—is being celebrated in a play called End of the Line. The show, put together by a Manhattan theater company called Yankee Rep, will run from April 23 to May 5 at Raw Space Theatre, located at 529 W. 42nd St. in New York City. The piece was written by an ensemble of 10 people, and it features “tales of longtime Albany residents, transplanted Manhattanites and those just passing through,” according to a Yankee Rep press release. For more information, call (212) 462-3064. . . . Congrats to the folks down at the U.S.S. Slater, the U.S. Navy destroyer escort on display at the port of Albany. The Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau recently named the maritime museum Albany Attraction of the Year. This is quite an accomplishment, considering that the Slater was opened to visitors just four years ago. The Slater, which was decommissioned in 1947, is the last of the World War II destroyer escorts remaining afloat in the United States. . . . Starting next month, area viewers who have digital cable will be able to get an extra helping of public-broadcasting content, thanks to a deal involving WMHT (Channel 17). On March 1, Time Warner Cable will dedicate Channel 189 of its digital spectrum to PBS programming. From 7 AM to 7 PM every day, the channel will carry PBS YOU shows, which are “personal enrichment” courses in topics such as foreign languages, history and literature. And from 7 PM to 7 AM each night, the channel will air PBS children’s shows such as Clifford the Big Red Dog. . . . The folks at Park Playhouse recently announced that this year’s production—presented, as always, as a free show at the Washington Park Lakehouse in Albany—will be George M!, a musical about the life of Broadway legend George M. Cohan. The show will run from July 9 to Aug. 18. . . . The Woolworth Theater Project, the plan to convert an old retail space in Glens Falls into a spiffy performing-arts venue, just passed another important landmark—$2 million has been raised toward the projected $2.8 million needed to complete the project. . . . Finally, on Wednesday, the Times Union reported that the Riverfont Arts Festival—for years one of the largest public events in the city of Troy—won’t be held this year. Raona Roy, executive director of the Arts Center of the Capital Region, which has presented the festival in recent years, told the TU that organizers want a year off so the event can be revamped. . . . Send Art Beat items to phanson@metroland.net or call 463-2500 ext. 144.

—P.H.


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