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Trying to keep the faith: the Rev. Joyce Hartwell.

photo:Chris Shields

Music With No Home

The New Age Cabaret, which had become an important safe haven for Albany youth, is losing its building

The rev. Joyce Hartwell walks slowly through the large, mostly empty room, pensively pointing out some of the remaining religious artifacts that adorn the walls. “The African section was beautiful,” she says. “You should have seen it.” On the room’s west wall, a platter painted with the Star of David is hung near a giant tapestry of Mother Goddess Durga, one of the main spiritual figures in Hinduism. On the opposite wall, a balalaika (a Ukrainian folk instrument) and a totem pole are displayed adjacent to an ornate banquet table, on which several bowls of popcorn and candy are spread out.

“The kids love the lollipops.”

Since moving to Albany five years ago, Hartwell, an ordained interfaith minister in her mid-60s, has put a great deal of time and energy into planning and developing the Artists All-Faith Center and New Age Cabaret at 453 N. Pearl St., Albany, a drug-, alcohol-, and smoke-free establishment (“because we love you,” reads a sign near the entryway) dedicated to community awareness and education in arts, religion, and heritage.

But tonight, her laugh lines, evidence of her years of enthusiastic community service, are showing. There may be a lock on the front door tomorrow morning, so Hartwell and her son, Dewan, are scrambling to remove everything as quickly as possible. They are being evicted from this building—and their home. (They lived in the adjoining apartments.)

The building at 453 N. Pearl sits on the rear of the property at 1076 Broadway. Within the property is the former site of a Roxy dry-cleaning plant. According to numerous sources, two percoethylene tanks are buried beneath that site. (Percoethylene is a cleaning solvent used in the dry-cleaning process.) Although Hartwell’s building has tested free of contaminants, a lengthy legal battle with landlord George Beaudin has made it impossible for her to continue her mission at the current location.

Attempts to reach Beaudin for comment were unsuccessful.

Hartwell came to Albany with elaborate plans for the space, including a proposed theater and meeting room in the building’s lower levels, and an outdoor arts and crafts market. “Part of my business plan was to . . . help people micro-enterprise businesses, particularly those who might have been arrested and went into recovery,” she said. “That’s what I did in the city.” (She ran the All-Crafts Center in New York City—the first home for Narcotics Anonymous in the Northeast—for 25 years before moving to Albany.)

Her plans hit a snare when she was unable to secure development funding. “The banks were the ones that informed me about the contamination . . . and [they] wouldn’t go near it.”

With the larger design in a state of arrested development, it was live music that came to be the New Age Cabaret’s trademark. The venue hosted more than 450 all-ages concerts, with no fewer than five bands per bill, primarily featuring high-school age musicians.

“Bands came from all over the world,” Hartwell beamed. “We had bands from Brazil, Ireland. . . . Everyone just loved it here.”

She doesn’t seem as distressed by being forced out of her home as she is concerned for the future of the New Age Cabaret, and for the boys and girls who have found this to be a safe and engaging gathering place. “There is no respect for the great youth talent here,” she said. “Everybody says, ‘We have no place to go.’ ”

“The bottom line is not just me. It’s how do you heal the city, and how do you take the talent and what people have to offer and maximize it?”

While the New Age Cabaret is being given a temporary home at Scarlet East Studios (448 N. Pearl St.), Hartwell has her eye on a new building where she can pursue her original concept, although she’s reluctant to speak about it as details are still in the works. She’s not the type to easily give up and, despite her palpable disappointment at losing something she worked so hard to create, she seems determined to keep her vision alive.

“I’m not saying I like this, but I have to keep on truckin’.”

—John Brodeur


What a Week

They’d Never Let Soros Do It

South Dakota is not just trying to take a law outlawing abortion to the Supreme Court to see if it can overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s also trying to allow a private and anonymous anti-abortion activist, rather than taxpayers, to pay for the challenge. This smacks of “buying government,” Kate Looby, South Dakota state director for Planned Parenthood, told the Village Voice.

Delay-Station 3

The PS3, sequel to Playstation and PS2, may miss its launch window by as much as a year, causing Sony’s stock to tumble. Expensive, bleeding-edge hardware appears to have been both its strength and its downfall: It’s projected that each system could cost Sony $900 to produce.

Move Over, Hybrids

A new German-made car, the futuristic Loremo LS, gets 157 miles per gallon thanks to an ultra-lightweight design that focuses on safety and efficiency and eliminates what the company deems to be “unnecessary functions.” The car, which lacks conventional doors (the roof lifts up) and moves the steering wheel to the driver rather than the seat to the steering wheel, has been projected to cost less than $13,000.

Rachel Not Remembered

An off-Broadway production of a play about American-born, pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie has been canceled. Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in March 2003. My Name Is Rachel Corrie, cowritten and directed on the London stage by onetime Die Hard villain Alan Rickman, had been set to open at the New York Theater Workshop on March 22. According to The New York Times, company director James C. Nicola nixed the production after “polling local Jewish religious leaders and community leaders as to their feelings about the work.” Nicola told the Times that he was not as worried about theatergoers as about “those who simply heard about it.”



photo:Joe Putrock

Smartassification

Multitalented hiphop artist, media activist and radio commentator Chuck D spoke to a packed house last week at Schenectady’s Union College, reflecting on the history of music, its effect on modern society and the state of intellectualism in a lecture titled “Race, Rap, Reality and Technology.”

The lecture, described by D as more of a “vibe session,” followed a meandering route through the evolution of hiphop, blues and jazz, often veering off-topic to weigh in on the cultures that have evolved around each genre. In describing what he viewed as a “dumbassification of America,” D had harsh words for some of today’s rap artists, accusing them of producing work that is “more about the benjamins than the message” and contributing to the anti-intellectual trends that take power away from the people.

During the three-hour lecture and question session, D also suggested that a passport might be one of the most useful educational tools available to American citizens. Being able to see your country from the outside, he suggested, might be the only way to really judge what makes it different—for good or bad—from the rest of the world.

—Rick Marshall


Overheard

Overheard:

“Delaware Avenue’s haunted.”

“Delaware Avenue?”

“Yeah. Something bad happened there.”

—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion of haunted houses.

 

Overheard:“Question his manhood.”

—Ralph Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting Alice Green, in response to a question about how Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate in a debate.



Loose Ends
Stewart’s Shops has withdrawn its plan to build a store and gas station in the center of Berne [“Minding the Store,” Newsfront, May 26, 2005]. According to The Altamont Enterprise, Stewart’s said it was not able to meet the historic-preservation zoning requirements of the town. Some Berne residents are circulating a petition that would ban gas stations entirely from the hamlet, rather than from one of two zones. . . . The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a New Mexico church’s right to use the hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca in its religious rituals [“Don’t Drink the Brown Tea, Man!,” What a Week, Nov. 17, 2005]. The Drug Policy Alliance applauded the court for ending a practice of making “drug exceptions to the Bill of Rights.” . . . Albany County Legislator Christine Benedict (District 28) has withdrawn her bill to expand the categories of people protected under the county’s human rights law to include those serving in the military and victims of domestic violence. Her bill was very similar to one introduced and then withdrawn by John Frederick (District 6) in 2004, but it left out the controversial “gender identity and expression.” Frederick opposed Benedict’s bill because it was less inclusive and because it didn’t address the fact that “the county has a human rights commission on paper, but not in actuality.” Working closely with the Capitol District Coalition for Human Rights, which formed after it became clear that last year’s bill was not going to pass [“Who Gets Rights?” Newsfront, Nov. 18, 2004], Frederick plans to introduce another bill that will include both gender identity and expression, and will call for funding the commission. Keith Hornbrook, director of the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council, and a spokesman for the coalition, said that the coalition has laid more groundwork with legislators than it was able to in 2004, has more members that are visible in various districts and several more prominent and active community partners, including the Working Families Party. “I don’t think that this bill would be presented again if we didn’t think that it had a good chance at success,” said Hornbrook. . . . Signaling that it has likely survived the battles over its possible reconfiguration or dismantling, the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center has a new director. Unlike outgoing director Elizabeth Martin, an administrator who came in with a cost-cutting mandate in late 2004 [“Separation Anxiety,” Newsfront, Nov. 11, 2004], the new director, Karen Ziegler, has extensive clinical experience and particular expertise in the field of trauma therapy. Proposals under Martin to put the agency’s services under the district attorney’s office and the Mental Health Department were met with outcries from clients and volunteers and rejected by the county’s legislature earlier this year. . . . Linden Lab, creators of the virtual world Second Life, recently took the bold step of offering a paid (in real-world dollars) fellowship to artists wishing to explore the potential of their digital environment [“How Much for the Enchanted Mithril Broadsword?” June 30, 2005]. The only requirements for the fellowship: Students must be enrolled in a visual or performing-arts program; only tools available within the digital world can be used; and the finished projects must be put on exhibit within Second Life.


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