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That’s not really Monroe, is it? The Spectrum 8 Theatres anniversary party.

Photo: Kathryn Lurie

Art Beat

ANOTHER FRESH START: The Saratoga Performing Arts Center will forgive $1.2 million in debt owed to the organization by the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs. The move is effective retroactive to Dec. 31, 2005, according to William Dake, president of the SPAC board of directors. Marcia White, president and executive director of SPAC, announced SPAC’s decision to forgive the debt in a press release issued March 28. According to the release, the $1.2 figure represents approximately 15 years of accumulated losses incurred by the museum (between $120,000 and $150,000 a year) and absorbed by SPAC.

The press release said that writing off the museum’s debt will not affect SPAC’s current operating budget or its projected surplus for 2006. SPAC broke even in 2005 for the first time in many years.

Last November, Dake called the $1.2 figure a “paper debt” that SPAC was prepared to forgive, based on the museum’s performance as it worked toward complete independence from SPAC. He was speaking to the new board of the dance museum, which took over last fall after the previous museum board and director resigned. One of the new board’s first acts was to dismiss three of five staff members as a cost-cutting move.

The new museum board, headed by Nancy Di Cresce, proposed independence from SPAC. She said complete separation may happen in six months, but that, “they want to make sure we can stand on our own and have a strong financial basis.” Dake said, “These things never happen abruptly. There is always a transition period. We will always be working in conjunction with the museum, providing help in accounting, maintenance, and other services. We’ll provide modest financial support.”

The new acting director, Beth Hartle (the seventh person to head the museum since it opened in 1986) said Tuesday that she hoped the debt forgiveness would open the way to replenish the museum staff. Hartle and an administrative assistant are now operating an ever-growing program by relying on volunteers.

Over the years, the museum has had a tangled relationship with SPAC. It opened as an independent entity with its own budget, but with oversight by SPAC. By 1991, former SPAC president and CEO Herb Chesbrough was calling the museum “a wholly owned subsidiary of SPAC.” The two boards had several members in common. Chesbrough either fired or pressed to resign a succession of museum program directors. When Jacques Burgering was summarily fired in August 2003, dozens of volunteers gave up on the museum. Most did not come back during the subsequent term of Garret Smith.

Now, with the new management and board, volunteers have returned as docents, assistant curators of exhibitions, and workers in the museum’s bookstore and archives. SPAC’s forgiveness of the debt, called a win-win situation by Dake, cleans up the museum’s balance sheet and decreases SPAC’s level of liability for its operations.

Judy Fiore, assistant curator of the current major exhibition Dancing Rebels: the New Dance Group, 1930s to 1950s, said: “Anything that will help the museum is very welcome. The less we have to worry about financial issues, the more we can concentrate on promoting the wonderful art of dance.”

—Mae G. Banner

 

ROMAN SCANDALS: It’s too bad winter is gone. This is not just because the humid hell of a typical Northeastern summer will soon be upon us, but because the Clark Art Institute won’t be doing any more of their terrific Clark After Dark “theme” parties until summer is over. They’re going out in style, however, tomorrow night (Friday, April 7) at 8 PM with The Last Days of Pompeii. For a mere $10 ($8 members), you can enjoy free snacks and soft drinks—don’t worry, there’s a cash bar too—and partake of any number of decadent diversions, from gladiatorial combat in an inflatable ring to the ancient Roman game of knucklebones. There will be dancing, with music provided by DJ Kiana Green; Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus will be screened in the auditorium; and the galleries will be open until midnight. For more information, call the Clark at (413) 458-2303.

 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Remember 1981? Erastus Corning was still mayor of Albany, Ronald Reagan was president, George W. Bush was busy with another of his many failed ventures and Raiders of the Lost Ark was the most popular movie in America. Oh, and the Spectrum Theatres opened. On Thursday, March 30, the Spectrum celebrated 25 years of bringing a wide variety of films to downtown Albany with a big old birthday bash. Though I was unable to attend, I reflected on the memorable moviegoing experiences the Spectrum has provided through the years, from Sid and Nancy, Blue Velvet and Gold Diggers of 1935 (when they did revivals) to Inside Man, which is still playing this week (and you should see because it’s terrific).

 

—Shawn Stone

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