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Putting heads together: CDFI.

PHOTO: Alicia Solsman

A Federation of Creativity


You might have heard the name, or you may have walked past its wildly decorated storefront window on Madison Avenue between Lark and Dove streets. The Capital District Federation of Ideas has become, in the year and a half it has been around, one of the most active DIY community arts collectives in the area.

A registered nonprofit corporation, CDFI is headquartered at a space they call Point 5, the former location of the Deluxe Pie Company, at 383½ Madison Ave.—hence, Point 5. Since its opening last June, Point 5 has housed scores of CDFI activities, lectures, and events such as a Banana Party, a potluck Love Dinner, and a winter prom in August. The quirky community space also has a free clothing exchange, a book-lending library, and weekly movie nights.

The Federation began in October 2005 with an idea of Bryan Hamill and his friends, who had recently graduated from college, to start a nonprofit. This group of friends was already widely known in the area punk-music scene—before they cooked up plans for CDFI they were playing in the experimental band Amazing Plaid. Three original members of Amazing Plaid, Hamill, Tom Wilk, and Heater Williams, have since begun a new electro-punk musical project called Zahnarzt. The sound and stage presence of both bands inform the general approach to CDFI: atypical, edgy, and spontaneous.

At the beginning of 2006, acquiring a building space was a long-shot idea for CDFI’s founding members. They expected to be holding meetings in the living rooms of different friends’ apartments for at least another year, but “then this place fell into our laps and we had to take it,” said co-founder Wilk at a weekly meeting.

“We have small weekly accomplishments in CDFI,” said Wilk. “Last week we got a recycling bin.” Another cofounder, Kim Eisen, is currently in the process of applying for a $7,900 general operating grant from the New York State Counsel on the Arts.

The group has also just launched its voluntary-membership system called the Neighborhood, which will help CDFI grow financially and socially. By donating dues of $5 per month, members chip in to cover the more than $6,300 total cost of renting and heating Point 5 per year. “Anyone who joins the Neighborhood will have the pleasurable feeling of knowing that they have helped contribute to the financial nondeath of CDFI,” said Wilk.

The landlord of 383½ Madison Ave. has recently offered to pay the cost of hiring an architect to draw up a new floor plan for the building so that the Department of Safety can issue a permit allowing Point 5 to always be an open space for public use.

But, to Wilk and company, money is just the boring stuff. CDFI has a full schedule of great fun for the coming months; the past few weeks in particular have been “packed to the brim,” as member Cait Denny said.

Last Saturday the group hosted its second Craft Derby, a daylong event at which local crafters sold their unordinary goodies. The chilled-out derby offered button earrings, radical T-shirts and books, hand-concocted bath salts, nipple postcards, lacquer screen-print patches, and Wild Ass Tonic hot sauce, among boatloads of other non-grandmother-like crafts. Keep your eyes peeled for more monthly craft derbies in the Spring—they plan to take the event outside to the sidewalk when the weather gets warmer.

Tonight (March 15) at 8 PM CDFI will be holding an Ides of March Date Rodeo, a fundraiser auction which not only prizes dates but also gift certificates to Spectrum 8 Theatres, Debbie’s Kitchen, and Ben & Jerry’s. With a fog machine, a raised catwalk, and DJ Kellan Scott spinning tracks all night long, the Date Rodeo at Point 5 just might be the hippest party around. Attendees and participants are encouraged to dress outrageously for this event because the Albany All-Star Roller Derby girls will be there.

On Saturday at 4 PM at Point 5 you can hear R.M. Englehardt, Poet Essence, and Joseph Krausman as part of the Behind the Egg reading series, and on Tuesday, March 20 at 7:30 PM you can read your own poetry at CDFI’s bi-weekly Open Mic without a Mic, hosted by Algorhythm.

CDFI fully encourages any members of the public community to join the group, attend any of its events or meetings, or stop in Point 5 just to say “hey.” After all they are a federation of ideas, and new neighbors with new ideas are exactly what keep the group going.

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—Alexandra Hoefinger

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