doors, new purpose: the Contemporary Artists Center
at Woodside Presbyterian Church.
Plus Internet Equals Arts Center
iron foundry of the indus trial revolution financed the Woodside
Church in South Troy, and now, in its third century, the 1869
gothic revival has a new life, partially funded by the technological
revolution: The deteriorating building is being restored with
grant money earned in online contests. Now occupied by the
Contemporary Artists Center, the hilltop church built by Troy
inventor Henry Burden is undergoing renovations for its new
service as an exhibition space. Relocating from the Berkshires,
the CAC purchased the church, its chapel, and a swath of the
Burden Ironworks grounds in 2007 [“Forging a Renaissance,”
April 9, 2009]. The chapel was converted to an artists’ residence
last year, but the larger—and more historic—church needed
major exterior repairs, along with modern capabilities that
might’ve been beyond the fund-raising reach of a small nonprofit.
Last month, the CAC won a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh
Project’s community contest.
tremendously exciting,” says Hezzie Phillips, the center’s
executive director. “I almost cried. To work so hard with
a team of people, and then seeing your name up there as having
won, it’s extremely rewarding.” The grant is financing the
painstaking work of repairing the church’s peak gables, which
includes removing the locally quarried blue-sandstone veneer
stones and returning each one to its exact position.
our first real step out into the community,” says Phillips
of the contest. “We hadn’t really done events, and a lot of
people found out about what we were doing because of it. I
was overwhelmed by the amount of support.”
and CAC project manager John Johanson were searching for a
new home for the center, they scouted within an hour’s radius
of their former location in an old mill building in North
Adams. “We looked in Hancock, we even considered Vermont,”
says Phillips. “Troy is exactly one hour, and John knew about
the buildings because he was a student at [Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute].” Phillips adds that in addition to the reputation
of Troy’s artistic solidarity, both of them were attracted
to the buildings’ grand romantic history, especially the story
of Burden being inspired to construct a church in memory of
his devoted wife, Helen. The center purchased the property
from Burden’s great-great grandchildren. “They wanted us to
have it,” says Phillips of Ada Gates Patton (a former art
dealer) and Christopher Burden. With the assistance of the
Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway, the Burden heirs resumed
ownership of the property and sold it to the CAC to save it
from demolition. Phillips says that integrating abandoned
old structures into their communities is part of the center’s
mission, and that historic preservation and environmental
sustainability is what she does. “Some artists paint or do
sculpture,” she explains. “My art is rehabilitating spaces
for them to work in.”
keystroke of good fortune, CAC won another online grant three
weeks ago, from Chase Bank. “The continued support of the
community in helping us to attain it is so inspiring,” says
Phillips. The additional $20,000 will finance the installation
of plumbing, including bathrooms, and electricity. Aside from
relocating some pews, however, the interior will remain unaltered.
“The main building is covered by a historic covenant, but
we love it almost exactly as it is,” says Phillips. “It’s
simple and serene,” says Johanson, noting that the Presbyterian
church doesn’t contain any human figures or gothic extravagances,
and what embellishment there is consists of oak leaves, fleurs-de-lis,
and other non-ecclesiastical motifs. “It isn’t over-the-top
or baroque,” Phillips continues. “The décor won’t compete
with the art.” Its conversion to an exhibition hall is expected
to be completed by fall 2011.
heirs did give the CAC permission to modify the chapel, a
reconstruction of the original, which burned down in 1907.
Now bustling with activity from resident artists, the chapel
boasts an airy, open floor plan that includes lofted bedrooms
and workspaces for video and sound technologies. The interior
is complemented by a seemingly floating spiral staircase custom
built in Maine.
is a new chapter for the CAC,” says Phillips. Aside from expanding
the number of residents, the center’s new home will also allow
for year-round programming for the first time. “The North
Adams building didn’t have heat, and it was really a summer
community,” she says. “We’re tripling the amount of programming
that we can do, we’re expanding the volume, and we can be
more ambitious in programming, which is really exciting. We’ll
have work specific to the site, large-scale installations,
debut works, all media, and dance. And more of an emphasis
of integrating the history of the local community than ever
before,” she adds.
is CAC at Woodside a new life for the Burden properties, it
also brings their romantic history full circle: Phillips and
Johanson have bought a house not far from where Henry and
Helen once lived, and are to be married in October.
to the cat: Hugo’s Living Room Discussion at
TRANQUILITY? Hey, it’s 1st Friday time again in Albany! As
usual, lots of good stuff is going on. For example . . . Just
in over the electronic transom comes word of the latest exhibit
at Albany Center Galleries (39 Columbia St., Albany).
Titled Domestic Dramas, it features works by
David Austin, Erin Colligan, Ashley Cooper, Colleen Cox, Benjamin
Entner, Gary Glinski, Scott Hotaling, Metroland production
manager Kim Hugo, Gina Occhiogrosso (who also has a show at
Hudson’s Nicole Fiacco Gallery), Catherine Quinones-Austin,
G.G. Roberts, Denise Saint-Onge and RFW. The reception is
tomorrow (Aug. 6) from 6-8 PM. Call 462-4775 for info.
INSIDE THE RINGS It’s all about sound at Grand Street Community
Arts this Saturday (Aug. 7), as they host The Conquest
of Saturn, a daylong festival of audio art, at their
HQ in the former St. Anthony’s Church (68 Grand St., Albany).
From noon to 6 PM, a program of surround sound (5.1) artworks
will be presented as “cinema in the dark.” The program lasts
110 minutes, and will be repeated three times. Wander in when
you will. From 7 PM until “late night,” there will be an improvised
acoustic music show featuring Ed Bear, Lea Bertucci,
Michael Peters and Tianna Kennedy. Admission
is free. For complete info, visit free103point9.org/ events/2386.
LIVE CREATIVELY Aside from being sound advice, “live creatively”
is the theme of Saratoga Arts’ first ever event for
Saratoga First Night. They are looking for “installation
and visual artists to help transform the streets of Saratoga
into an open, public art space. . . . The goal is for those
who attend to be an integral part of the creative experience
as much as possible.” Hint: Think “ephemeral” and “not expensive.”
Please submit your ideas to firstnightinfo@saratoga arts.org,
or mail your proposals to Saratoga Arts, 320 Broadway, Saratoga
Springs NY, 12866. Call 584-4132 for more info.
HOP ON THE BUS, GUS? It’s the 40th anniversary of the creation
of CDTA, aka the Capital District Transportation Authority.
[Editor’s note to CDTA: Happy Birthday!] To celebrate, CDTA
is holding a YouTube video contest, and they have invited
the “public to submit their own video demonstrating how CDTA
services have made a positive difference in their lives or
within our community.” [Another editor’s note to CDTA: I rely
on the No. 3 Quail Street Belt route; it’s great.] The winner,
judged by public voting, CDTA and peeps from the Ballston
Spa Film Festival, will win a $300 Best Buy gift card. For
contest rules, deadlines and guidelines visit cdta.org.
PICTURES WANTED Hold on; this is a very specific request.
Were you at Sting’s SPAC performance on July 31? Did
you see the belly dancer who performed during “Desert Rose?”
Well, that was Capital Region dancer- choreographer-teacher
Habiba (aka Donna Marie Tritico), who got a last-minute
call from Sting’s people and was hired to dance for this,
the last show of the tour. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have
any pics of her performance on the SPAC stage . . . and would
like some. If you were there and happened to take some iPhone
pics or whatever, please contact Habiba at email@example.com
or bellydance albany.weebly.com.