give me a home: the Eighth Steps Rosenkranz. Photo
by Teri Currie.
A highly-touted partnership between a local arts institution
and the city of Cohoes comes to an acrimonious end
It’s a safe bet that Margie Rosenkranz and Cohoes Mayor
John McDonald won’t be exchanging greeting cards this holiday
season. Two years ago, when Rosenkranz’s organization, the
Eighth Step, took up residence at the Cohoes Music Hall, she
and the mayor were enthusiastic partners, sharing high hopes
for their joint venture. But the Eighth Step has since had
a falling out with Cohoes officials, leaving the future of
the organization uncertain, and Rosenkranz with a bitter taste
in her mouth.
It began in the spring of 2000, when the city approached the
Eighth Step, a long-standing Albany nonprofit organization,
and invited it to move in and manage the Cohoes Music Hall.
At the time it seemed like a good match. The Eighth Step was
looking for a new home to resume its tradition as a leading
supporter of folk music in the Capital Region, and the music
hall was in need of a tenant. The hall had gone virtually
unused for years, and the city wanted someone who could revitalize
the theater to move in, hoping that the revitalization also
would spill over into lackluster downtown Cohoes.
So, in came the Eighth Step and an agreement was drawn up.
Rosenkranz, as executive director of the Eighth Step, would
manage the music hall for two years and have exclusive control
of booking. The nonprofit wouldn’t have to pay rent. To hold
up its end of the bargain, all the Eighth Step needed to do
was bring performances and audiences to the 125-year-old music
hall in the heart of downtown Cohoes.
Fast-forward to October 2002. Cohoes native Jim Charles and
his firm, C-R Productions, are now managing the music hall,
and the Eighth Step is once again homeless. Meanwhile, McDonald
and Rosenkranz give conflicting accounts of the events that
led up to the transfer of power.
According to the mayor, the city had certain expectations
for the music hall during the Eighth Step’s occupancy, and
it became apparent during the course of the two-year agreement
that those expectations weren’t going to be met. When the
city’s vision for the hall and downtown Cohoes hadn’t taken
shape, the city brought in C-R Productions.
role of the Eighth Step was to bring in outside performances
and to generate interest, income, and excitement downtown,”
says McDonald. “That didn’t happen.”
Rosenkranz believes the management change had more to do with
pressure on City Hall to bring in a local boy than the Eighth
Step’s attendance figures.
had really taken off financially,” Rosenkranz says, pointing
to a grant it had recently secured with the help of state
Assemblyman Ron Canestrari—$5000 in state money slated for
investment in the hall. The Eighth Step was also achieving
measurable success at the box office, Rosenkranz says, citing
a sold-out performance by singer-songwriter Greg Brown as
proof that the Eighth Step’s traditional supporters would
indeed make the trip to Cohoes to fill the music hall when
the right act was presented.
McDonald counters that Eighth Step performances rarely drew
large crowds, and that the types of obscure acts they routinely
booked brought out only a handful of fans.
It’s far too soon to tell what kind of impact C-R Productions
will have on Cohoes, but McDonald thinks that Jim Charles
will succeed where Rosenkranz and the Eighth Step failed.
is a lifelong Cohoser, who really wants to see success in
his hometown,” the mayor says.
In conjunction with its own shows, C-R Productions plans to
bring in outside companies to perform off-Broadway musicals
and plays. These types of shows, the mayor believes, will
draw big audiences and turn the music hall into an economic
Rosenkranz concedes that the city of Cohoes, as the owner
of the music hall, has the right to install any managing entity
it wants. But she takes issue with the way in which the change
took place. She says that the city never approached her about
the shift in management, or expressed any dissatisfaction
with the way she was running the hall. By the time she was
notified, Rosenkranz had already booked much of the her upcoming
season, only to see C-R Productions commandeer dates Rosenkranz
had already booked for Eighth Step acts.
McDonald dismisses claims that the management change took
place behind Rosenkranz’s back. He says that city officials
had several meetings with her and explained to Rosenkranz
that they weren’t excited about the way she was running the
hall. “Those meetings never seemed to resonate with her,”
Additionally, McDonald says that the city gave the Eighth
Step every opportunity to stay and work with the new management,
with Rosenkranz acting as an artistic director.
had no major issues with Margie’s dates,” McDonald says. Aside
from rescheduling one performance, the Eighth Step’s entire
season could have remained intact at the hall, he insists.
was looking forward to working with the Eighth Step,” says
Charles. “I was shocked when they left. I guess they decided
that we just wouldn’t be able to work together.”
But Rosenkranz says that offers made to the Eighth Step to
stay on in a limited capacity were vague. “We tried for weeks
to get information out of the mayor’s office about what role
we were going to play,” she says. “It was obvious that they
wanted to assume total control.”
C-R Productions’ programming at the music hall will begin
later this month with a Broadway-style revue to benefit the
Senior Wellness Program. As for the Eighth Step, Rosenkranz
is scrambling to rebook upcoming performances at other venues;
some have found refuge at RPI’s West Hall and at the Steamer
No. 10 theatre in Albany. Others, like the Eighth Step itself,
are still homeless.
very busy builders: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book
Picture Is Worth, Well—a Museum
Five College Area of Western Massachusetts will soon be home
to a new museum. Slated to open to the public on Nov. 22 in
Amherst is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Founded
by Carle, renowned author and illustrator of more than 70
children’s books (including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry
Caterpillar), and his wife Barbara, the 44,000-square-foot
museum is situated in a seven-and-a-half-acre apple orchard
on land acquired from Hampshire College.
The museum will be dedicated to celebrating and exploring
the role of visual art in children’s literature from around
the world. It will house three galleries that will feature
rotating exhibitions of the work of national and international
artists, as well as Carle’s own work. There will also be an
art studio offering hands-on activities, classes and demonstrations;
a reading library; and a 130-seat auditorium that will host
lectures, films and performances.
The museum opens with two exhibits: Maurice Sendak: Inside
and Out will be on display through Jan. 12, and The
Colorful World of Eric Carle will be up until April 23.
The museum is located at 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, Mass.
For additional information, call (413) 586-8934 or visit www.picturebookart.org.