what’s getting to be a heartbreakingly common occurrence,
yet another local arts space is about to shut its doors. Changing
Spaces, a gallery and listening room located at 306 Hudson
Ave. in Albany’s Center Square, has been forced to close due
to a lack of funding. Although an exact date was not available,
they are expected to cease operation sometime within the next
Changing Spaces was the brainchild of Sandra Williams, a local
sculptor, and her husband, Phil. The gallery has played host
to an impressive array of talent since opening to the public
in early 2001, including exhibits by local and regional visual
artists, performances from many area musicians, film screenings,
and a number of small theater productions. With an extremely
intimate setting—25 people could fill the room—and a tight-knit
group of supporters and patrons, Changing Spaces quickly became
a favorite venue among the local arts community. Its closing
delivers a strong blow to a scene that has lost many an outlet
in recent years.
Miss Mary’s Art Space, a nonprofit collective, has been without
a home since the summer of 2002. Laura Koennecke, one of the
proprietors of Miss Mary’s, laments the loss of Changing Spaces.
“Albany’s lost yet another showcase for the breathtaking diversity
and quality of creative work our city has to offer. Half the
time Albanians have to . . . schlogg across the river to Troy
to enjoy locally produced art outside of a bar or church.
Our city . . . is a little bit crappier for having lost Changing
Following a stint at the now-defunct Café Web on Madison Avenue,
area poet Dan Wilcox moved his successful monthly poetry open
mike to Changing Spaces after meeting Phil Williams at a party,
and he remained there for 34 straight months. Wilcox is quick
to divert the blame toward the economy: “It’s like any other
small arts space in corporate America. There’s just not the
money out there for these small galleries.” Wilcox will host
the gallery’s final open mike on Thursday, Jan. 15, with featured
poet and author Simone Felice. The monthly readings will move
to the Lark Street Bookshop beginning Feb. 20.
The gallery’s closing also directly affects what was to be
the second annual Fire and Ice Arts Walk. According to their
outgoing phone message, the event will be canceled, ostensibly
due to the same lack of funding that put the gallery under.
Last year’s Fire and Ice took place at 10 venues and featured
six film screenings, plus displays by 50 local artists and
performances by 30 musicians, dancers and poets. Whether or
not the event will be taken up by another party and staged
in the future remains to be seen.
The support for the Williamses and their efforts has been
overwhelming in the face of such unfortunate news. “[Phil
and Sandra] were always really visible and supportive . .
. that’s the glue that makes any sort of scene work,” said
local musician and artist Jason Martin upon learning of the
closing. “You need many individual people contributing what
they can. Without that glue, the larger venues and organizations
Ed Atkeson, co-curator of Firlefanz Gallery on Lark Street,
seconded Martin’s all-for-one, one-for-all attitude. “They
filled a unique niche and were certainly an asset to the neighborhood.
I look forward to . . . what they’ll be doing next. They are
very energetic self-starters and I’m sure we’ll be hearing
from them again.” Koennecke, on behalf of her Miss Mary’s
cohorts, beamed, “We admire Phil and Sandra for fighting the
good fight for Albany and its artists.”
Changing Spaces will open its final show, an exhibit of recent
work by local photographer Shaina Marron, on Jan. 23.
Phil and Sandra Williams were unavailable for comment.