1) Please state your name, what organization you represent and your role in that organization.
My name is Louise Kerr and I am currently the Executive Director at Saratoga Arts in Saratoga Springs, NY.
2) What is the organization’s core mission and who are you primarily serving in the execution of that mission?
Saratoga Arts’ mission is to enrich the region by cultivating a vibrant arts community and by ensuring that the arts are accessible to all.
We serve the capital region and beyond both at 320 Broadway with our 14,000 square foot facility that houses gallery and exhibition spaces, a 110-seat black box theater, painting, drawing, weaving, printmaking studios, and now a music/studio rehearsal voice lab, all geared towards community access and use, collaborations through our many partner organizations like the libraries, visitor center, train stations and more for artists to show and sell their work. We hosted two ‘Art in The Park‘ events this year seeing well over 8,000 visitors and have rolling pop-up markets and events throughout the year. We have educational kids camps that run each quarter with our summer season being the longest at 10 months for kids and teens aged 5 to 18. Each quarter we offer teen and adult classes in life drawing, painting, improv, workshops in printing, weaving, jewelry making, and more – basically if a teaching artist can think it up we can help facilitate a place for them to make that class or workshop come to life.
We are also responsible as the regrant organization for NYSCA for Saratoga, Fulton, and Montgomery counties, to distribute direct grant funding support to individual artists, and community and city organizations. We help fund many annual projects like art and book festivals, musical and theatrical performances, spoken/written word projects, and art exhibitions, just to name a few! In 2022 we dispersed $149,000 in grants and to date, we have given more than $1.3 million dollars directly into the community. Our cycle for 2023 just opened so if you live in any of those three counties, please visit our website and let us help fund your artistic project.
3) You mentioned to me about annual themes that are being developed as a structure for arts organizations in Saratoga to collaborate on, can you tell me more about that and what the focus for 2023 will be? Why do you feel this approach is important?
I became the ED in August of 2020 and long before I arrived there were collaborations within the arts and culture organizations. The pandemic just expedited the need for everyone to work together and since then I would say those ties grew stronger and more rapidly.
It just naturally evolved as geographically Saratoga Arts is a central, easily accessible community hub that has sat on the corner of congress park for 25 years. All of our relationships with grantee organizations along with the larger institutions like SPAC, The Tang, Yaddo, Caffe Lena and so many more, have continued to flourish and work together.
Beekman Street Arts District continues to grow and our arts and culture opening weekend “All Together Now” in June was a resounding success. Especially with the additional support and collaboration of the Mayor and city, the Chamber of Commerce, Discover Saratoga, and the Downtown Business Association, all of the many world-class cultural events that happen throughout Saratoga Springs are finally beginning to be noticed and 2023 is shaping up nicely with collaborative themes of ‘The Earth, people and place, migration and change‘… like I said in the beginning, this strong network already existed but I was just lucky in my timing of arriving when I did and being immediately embraced and accepted as everyone worked together to overcome the pandemic. I think that being part of something like Saratoga Arts that not only is a resource for the community but also a creative connector in a chain of organizations all pulling in the same direction, is vital for the richness of where you call home and key in the expansion and success of the arts especially.
4) What does a typical day look like for you?
The art center is currently a work in progress and in a time of exponential growth. I am usually doing 15 things at once and going 100 mph… emails and text messages start dinging around 7 am. On any given day at SA there can be 200+ visitors coming through, artists of all ages making all kinds of creative work, lots of rambunctious 3-5-year-olds running around the gallery and in the park, a set being built in the theater, actors rehearsing, someone learning to playing a piano, some sort of cleaning and organizing happening by amazing volunteers, meetings in person with board members, contractors, partner organizations, supporting members and donors, zooms with government agencies, budgets, grant deadlines, running across town to attend an event, and never ending planning and paperwork. Then there is making time for my small but mighty staff, who also are wearing many hats and all working on multiple projects to keep us moving ever forwards. It’s usually 7 or 8 pm by the time I force myself to stop working.
5) I believe you have some exciting news about new facility-related upgrades that you and your team are working on, can you share a bit about what those will be and the timeline?
The crazy hours and frenzied work schedules are in large part due to the fact the art center is going through a complete transformation. It was a little bit tired and worn from so many years of use and not enough consistent maintenance or repairs when I arrived so we have partnered with the city to do extensive renovations and updates over the next three years. The city will focus on mainly structural and exterior renovations like gutters, drainage, roofing, HVAC upgrades and such and we have pledged to raise $700,000 to help update everything internally to reinvent the galleries and makers’ spaces, install new modern equipment and make this building multi-purpose and bursting with creativity 24-7. To date, we have already invested almost $200,000 into the building and with the support of key donations and sponsors, a new extended long-term lease and city partnership, 2023/24 is looking very exciting.
In the immediate near future we are focused on the completion of a few things including an environmentally safe printmaking studio and a rehearsal/music and voice lab. These are already beginning to be used while we expand equipment and build-outs, thanks in part to generous donations of presses and a rehearsal grant from NYSCA allowing us to extend over 1000 hours of studio time for free through December 2022. These spaces will be community accessible as well as places to teach, learn and do specialty workshops.
Also slated for completion by the end of 2022 is re-establishing Film and screenings on a regular basis in our theater thanks to a generous donation of equipment from the now-dissolved film forum. This is very exciting and much requested by our community not just because it opens the doors for so many collaborations with new partnerships, creative programming with filmmakers, small documentaries and other screenings, animation creation, immersive film/performances, and more, but is something that lends itself well to a community center like ours. It offers an intimate and connected regular community meeting place, not intimidating or generic like a big movie theater space, somewhere to nurture constructive dialog and debate, rooted and filled with creative and interesting work from all genres, accessibility for entry level students at the beginning of a careers through to seasoned professionals. I really am looking forward to seeing more people discovering the versatility of what they can do at our facility, and hopefully, be inspired to participate and create!
IG | FB: @saratogaarts
This article is presented through a content collaboration with ACE and CapNY.
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