By JAIME STUDD
Recorder News Staff
What began as little more than a unique idea to enliven the city's cultural community emerged Monday afternoon as a thriving reality, as city officials, residents and the area's artistic community celebrated the official grand opening of Creative Connections Arts Center.
The event was held in conjunction with the second annual Mohawk-Hudson Arts Festival, a week-long series of artistic and cultural events celebrated throughout the area.
"This is an opportunity for us to start sharing the space with the community," said Julia Caro, vice-president of Creative Connections Board of Trustees.
The grand opening marks the culmination of months of planning, renovations and navigating logistical hurdles that began with a meeting called by Mayor Ann Thane to explore the possibility of establishing a center for artistic expression in the city of Amsterdam.
From that small meeting in the basement of the former St. Mary's Church on East Main Street, which now houses the organization, the city's first and only cultural arts center was born.
"It's been an interesting process, but a very productive one and a very successful one," said Creative Connections Arts Center Board of Trustees President Thom Georgia. "It's truly been a community effort."
The arts center features several rooms that will be available for rent by artists from all mediums. It will also serve as a space in which artists can conduct classes.
In addition, the board hopes to begin establishing its own programming initiatives, providing educational opportunities for area residents to explore both the visual and performing arts.
Live productions, art classes, lectures, films and family programs are among some of the amenities the center hopes to offer.
"It's about creating an educational structure in which we support all facets of the arts," board member Janet Tanguay said.
"By embracing those types of avenues, you enrich a community," Georgia said. "It becomes a bedrock for creativity."
"I think it fills a huge void in Amsterdam," added board of trustees member Patrice VIvirito. "It benefits the community as a whole."
Thane said she was excited to see the initiative finally taking shape.
"There's a lot that we'll see happening in the coming months," said Thane. "Any additional opportunities in the way of artistic expression is good for kids, it's good for families, it's good for everyone.
"This community focuses so much on athletics. This completes the full spectrum," Thane added. "It meets the artistic needs of the community."
Monday's grand opening celebration featured a gallery show, a film series presented by board of trustees member Ryan Decker, a performance by the Shooting Stars Dance Academy, and the creation of the community mosaic with Linda Emden.
Though utilizing space in partnership with the city of Amsterdam, Creative Connections is incorporated as a private, non-profit organization. It is currently responsible only for paying utilities in the building, but as the foundation grows, board members hope to possibly one day be able to purchase the space.
Though the city had originally explored the idea of running the center itself, a lack of funding and restrictions on municipalities conducting fundraising campaigns made that the least feasible option.
As a private organization, Creative Connections is allowed to organize membership and fundraising campaigns, as well as apply for grants.
The Creative Connections Board of Trustees is currently in the midst of a membership campaign. The Friends of the Arts Center is a community-based volunteer group established to help "support operations and events through volunteer, recruitment, fundraising and positive-image promotion to the community."
"Friends" of the center will receive discounts on program costs, priority notice of events, a monthly newsletter, VIP tickets for signature events and access to special workshops.
To become a member, make a donation, sponsor an event or simply volunteer, email the center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creative Connections next event will be a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration on Nov. 2.