WAMC sees a bright future
for its brand-new performing arts studio
GARCIA DE ROSIER, Staff writer
First published: Sunday,
February 10, 2002
-- Three years after announcing plans to open a state-of-the-art performing
arts studio, WAMC Northeast Public Radio is ready to show off its new facility,
a building it hopes will attract world-class talent for live, on-air music,
debates, lectures and children's shows.
During grand-opening celebrations this week, the station will present a
sampling of what's to come with daily events including swing, classical,
folk and salsa music, children's programming and live talk programs. And
if Executive Director Alan Chartock has his way, similar events will continue
at the WAMC Performing Arts Studio seven days a week.
JACOBS / TIMES UNION
The interior of WAMC's new
performing arts studio.
"This is extraordinarily exciting,'' Chartock said during a recent conversation
at the new studio. "Here we are in inner-city Albany, and this opportunity
(to open a studio) came along, and we just took it, and the rest took care
What Chartock calls a supernatural "guiding hand'' seems to have brought
plenty of good luck to the project. Listeners from across the seven-state
broadcast area of WAMC's network of stations helped achieve a capital campaign
goal of more than $2 million in record time last year. (The new studio
cost $1.3 million.)
"It shows people are incredibly invested in this radio station,'' Chartock
The project began in 1998 when WAMC was approached to buy the empty
Fleet Bank building on the corner of Central Avenue and Quail Street, across
from WAMC's offices. Though its initial offer was turned down, the bank
accepted the station's second offer -- $75,000 -- and the building was
sold by the end of that year. After planning was completed, the station
paid for the renovation of the 10,000-square-foot building with the help
of donations from foundations, businesses and individuals, including a
$300,000 matching grant from the Lennox Foundation and $100,000 from the
city of Albany.
Envision Architects and U.W. Marx Construction Co. teamed with the station
to transform the building into a state-of-the-art studio, complete with
a multipurpose, 200-seat auditorium named after donor Linda Norris of Great
Barrington, Mass.; control and dressing rooms; and a practice area. The
station kept intact the bank's original brass gate and vault, and converted
the safety-deposit area into the "green room,'' where performers prepare
before a show. The station also installed a 16-by-12-foot retractable screen
for showing films.
WAMC plans to partner with local arts organizations to host cultural
festivals, speakers' series and educational shows. The opportunities for
presenting a spectrum of fare on the air are almost limitless, said Selma
Kaplan, WAMC's assistant executive director, who believes the variety of
live shows will improve the station's programming. Every event that takes
place in the auditorium has the potential to be broadcast. Events also
may be aired on WAMC's two Web sites, http://www.thepublicradiostation.com
and http://www.wamc.org. Admission to the new studio is free this week;
thereafter, tickets will cost from $5 to $25.
"We're dedicated to bringing better radio, and this was an opportunity
to do it,'' Chartock said. "And we're doing this using existing staff and
After weeks of interviewing candidates to direct the new studio, the
station decided to split the responsibility between three existing employees:
Dona Frank, director of marketing and development; Kaplan; and April Kiss,
formerly a receptionist and now an arts administrator.
In addition to improving local programming, the new cultural venue could
help revive a section of Central Avenue known for its low-end retailers
and ubiquitous double-parkers.
"This is a perfect example of everything we're working for,'' said Anthony
Capece, executive director of Central Avenue Business Improvement District.
"It brings people to the avenue and they become involved with other stores
Capece described WAMC's studio as a catalyst for a four-block section
of Central Avenue the BID wants to turn into an arts and entertainment
hub. The performing arts studio can fuel the beginning of that growth,
"This neighborhood still has challenges, but it's getting better.''
Chartock said. To combat crime, WAMC installed a high-tech surveillance
camera that constantly sweeps up and down Central Avenue and Quail Street.
"This street has nowhere to go but up,'' Chartock said. "Opening this new
studio gives us a chance to anchor Central Avenue.''
Week of free events marks opening
Grand opening events for the WAMC Performing Arts Studio, 339
Central Ave., are free. Audiences are asked to arrive no later than 15
minutes before the listed time. Seating is limited. Call 465-5233 for reservations.
11 a.m. Ribbon-cutting with WAMC Executive Director Alan Chartock and
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. Refreshments and tours.
2 p.m. Live ``Vox Pop'' with host Joe Donahue and guest Rachael
8 p.m. Dance Flurry preview with Teresa Broadwell's Thrivin' On
a Riff, Spare Parts and Alex Torres and The Latin Kings.
11:30 a.m. ``Performance Place Live'' with Susan Arbetter, Joe Donahue
and Paul Elisha with guests The Lee Shaw Trio, Abba Bogin and Masako Yanagita.
Also, Bett Williams and John Hodian, and Vladimir Pleshakov and Elena Winther.
10 a.m. Community Partner Day with the Albany City School District,
grades K-4. Kids' musical entertainers David Grover and The Big Bear Band.
1 p.m. Interview with WNYT Ch. 13 anchor Ed Dague, hosted by Alan
9 p.m. ``Dancing on the Air'' celebrates Mardi Gras and Valentine's
Day with Jay Ungar, Molly Mason and the ``Dancing on the Air'' Orchestra
with special guests Professor Louie, the Crowmatix and Laurel Masse, Vinnie
Martucci, Mark Dziuba, Mark Rust and T. Xiques.
8 p.m. ``The Clearwater Sloop Show'' with Sean Madden and guests Pat
Humphries, Tom Winslow, Kim and Reggie Harris and John Herald.
9 a.m. ``The Media Project'' with Alan Chartock, Channel 13 new anchor
Lydia Kulbida and Times Union Managing Editor Rex Smith.
1 p.m. The Zucchini Brothers.
10 a.m. David Grover and The Big Bear Band.
8 p.m. ``Hudson River Sampler.'' An evening of folk music with
Wanda Fischer, Priscilla Herdman and Rani Arbo.
3 p.m. Ken Cooper harpsichord concert