Leadership at the historic Cohoes Music Hall may be changing in the coming months, as the City of Cohoes launched a search for a new management structure on Thursday.
The search comes after the Common Council of Cohoes voted earlier this week to terminate contracts with both the Music Hall Arts Alliance, which manages the Cohoes Music Hall, and with Park Playhouse, which presents theatrical productions at the Hall.
Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler said the move was prompted by a budget deficit because of COVID-19. While the city has furloughed some employees and reduced hours, voiding the contracts saved the city $200,000, according to Keeler.
“We are looking for a creative, innovative, management team to operate the Cohoes Music Hall in a financially sustainable way,” Keeler said in a statement.
The Music Hall Arts Alliance and Park Playhouse both plan to submit proposals, which are due by May 21.
“It’s a wrinkle that we didn’t necessarily expect, but I can’t say that I’m surprised because the financial picture is what it is. We all know what’s happening to the economy,” said Owen Smith, the producing artistic director of Park Playhouse.
“The good news is that in the arts we are pretty adept at improvising when resources are tight.”
Over the last four years, Park Playhouse has presented 19 shows at the Cohoes Music Hall, which has been closed since mid-March under New York State mandate. The theater company also plans to present the Broadway classic “Pippin” at the Hall in June.
“My intention is to put a deal in front of the city that they can say yes to, whether that puts us as the management company working with Holly Brown [of] the Music Hall Arts Alliance or whether it is some sort of two-part deal between them and us or it’s new management. I don’t know what the final picture is going to look like but I do know that we’re going to do everything we can to be an integral part of [it],” Smith said.
He agrees with Keeler’s decision to hold the search and to be as transparent throughout the process as possible. In an interview with The Gazette on Thursday, Smith also pointed out that the decision to void the contracts doesn’t mean that the Cohoes Music Hall is closing indefinitely.
“There’s a narrative that I’ve seen on social media and even in some traditional media that Keeler and his administration have decided to close the music hall and nothing can be further from the truth,” Smith said.
“I am planning for the time, perhaps 2021, hopefully, sooner, when the lights are back on and the seats are filled. I envision an eclectic mix of professional and community programs – theater, music, comedy, dance – that will appeal to people of all ages and interests. None of that would be possible if we did not take the actions we are taking now,” Keeler said.
In its search, the city will rate proposals based on the following: how the plan fits with the city’s mission to bring arts and commerce to downtown; how the plan contributes to the greater Cohoes arts community; how the proposed activities at the Music Hall would be integrated with programming for local youth and schools; the creativity, innovation, uniqueness or interest of the proposal; the depth of experience of the respondents and the anticipated direct financial impact of the proposal on the City of Cohoes.
The city hopes to secure a new management contract by August 1.