Schuyler Mansion among reporter’s top 2020 stories

SCHUYLER MANSION STATE HISTORIC SITEThe Schuyler Mansion in Albany, home to Phillip Schuyler during the second half of the 18th century, is pictured.

The Schuyler Mansion in Albany, home to Phillip Schuyler during the second half of the 18th century, is pictured.

It’s safe to say this year was unlike any other I’ve experienced.

As an arts reporter, my schedule is typically filled with covering concerts, theater productions, album releases, exhibits, and community events. Only a handful of those continued beyond March, and even then many took a virtual format.

However, there were still plenty of stories to report on, albeit ones that aren’t typically on my beat. Here are a few stories that represented that change and shaped my year.

Schuyler Mansion works to bring clarity to Alexander Hamilton’s role as an enslaver 

This story had quite a few ripple effects.

I interviewed Jessie Serfilippi of the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site about her research “As Odious and Immoral a Thing: Alexander’s Hidden History as an Enslaver” and wrote about it back in October. A few weeks later, news of her research spread far and wide, making it into the likes of the New York Times, The Guardian and other outlets.

It also made its way to Douglas Hamilton, a descendent of Alexander Hamilton, and led to a subsequent story on a research paper that argues against the Schuyler Mansion’s research.

These stories spoke to how the country is grappling with its history, especially when it comes to the legacies of the Founding Fathers.

Clifton Park artist’s portraits honor health care workers

With a few strokes of a paintbrush, Clifton Park artist Steve Derrick conjured the pain and the incredible challenges that healthcare workers faced this year. In the spring, Derrick offered to paint the portraits of any healthcare workers on the job free of charge. The response was perhaps unlike anything he anticipated and he had requests coming in from across the globe.

His work is powerful, featuring the cuts, bruises and sheer exhaustion of nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff. With each, he found ways to incorporate the person’s story; whether it was about working despite inadequate personal protective equipment or watching trucks pull up to a hospital to pick up those who had died from the coronavirus.

They’re gut-wrenching stories and the portraits honor the ways that these healthcare workers are helping others.

“Look [at] how heroic these people are. They’re putting in time and time again all this energy and effort and on top of that, they’re hearing all this stuff that’s going on in the media . . . I’d like to put some spotlight on how amazing all these guys are,” Derrick said.

Albany lab tech sheds light on truths, controversies surrounding virus testing

In April, which now seems like a lifetime away, frustrations and concerns involving coronavirus tests were running high.

It’s part of the reason why this story about Michale Golec of the Molecular Diagnostics Lab at Albany Medical Center was among my favorites to report on in the “Rising to the Challenge” section that we published in the spring, which highlighted people working on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Golec, who is a medical technologist, was able to break down some of the challenges behind coronavirus testing. He also spoke to what it was like to develop assays in the lab and some of the misconceptions people had about testing.

‘Amplified Voices’ creating mural on South Pearl Street in Albany 

This was one of a few good news stories I got to report on this year. Amplified Voices brought together young students of color and mentors to create thoughtful public artwork in Albany. This summer mentors workshopped with students over the course of a few days and then painted over the boarded-up McDonald’s on South Pearl Street with a mural that stretched across 45 feet.

“This is a blight on the community…Why not use it to beautify your community? Why not make it a piece of the community instead of just an abandoned McDonald’s?” said Jade Warrick, the founder of Amplified Voices.

Theater companies grappling with uncertain future due to covid-19 

At the start of 2020, most theaters had robust schedules planned out for the year. By the time March hit, every show was either canceled or postponed. I spoke with several theater directors in May about how they had to rethink their plans and ask themselves “Can the show still go on?”

“Our part is art. It’s to tell the story. We can still tell the story. . . we just have to be a little more creative,” Carol Max, of Curtain Call Theatre told me. Eight months later and her words still ring true.

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