Saratoga Springs

SPAC readies for ‘ambitious season’ with facility upgrades

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Ahead of the venue’s first full season since 2019, leaders of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center announced facility improvements, including a new dance floor and sound system, at an annual meeting on Thursday. 

The much-needed updates were decades in the making. The dance floor replaces one the New York City Ballet has used for several decades and the sound system replaces equipment that dates back to the 1990s. SPAC has also purchased 150 new music stands and chairs, which for the last 55 years it has had to borrow from a local school whenever the Philadelphia Orchestra came to perform. 

An assisted listening system was also installed to improve accessibility and renovations are in the works backstage to modernize the dressing rooms and workspaces for artists and crew members. 

The improvements come as SPAC readies for what President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol notes will be the “biggest, most ambitious season SPAC has presented in recent decades.”

Its resident companies, including the New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, are slated to return with full productions and residencies. The Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, along with Caffè Lena @ SPAC and a popular concert lineup presented by Live Nation, will also return.

“We have significantly expanded the number and diversified the offering of new works and new artists including a record number of SPAC premieres, a record number of new voices and a record number of SPAC commissions,” Sobol added.

“Like so many individuals and organizations, the last two years have tested us mightily, but they have also called upon our deeper wells of creativity, compassion, resilience and imagination. So that now, in summer 2022, in a full return of a SPAC renewed and rejuvenated, we are like our region’s endangered Karner Blue butterflies – re-emerging beautiful and glorious after being cocooned for so long,” Sobol said.

During Thursday’s meeting, Sobol also discussed SPAC’s financial standing, noting that the organization ended 2021 with $4 million in operating reserves, and has been able to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels. 

“This unprecedented situation has meant for the first time ever SPAC has been able to restore and renew itself across its whole operation including reinvestment in its resident companies,” Sobol said. 

The organization’s total operating income for 2021 was $10.14 million and its total operating expenses were $5.92 million. The surplus was attributed to a reduction in programming expenses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as fundraising efforts and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and Paycheck Protection Program.

Two million of the surplus were committed to capital improvements and operational needs, while the remaining $2 million will be used to establish what SPAC calls a Fund for the Future. It will support classical companies that SPAC presents, along with arts education programs. It will also help to offset the rising costs associated with supplies and equipment and its annual shortfall on the four weeks of classical amphitheater residencies, which regularly exceeds $2 million and is projected to be higher this year.

“Growing the Fund for the Future will be one aspect of our long-range strategic planning,” said Sobol said. “Today, however, we are taking the first step to simply and boldly reaffirm our commitment to our signature programming – and to what has become our most important work in the community – arts education.”

SPAC has expanded its education program in the last few years to serve 50,000 students annually. This season, the Adirondack Trust Company Festival of Young Artists will return on June 5 with a celebration of more than 500 of the Capital Region’s dancers, musicians, singers, poets and visual artists. Throughout the summer, there will also be NYCB workshops and the Classical Kids program, which provides two free tickets per family. Summer Nights at SPAC, which serves Schenectady families, will return with five free events.

Thursday’s annual meeting also introduced two new board members: Raimundo C. Archibold, Jr. and Sally Bott. Archibold is the Managing Director at Schwartz Heslin Group, an Albany-based investment banking and advisory services firm. Bott is an operating partner at Atlas and a recent resident of Saratoga Springs, who has more than 30 years of human resources experience.

Here’s a glance at SPAC’s 2022 season dates:

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
June 12 – August 21
At Pitney Meadows Community Farm

New York City Ballet
July 12 – 16

Opera Saratoga | “Sweeney Todd”
June 29-30

The Philadelphia Orchestra
July 27- August 13

For tickets and more information, visit SPAC.org.

Categories: Art

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