Michael Blau knows as well as anyone that the entertainment industry is made up of more than just actors, directors and a handful of overworked and underpaid riggers, gaffers and grips.
“There are so many avenues for creative output and careers, and people need to think outside the box,” said Blau, a senior vice-president of Sales and Business Development with Adirondack Studios in Argyle. “Careers as illustrators, musicians, the culinary arts are all part of the conversation. They’re all part of what we’re calling the Creative Economy. We live in quite a rich area for the arts — and there are jobs out there.”
The Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy, a coalition of like-minded organizations created in 2014, was one of the sponsors of an event called the Creative Economy SATE Academy Day, held recently at Proctors in Schenectady in February. Arts organizations of all stripes were at the event.
“We found that creative industries in our eight counties in the Capital Region were employing 30,000 people,” said Maureen Sager, director of the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy. “We’re the sixth-largest employer, just behind higher education, and we learned that the Capital Region has the second highest concentration of creative jobs amongst metropolitan regions of similar size.”
Sager was rattling off numbers documented in 2013 by Mt. Auburn Associates, a group whose mission statement reads as follows: “To help broad-based economic development planning to more focused strategic plans involving workforce development, the creative economy, entrepreneurship and small business development, development finance, and industry ‘cluster’ development.”
As you might expect, aside from hosting the event in February, Proctors is also heavily involved in this collaborative effort to create jobs in the industry and to let people know those jobs are out there.
“Thursday is an evening social, and it’s meant to be time for people to do networking,” said Proctors’ CEO Philip Morris. “Then on Friday we’re going to have a full day of workshops and speakers talking about different aspects of all this creative work. We want to attract a lot of young professionals as well as college students and get them thinking about a job in this industry. There are a lot of opportunities out there in our region for a career in the creative field.”
Adirondack Studios is an excellent example of exactly what Morris was talking about. The company was created in 1975 as a “resource for design and custom fabrication” according to its web site.
“This company started 42 years ago building sets for New York City theaters,” said Blau. “We’re still doing that today, for theaters around the world, and we also create things for museum exhibits and amusement park attractions. We work on environments for casinos and anything else, any kind of commercial business looking for design and fabrication.”
Tom Lloyd and Chris Detmer founded Adirondack Studios more than four decades ago.
“They were two gentleman living in New York City who originally came to this area to do some work for the Lake George Opera,” said Blau. “They liked it here and started a little shop in Argyle in Washington County. Our headquarters are still here in Argyle, but we have offices in Pasadena, Shanghai, Singapore, Orlando and Dubai.”
Lloyd and Detmer are still with the business, and Lloyd is taking an active role in the SATE Academy Day. The small storefront they began with is now a 125,000-square foot facility and includes studios for design, carpentry, metal, paint, electrics, soft good and project management. Blau, who has been with the company since 15 years, got his start in the business as a set designer at local theaters such as Capital Repertory and Curtain Call in Latham.
“I got my MFA in set design at Syracuse University,” said Blau, a Shaker High graduate. “I had a freelance career for many years, I taught at a couple of colleges and then I came on board as a creative director here and kind of worked my way up. I’m looking forward to our SATE Academy Day and working with Proctors and other groups because it’s very important to educate people and let them know the opportunities are here. We’re always interested in doing what we can to foster more creativity.”
“The arts is not a tiny industry,” said Sager. “It includes architecture and other design functions. There’s been a real broadening of the definition and that’s why we’re talking about ‘creative economy.’ When I was a kid nobody talked about making this your career. Now we want young people to know that the entertainment industry and all the many aspects of it is a very viable, respectable and can be a lucrative career.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected].