SARATOGA SPRINGS -- With the summer entertainment season just around the corner, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center is making some cosmetic improvements to the facility.
The most visible changes are the four amphitheater ramps, which were unveiled during a SPAC membership meeting on Wednesday. The discolored canvas was replaced with etched glass panels bearing SPAC’s name;new railings were also installed. The globe lights, which are an iconic part of the venue’s aesthetic, were updated with high-efficiency LEDs. The concrete ramps' surface was sealed with both a waterproof and slip-resistant coating.
It’s all part of a $1.75 million project aimed at modernizing the amphitheater, funded by the New York state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and SPAC. The project also includes an upgraded drainage system to improve the lawn’s resiliency and keep it from getting too muddy throughout the summer season.
“There is no place like home. Home [is] here in Spa State Park, where art, historic architecture, healing springs, woodland walks and all manner of community recreation meet here in the perfect confluence of manmade and natural beauty. As we embark upon our mission for the next 50 years, we are committed to restoring and enhancing SPAC’s historic venues for 21st century audiences,” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of SPAC.
Along with the facility improvements, the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is stepping up security at SPAC this season. The two gates adjacent to the Roosevelt Bath House have been replaced and a new gate is being installed at the southeast side, between the Hall of Springs and Roosevelt Spa buildings.
Plans to renovate the concessions and expand the restroom facilities are also in the works. Construction on these projects is slated to start in the fall and be completed by the 2020 season.
On Wednesday, Alane Ball Chinian, the Saratoga-Capital Region director of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said that plans for a new educational facility are being developed to accommodate SPAC’s expanding education program. Last year, SPAC reached 38,000 individuals through its educational programming and Sobol plans to double that by 2020 through additional community outreach.
As part of that expansion, SPAC will partner with Double H Ranch to bring classical music to the children, including the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra and the National Dance Institute. The venue will also continue collaborating with the New York City Ballet, under the leadership of Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan, to bring principal dancer Lauren Lovette to the Festival of Young Artists on June 2.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Sobol discussed strengthening SPAC’s ties with the local creative and business communities.
“Everywhere one looks the evidence of an energy of community, of collaborative effort, criss-crosses the community,” Sobol said.
The organization is partnering with Radial Arts and Saratoga Shakespeare Company to bring both the performing and literary arts to life. On July 19, they’ll present “Poetry in the Pines,” which will feature a one-hour adaptation of “The Tempest,” directed by Marcus Dean Fuller.
SPAC’s annual kick-off to the summer season, the Jazz Festival, will bring SPAC together with the business community again this year, with Jazz Fest Friday. A series of jazz-themed events will be taking place in venues and businesses throughout the city, from Beekman Street to Broadway and to Saratoga Lake on June 28. This year, jazz bands from Shaker and Saratoga Springs high schools will also be involved in the festival, performing on SPAC’s stage on Saturday, June 29.
These programs and partnerships have also played a role in SPAC’s financial state. In 2018, SPAC had a surplus of $270,000, according to Anthony Ianniello, the treasurer of SPAC’s board of directors. The endowment is up from $2.7 million last year to $7.9 million as well.
“SPAC is one of the few nonprofits which has a surplus,” Ianniello said on Wednesday.
The classical season kicks off with the Saratoga Jazz Festival on Friday, June 28. This year's two day festival features artists including George Benson, Norah Jones and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. It continues with the NYCB's residency from July 16-20 and then with the Philadelphia Orchestra’s residency from July 31-August 17. The latter will include 19 SPAC premieres, a record for the residency.
For more information about the upcoming season, visit spac.org.