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Proctors Collaborative lands $1M grant

Proctors Collaborative lands $1M grant

Wright Family Foundation gift cites organization's benefit to community
Proctors Collaborative lands $1M grant
An event is held at Proctors as it celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — A local philanthropic foundation has awarded Proctors Collaborative a grant that will, after a 1-1 match, give it $2 million to solidify its role as a regional arts and cultural organization.

The Wright Family Foundation said the grant is intended to support the mission of the Proctors Collaborative and encourage others to do the same, increasing its impact in the process.

The Proctors Collaborative was created to differentiate the downtown Schenctady theater named “Proctors” from the other properties and services under shared management, including two other performance venues: The Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany and Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs.

“We don’t ever want to lose the notion that Proctors is the theater and the building in Schenectady,” said Proctors CEO Philip Morris.

Proctors theater has undergone tens of millions of dollars’ worth of restoration and expansion over the last few decades, returning from decay to grandeur. In the process, it has become a regional destination as a performance venue, helped spark the revival of downtown Schenectady, and developed a series of venues and initiatives that stretch far beyond the footprint of the former vaudeville house at 432 State St.

“So Collaborative is the name for all of it,” Morris told The Daily Gazette on Tuesday. “That’s what we do, that’s what we try to  do.”

To help accomplish that, Proctors approached the Wright Family Foundation, which since 1997 has supported organizations and programs that create long-term community benefit within Schenectady County. It has provided more than 500 grants totaling more than $23 million for that purpose, among the most recent a $3 million gift earlier this month to assist with development of a proposed aquatic sports center at Mohawk Harbor.

The grant announced Tuesday is for $1 million, and Proctors Collaborative must match it with another $1 million.

“With Proctors Collaborative, Schenectady has become a leader for arts and community development,” Wright Family Foundation Chairwoman Heather Ward said in a news release. “We believe in their regional vision and we hope this gift will challenge other philanthropists to match our investment in the organization.”

Morris said the money will allow Proctors Collaborative to do more of what it’s doing, rather than start something entirely new.

“These many projects have increased our costs and have been a pressure on our cash flow,” he said. 

Proctors Collaborative will often show a small or even medium surplus on its balance sheet, Morris said, but that’s because pledges are counted as assets even before the donation is in hand. Proctors Collaborative can be strapped for cash at times, and this donation will give it a cushion of working capital as it waits for the donations to come in, he said.

“This is a way for us to manage our cash in the context of growing,” he said.

The Proctors Collaborative umbrella includes Proctors theater, UPH (Universal Preservation Hall) and theRep (Capital Repertory Theatre); a magazine called “The Collaborative”; Marquee Power, a green power plant in downtown Schenectady; the School of Performing Arts; Key Hall, an event space; Apostrophe Cafe; the black box GE Theatre; Open Space Media, which runs Schenectady’s and Albany’s public access television channels; and back-end ticketing services for nine other organizations.

It's also part of the upstate coalition of performing arts venues that banded together to protect themselves from new competition when casinos were legalized, and assists nearby Rivers Casino & Resort with some of its performing arts management tasks.

Proctors Collaborative could grow further: There are periodic discussions (that so far have not borne fruit) about a project in Troy, Morris said, and a study is now underway of the feasibility of a relationship with Albany’s Palace Theatre. 

The Palace is a performing arts center on a scale similar to Proctors theater, but without the associated venues and services of the Proctors Collaborative. What format a relationship could take is not known, Morris said — it is one of the points of the study.

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