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Coalition of New York performing arts venues cheers $5 million in state budget

Officials from Alive Downtowns speak alongside members of local government at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on May 8th.
Alexander Babbie
Alexander Babbie
Officials from Alive Downtowns speak alongside members of local government at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on May 8th.

A coalition of upstate New York theaters is cheering the inclusion of millions of dollars for the arts in the New York state budget approved last week.

Speaking Monday at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Alive Downtowns’ backers celebrated the $5 million in new funding. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat from the 111th District, said the funding goes beyond performing arts venues.

“It's also economic development, it's going to grow our upstate economy.  I know in Schenectady, Proctors was a key element when we started our revitalization. That was the anchor and it's been ever since. When there's a show in town, I can tell you that restaurants are all full, hotels are full, and people do come from all over the state to come visit Proctors when there’s a show in town," Santabarbara said.

Santabarbara says the money is a key part of a $229 billion spending plan.

“$5 million - it’s significant. And this is going to boost the performance arts that we're known for in the Capital Region," Santabarbara remarked.

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, a Democrat from the 109th district, says the arts’ continued success is vital.

“The arts, I say all the time, soothes our souls, and you also are the ones who can interpret the chaos, find beauty, sometimes in the chaos, find beauty in tragedy, there's just so much. And I believe we need the arts now more than ever," Fahy said.

Fahy says the funding was restored during budget negotiations that stretched on more than a month after the start of the new fiscal year.

“Initially, all the arts funding was cut in the original governor's proposal, we were able to restore the bulk of that, especially some of the COVID money," Fahy said.

The money will be divided among 13 theaters depending on their need and projected 2023 revenue.

Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat from the 108th district, says that the process to distribute that money has been smooth sailing.

“We have a formula based on venue size, and also revenues. And that blended together is what's led to distribution. For example, both the Palace and the Troy Music Hall will receive the $300,000 a year in operating costs, operating revenue," McDonald noted.

Troy Savings Bank Musical Hall Executive Director Jon Elbaum says the money will ensure the music hall and other upstate venues’ longevity.

“It's remarkable that this funding has come together. It is so meaningful to all of us who protect and preserve these beautiful buildings that are really the lifeblood of our downtowns. And we want to continue to do that for years and years to come. We've been here close to 150 years, we'd like to stick around another 150 if that's possible. So we are so thankful to the Assembly, to the Senate, to the governor's office, the state for recognizing the importance of what we're doing here," Elbaum said.

Assemblyman Santabarbara added that the initiative is also geared toward historic preservation.

“These are historic buildings. It's important that we preserve them. They're a part of our history, but they're also a part of our future. And as far as bringing opportunities, this does create opportunities, the performing arts community is going to get a boost out of this. It's going to create new opportunities that our community deserves," Santabarbara said.

Along with the Music Hall, the Alive Downtowns coalition also includes Albany’s Palace Performing Arts Center, the Proctors Collaborative, which has three venues in Schenectady, Albany, and Saratoga Springs, the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, UPAC in Kingston, and Utica’s Stanley Theatre.

A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.