AHA! A House for Arts


AHA! | 615

Go inside the mind of oil painter Jeff Wigman. Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors Collaborative, discusses what will it take for institutions he oversees to survive the current pandemic. Catch a performance by Rob Rob Beaulieu

AIRED: September 29, 2020 | 0:26:46

(soft music)

(upbeat music)

- Journey inside the mind of painter Jeff Wigman.

Learn about the future of the arts

at Proctors with Philip Morris

and hear a performance by Rob Beaulieu.

It's all ahead on this episode of AHA, A House for Arts.

- [Narrator] Funding for AHA has been provided

by your contribution and by contributions

to the WMHT Venture Fund.

Contributors include Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- At M&T Bank,

we understand that the vitality of our communities

is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts

and we invite you to do the same.

(soft electronic music)

- Hi, I'm Lara Ayad and this is AHA, A House for Arts,

a place for all things creative.

We find Matt Rogowicz in Troy, New York today.

Let's see what he's up to.

(upbeat music)

- I'm right here in Troy, New York on Lansing Avenue

and we're about to step into the mind and studio

of oil painter Jeff Wigman.

Follow me.

- There's probably three or four,

and I just learned how to draw, you know, a house like this.

If I was really ambitious,

I would add a window like this

and my sister took the pencil and she showed me

if you do this, you can make it like this.

And it blew my mind.

(dramatic music)

I always have dealt with images.

So images that kind of stand out or separate themselves out

to kind of present a story, almost, not so much a narrative,

but some kind of structured meaning of some sort

often satirical.

It comes out as sketching.

So behind you, there's a pile of sketchbooks

and there's a bunch here.

And the sketching is a way to kind of open to the space

and without deciding what you're gonna do ahead of time,

you can kind of play in this space of probability

where things just happen.

And then most of the time,

the things that are impressive are a complete surprise.

I think I've kind of dabbled in just about every period

and every kind of artist

and often from a European tradition

that's somehow where I gravitated.

Lately, in the past four years or so,

I kind of stepped back into early interest of mine

in Northern Renaissance painting, Dürer and van der Weyden

and a lot of these people.

- Okay, so you said you sketch out

kind of everything beforehand, right?

- Yeah, so this was the original pencil.

This is done on a natural gesso board

and with a brown color underneath it.

Art's back to early Renaissance paintings

where you would see these cross sections of hermitages

and saints who are in one room, they're praying,

and the next room they're dying.

And then outside they're being carried away.

So it's a way of compressing

a bunch of narratives into a single space.

So I started one of these, which is a house,

a cutaway of a house, and it just has people

living a modern life in the house from cradle to grave

and I'm using natural pigments in this one.

So really trying to play with the color.

Monotype's something that I keep returning to

because it's a way of, it's almost like taking a break

if things get stale in painting,

Painting has many more technical issues

to kind of keep in mind.

So I'll go to monotypes because it's so immediate

and quick and changeable.

A monotype is just a unique print.

So we're gonna paint on a piece of plexiglass

and then press that onto a piece of paper.

The ink and the plexiglass move very quickly together

so you can change things very quickly.

You can put a mark down and wipe it

and change the paint and move things around easily

so that you're not caught in the process.

You're just sort of synchronized with the paintings.

So you want to try it out?

- Okay.

- You can kind of relate to the whiteness of it first,

your space of it, or the openness

where really anything can happen.

- I'm just gonna feel it out.

- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

You're just kind of playing in space.

A lot of that freshness

kind of builds back into the paintings.

It's almost a way of recharging or refueling,

just starting with nothing and starting simply,

and then letting it, whatever comes, pop out.

- Okay, I have to put this to bed or else I'm gonna ruin it.


Painting birds.

- You know, this doesn't have to be

a representational thing up here.

This could be just a mark of feeling.

There's a stream of art that tries to make things

as true to what objective reality

to the external world as possible.

As soon as you put something on paper

it's an abstraction.

You could use forms

to pry at these little keys in our head

that unlock or touch something deeper.

(dramatic music)

- Philip Morris is the CEO of Proctors Collaborative,

consisting of Proctors Theatre in Schenectady,

Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany,

and Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs,

all of which have been shut down

during the current pandemic.

What will it take for these institutions

to survive this crisis?

Let's chat with Philip Morris to find out.

Well, Philip, welcome to A House for Arts.

It's a pleasure to have you.

- Thank you, thank you.

We're glad to be here.

- So you're the CEO of the Proctors Collaborative.

Tell me a little bit about how you started in this role

and also how you see the Proctors Collaborative

changing over the years.

- I was hired by Proctors Theatre in 2002.

My first work date was March 4th,

which a friend of mine in Jamestown, New York,

which is where I was, said,

it's the only day of the year that's a command.

So I guess I took that to heart and the theatre,

a lovely vaudeville house that was a movie house

and vaudeville house,

had a stay of execution in the '70s.

It was to be torn down and the community wanted to save it

and convince the city to put a roof on it

so that it could try performances.

And they did half a dozen

and it slowly began to grow over years.

And when I was hired, the March 4th command

was we want to expand the stage

to be able to do substantive touring Broadway.

So with that as the command and with

a fair amount of community tenacity,

Schenectady was in rough shape

and the community basically said

we gotta do Proctors first and build around it.

And with that sense of tenacity we raised $42 million

and renovated the theatre and built a power plant

and added the GE Theater and renovated Robb Alley

and added an education center

and went from being a theatre to a performing arts center.

Then over time, we realized that the capital region

is a suburb surrounded by cities,

not a city surrounded by suburbs.

With that understanding, we started to talk regionally

more and more and more and more and more.

And at the time,

when Capital Repertory Theatre was having some distress,

we entered into negotiations to do an alliance.

And that alliance worked very well.

In fact, we're close to completing a renovation,

$14 million renovation in Albany

for the theatre whenever it can open.

And a similar kind of arrangement happened

with the Universal Preservation Hall,

beautiful building in downtown Saratoga.

And as the board and the organization thought about it,

Proctors Collaborative became

the most logical moniker, right?

We're no longer Proctors Theater.

- Well, yeah.

It sounds like you're not at all unfamiliar

with great challenges, right?

What's the biggest challenge

that Proctors is facing right now?

- Well, we're closed.

We went from being roughly a $30 million a year organization

as a collaborative to maybe with two and a half million now.

And that happened overnight on March, whatever, 16th.

We had just opened a newly renovated building in Saratoga,

had five concerts in it, closed it.

We were halfway through the construction

or a third of the way through the construction

for the new Cap Rep.

We have just completed construction

on our third floor of the year before

for an expanded education center

in Schenectady of the Addy.

And suddenly it's very quiet. - Right.

- And we try to be inventive.

We have done stuff online.

We've done educational stuff online.

Cap Rep has done their new play festival in a Zoom format.

We opened UPH to an exhibit

from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,

which goes on through September.

And it's a great exhibit, 20 people every two hours.

So it's not a lot of people, not a lot of folks,

but keeping active.

We made arrangements with our property in Schenectady

that it will be the winter home

for the Empire State Youth Orchestra

so that they can be safely spread.

They've done all the orchestral protocols.

They're taking over almost an entire first floor

of all the properties, Key Hall, GE, Robb Alley.

It's a very unusual use,

but the building is the community's building.

It needs to be used for something.

And if it's not performance, well, this will work.

- Right.

People often perceive things like institutions

or organizations for medicine or food or health

as quote unquote essential right now.

And there's no doubt that they are,

but how are the performing arts in particular essential

for people right now?

- I'm going to answer two ways.

In our case, and then in the broader case

that you are questioning.

In our case, we're a bit of an unusual organization

in that we had public access television

for Schenectady and Albany.

So that's media, so that was an essential business

so that business stayed open.

We are a power supplier through hot and cold water

distributed underground to about 20 customers

in downtown Schenectady and that's a utility.

So that was an essential business.

And we're a provider of ticketing services

through our data system, in our building

to the AG, Troy Music Hall, Schenectady Players,

a variety of organizations throughout the region.

And because of that data services,

that was an essential service.

So in a sense, we've had three essential businesses

through the COVID period running

while the theater itself was not.

Look, the arts are how we communicate.

The arts are.

Every journalist's word is every literate word

is every visualization is every stupid billboard

is every beautiful painting is every gesture.

Every piece of being human is part of the arts.

No one's gonna ever take that away from society.

In the most repressed societies ever,

the arts were part of both healing and challenging.

Will we be five or 10 years

in the rehabilitation post COVID?

Yeah, maybe.

It may take a long time.

- Yeah.

What can people do to continue supporting the arts?

Because I know that for instance,

the revenue for Proctors has now been slashed

into a fraction of what it was previously.

Obviously it would be better to have more funds,

but what can the community do and what can government do

to support and continue this performing arts?

'Cause it's clearly an avenue for basic human expression

and the human experience.

- Well, all of us,

the capital region culturals,

have been meeting for years really,

but I've convened us, specifically the theaters,

the Trump Music Hall, SPAC, the Palace,

to talk about how we approached communicating

when the time is right.

It's hard for the time to be right

when schools are in chaos.

It was hard for the time to be right

when the disease was not under control in New York.

Governor's done a great job.

It's probably still not right

because no one's ready to think about

opening 2,600-seat building or a 400-seat building.

But when the time comes, we need to speak with one voice.

All of us would be massive reductions

in employment and costs.

Yet we still have massive costs in these properties.

Can't not heat the Troy Music Hall.

You can't not walk every Proctor's Collaborative building

every day, we're in every building every day.

You have to.

I mean, a leak, a bad electrical things.

I mean, you got to see these properties.

It all takes money just to preserve them for future use.

So the most important message is don't abandon us.

There'll be a point at which we're gonna ask for money

to restart, all of us will.

We'll need to do it collaboratively,

but along the way, if you're a member, stay a member.

If you have a ticket

and they say they're gonna postpone the event

and not eliminate it, not cancel it, hold the ticket.

Don't make them give you money back.

Just take a deep breath

'cause we're going to get through this all together.

- Right.

There's all these little small little sacrifices,

but also makes a huge contribution.

- Oh, you know, 5,000 ticket buyers

at Proctors subscribers,

not asking for a refund is salvation.

- So here's to all of us playing a role

in helping keep places like Proctors alive.

Thank you very much, Philip,

for being on the show. - My pleasure.

- It was a pleasure speaking with you.

- Thank you.

- Please welcome Rob Beaulieu.

(soft guitar music)

♪ Still as can be over countryside below ♪

♪ Dust shadows are things that I think I know ♪

♪ I don't know when (indistinct) to make lies ♪

♪ Show me who you are ♪

♪ Now that I've come for me so far ♪

♪ What I've come to know is what I wanna tell you ♪

♪ Then again, my friend, I believe I'll go ♪

♪ 'Cause I feel it in the rising river running through me ♪

♪ The people and their stories I don't know ♪

♪ But you lose it in the well wind ♪

♪ The river breeze, it blows ♪

♪ Try to cover your lies last as I go ♪

♪ The evening surrounding me, all the (indistinct) ♪

♪ Footsteps that I was so ♪

♪ Keeping up on the secrets of the chores I left behind ♪

♪ Don't it seem that time is standing still ♪

♪ Autumn creeps northward today ♪

♪ Empty minded poets, they cannot speak ♪

♪ Keep the words they carry for they cannot teach ♪

♪ If you see them staring at the sinking destination ♪

♪ Would you turn your eyes in time to see ♪

♪ Shining (indistinct), my whole light is gonna shine ♪

♪ Told you I struggled with the one, will be no more ♪

♪ Desperation's vision, the luminous light ♪

♪ I found all of that ever through the night ♪

♪ With this (indistinct) ♪

♪ If you need life's smile, won't you please take mine ♪

♪ If you need life's smile, please take mine ♪

♪ Weakness around me, all the (indistinct) ♪

♪ Footsteps that I was so ♪

♪ Keeping up on the secrets of the chores I left behind ♪

♪ From the time is standing still ♪

♪ Autumn creeps northward today ♪

♪ Autumn creeps northward today ♪

♪ Autumn creeps northwards again ♪

♪ No, it will not fade ♪

♪ To the very end ♪

♪ To the very end, my friend ♪

♪ (Indistinct) finding stage awaits behind ♪

♪ If you need life's smile, won't you please take mine ♪

♪ If you need life's smile, won't you please take mine ♪

- This song is a one we did with all of our friends.

We recorded live at Blue Sky studios in Del Mar,

and we had everybody sing along

and we just had a big party and it was really a lot of fun.

So this song is called La Di Da.

♪ Break a day feeling such a peculiar way ♪

♪ You know something hit me last night ♪

♪ I think I remember it right ♪

♪ You came to me ♪

♪ I was staring at the burning stream ♪

♪ About to be somebody, will it be you ♪

♪ So la di da ♪

♪ La di da ♪

♪ Won't be no rain coming for me ♪

♪ Preach for you every summertime ♪

♪ You know the way the light plays across your face ♪

♪ It gets me every time ♪

♪ See, I'm no stranger ♪

♪ To the situation of dangers ♪

♪ I'd give you that and your song ♪

♪ And the ghosts that are singing along ♪

♪ So I say la di da ♪

♪ La di da ♪

♪ Won't be no rain a-comin' for me ♪

♪ Ooh, baby ♪

♪ I leave it up to you ♪

♪ Ooh, baby, and I sing that song ♪

♪ Baby, sing it true ♪

♪ You know what to do ♪

♪ Peculiar thing ♪

♪ All the legends that we all bring ♪

♪ They be telling me all night ♪

♪ I don't understand your plight ♪

♪ Well I declare to the law that it gets somewhere ♪

♪ I think I have just about enough faith ♪

♪ To walk you down the road ♪

♪ So I say, so la di da ♪

♪ So la di da ♪

♪ Won't be no rain a-comin' for me ♪

♪ So la di da ♪

♪ So la di da da da ♪

♪ Won't be no rain a-comin' for me ♪

♪ No rain, mama ♪

♪ Ooh, baby ♪

♪ I leave it up to you ♪

♪ Ooh, baby, and I sing that song ♪

♪ Baby, sing it true ♪

♪ You know what to do ♪

♪ You know what to do, mama ♪

♪ You know what to do ♪

♪ You know what to do ♪

- Thanks for joining us.

For more arts, visit wmht.org/aha

and be sure to connect with WMHT on social.

I'm Lara Ayad.

Thanks for watching.

- [Narrator] Funding for AHA has been provided

by your contribution and by contributions

to the WMHT Venture Fund.

Contributors include Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- At M&T bank, we understand

that the vitality of our communities

is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts, and we invite you to do the same.


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