AHA! A House for Arts

S6 E26 | FULL EPISODE

AHA! | 626

Check out Sara Pruiksma's love for the area, and her desire to save its historic buildings through her art. Lara Ayad sits down with the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall's Executive Director, Jon Elbaum, to see how things are going. Watch singer/songwriter Sydney Worthley perform "Sinking Ship" and more.

AIRED: January 20, 2021 | 0:28:45
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

(cheerful music)

- [Narrator] Discover the ephemeral lives

of plants and buildings.

Hear about an exciting project underway

at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

and catch a performance by Sydney Worthley.

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

- [Announcer] 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 Malisardi,

The Alexander & Marjorie Hover Foundation

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- [Beth] At M & T Bank we understand that the vitality

of our communities is crucial to our continued success.

That is 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.

(upbeat music)

- Hi, I'm Lara Ayad and this is AHA.

A house for arts, a place for all things creative.

Let's send it over to Matt Rogowicz in Coeymans, New York

for today's field segment.

- Sara Pruiksma is inspired by the nature and buildings

that surround her. I'm here in her home and studio

in Coeymans, New York to learn more about her process.

Let's go.

- Lot's more garden, but that's a whole bunch

of daffodils planted over here.

My work is based on my immediate surroundings

and it's taken me a while to come to that conclusion

but it's something that I've come to realize

that no matter where I am

I find something beautiful about it.

And I think that's, that's what fuels my art.

So when my husband and I bought our house,

it was wow, this house. Wow, this architecture.

Wow, this town. Wow, the history, the Hudson.

Just the natural elements in this area are really

what sorta get my artistic juices flowing.

(peaceful music)

The one thing that always comes up in my art is florals.

My love of flowers really started when I was young.

I would go out gardening for hours and hours

and weed and look for weeds and I'd start learning

about flowers and my mom would teach me.

And I think just through that time

I really began to have such a strong appreciation

for these little things.

What's garbage, what's preferred.

What's beautiful, what's not.

I just think making those kinds of decisions,

and you know, is interesting.

I think it's certainly fueled my art.

As I began to work with florals more and more and more,

I realized that just working with flowers alone

wasn't enough content for me

that I wanted to have something else to talk about.

(calming music)

So that's where my husband and I buying our first home came

into the mix. We found this home in Coeymans

and it's 1870s style Italianate house,

and we just fell in love with it

and the architecture in the area as a whole.

So I started working with elements from the architecture

and imbuing that with these floral motifs and

kind of anthropomorphizing the buildings using the flowers.

I went around my hometown and I took a whole bunch

of pictures of these houses that I was really drawn to.

And using the pictures, I, you know

use transfer paper to kind of sketch.

It's not even just on paper, it's on a tissue paper.

So that to me was a really important aspect

of that drawing is that I didn't want it

to just be a sketch on paper.

I wanted it, I wanted the paper, the actual substrate

that it's drawn on to say something.

So I wanted it to have an essence of this ephemeral quality.

A lot of the buildings in this area have been torn down.

Some are being rehabilitated

which has been really great to see,

but it's this town that's kind of on the verge

of transition and I'm really drawn to the history of it.

So that was my way of kind of putting out a message that,

you know, these buildings are beautiful

even if they are less than perfect.

They're beautiful.

I could use the tissue paper to kind of speak

to the concept of, do we keep these buildings?

Do we recycle these buildings?

Do we throw it away?

Then I kind of realized, okay,

well there's a little bit more I want to say.

I don't want to just draw these buildings.

I want to express how I feel about them.

So the reliefs are more

of a personal kind of take on these buildings.

(upbeat music)

I have my framework.

I've sort of mapped out the essence of some

of the structural components.

And I want to start working on building up

the storytelling part which really is the flowers.

So then I would work with this two-part epoxy resin

and this I discovered a number of years ago

and I just love it.

It's so fun to work with.

You can get a lot of detail.

It's really malleable.

And then when it's dry, it's like super hard.

And like basically unbreakable.

I have these really fun presses that I use that help to

expedite the process of making all these floral components.

And at first, when I started using them

I was like super embarrassed.

You know, like don't let anybody know

that I'm cutting these corners

or I'm using crafting supplies, you know, the horror

but it's just another tool.

And I think it's just silly to feel like, you know

you should be embarrassed by the tools that you're using.

And I find myself using a lot of these craft, you know

materials and tools, and it's really fun.

The floral elements will speak to like the activity level

in the house.

In one piece that I did on our first house,

the floral accents are coming out of like the front windows

and when my husband and I first moved in,

that's where a lot of the activity was.

When you're trying to your living room set up,

then that's where the flurry of activity

and kind of expression was coming out of.

(peaceful music)

I hope that it brings people joy.

Some of the pieces that I do, I hope inspire maybe action.

And in just the way that our historical buildings need

to be saved.

I found this quote a few years ago by Marcel Proust.

The real voyage of discovery consists not

in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

It's how I approach life.

And I think having a greater appreciation of what's

around you ultimately leads to happiness.

And that's part of what I want to bring into my work.

(peaceful music)

- A national historic landmark,

The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is renowned

for its acoustics and architecture,

but like all theaters things are a bit quiet

inside the auditorium at the moment.

Let's sit down with executive director John Elbaum

to hear about an exciting new project

in the works that is keeping the mission

of the music hall alive.

John, welcome to a house for arts.

It's a pleasure to have you.

- Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

- So tell me a bit about the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

What does it set out to do?

And what is the history of this place?

- Well, it is an amazing 19th century concert hall built

in 1875 and was built as a gift to the city of Troy

by the Troy Savings Bank.

And it has been unlike many concert halls

in almost continuous use since that time.

- Wow.

- And it's had a whole panoply of great artists

throughout the history of music and

- Some examples maybe? From early history, even today.

- Sure. Rachmaninoff, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman

Sarah Vaughan, Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, Trey Anastasio,

Elvis Costello, Diana Krall.

I mean, it's, the list just goes on and on.

- Everybody who was anybody, right?

- Exactly. But it's well renowned

for its acoustic environment.

And we continue to do a lot

of recordings there because it's a really special place.

It's known really around the world

especially in the recording industry

because it's a very, very special place.

- And what kinds of musical performances have you

done more recently that are really memorable?

Do you have any favorites at all in the music hall?

- Oh my goodness. It's hard to select

from among your children

but the Trey Anastasio show was awesome.

The Elvis Costello show. Lyle Lovett loves to play our hall

and he always puts on a really good show.

So, so many, so many good memories.

- Well with so many musicians coming through John,

are you a musician yourself?

How did you become executive director of the music hall?

- Well, it doesn't have to do with my musical talent

but I am a recovering musician.

- Recovering.

- Yes, but I don't play anymore.

But I got into this business, gosh,

almost 30 years ago have been in Troy

for about 10 years now, came here from Minneapolis area

but I've been kind of doing this gig

in various locations for quite some time.

And it was a real pleasure to come to Troy.

I've never worked in a historic concert hall before.

So that was a new experience.

And to work in one so special as this one was a real honor.

- You know, I know that the acoustics make the music hall

very distinct and maybe you could tell me more about that

but are there any other things

that make the music hall distinct from other venues?

Not just in the region, but also nationally?

- Well, it's a unique physical space.

It exists on the third floor of the building.

So if you come in, there's no major lobby

or anything you have take the elevator or stairs

and go up to the hall itself.

The seating is original.

So it has its own idiosyncrasies.

It's a little tighter than maybe some other

some other buildings, but we've been hesitant to do anything

because we don't want to jeopardize

the acoustic environment.

- Right.

- But it's the acoustics were really achieved when the organ

that lives above the stage platform was installed

which is about 15 years after the hall was built.

- Okay, so about 1890?

- Correct yes.

So they had to build a platform to put the organ on

and that created a cove over the stage

which then created kind of a natural shell

which brings the sound out into the theater house.

And that was transformative for the hall.

Really that's when it started to acquire the reputation

that it has today.

- Now, back in May you talked, May of this year,

you talked with us virtually through Zoom

about the music hall about the importance

of funding the arts, you know

what is the situation for the music hall today

and how is the music hall, you know, kind of working with

and adapting to the current pandemic and all the sort

of restrictions and limitations that come with that?

- Well, I don't think it's too strong to say

that the arts are in crisis right now,

particularly the performing arts.

It's very difficult.

We don't really have a timeline on when we can reopen

we're hopeful that that will be soon.

We're planning for a reopening,

but we don't know what the timing is.

We continue to do recording both audio and video recording

in the hall and that's been terrific

and we'll do some streaming events and you can look forward

to seeing some of those broadcast on various media

- Great. And where can viewers or visitors

or anybody interested find information

about some of these events?

- On our website troymusichall.org

And we post all that information.

We have a lot of free content

and then there's some options to pay

for content for different performances.

- Great. Can you give me some examples of what types

of things people might expect to see streaming

on the website or anything even further into the future?

- Well, we're streaming a number of popular performers.

We have streams from Rufus Wainwright, Taj Mahal,

Kemo going on right now throughout the next couple

of months, but we're going to be featuring

some Troy based artists next

hopefully in about a week or two

we will have a video that The Sea, The Sea

which is a Troy based band that they're just wonderful.

And they recorded at the hall a couple of weeks ago.

And we'll premiere that fairly soon.

- I've heard The Sea, The Sea. They're fantastic.

- They are fantastic. And they're such lovely people.

Chuck and Mira are some of my favorite people around.

So really great to have them.

And they've been so supportive in this difficult time.

And then we've actually begun a new project.

We began to about how to, what we could do

during this downtime, this pause.

And we thought about creating new work

and that maybe this would be an impetus

to really delve into the kind of the creative process.

So we are collaborating with a couple

of other Troy based musicians, Sam Tourists

and Sophia Bostic, and they are developing,

they're providing artistic direction

for a commissioning project.

So we're commissioning new work based

around the theme of social isolation

and the experience that we've all collectively had.

And that's just wrapping up now

and we hope to release those videos relatively soon.

- You know, it sounds like the work you're doing

at the music hall, especially right now is really

in service to local communities in a number of ways.

And maybe there are other ways in which you could flush

that out a bit, but I'm kind of wondering too,

on the obverse what can local communities,

what can American citizens,

what can government institutions do to help places

like the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

and similar venues across the country?

- Sure. Well, there's, you know

we've all lost significant share of our revenue,

our earned revenue.

And we are going to rely

on the contributions from individuals, corporations

and federal, state governments.

We're very hopeful that this new

pandemic relief bill will pass this

and the Save Our Stages Act

which is included within that will pass.

And that will provide some relief,

but we've always been very thankful

for the support we've gotten from the community.

There's a lot of love for the music hall

which is very gratifying to me personally.

And we are dependent on that at this point

to survive for however long it ends up being

before we can actually start putting on shows again.

- Why is it important to bring music

and live performances to people?

I mean, we often hear discourse about

of course the medicine and food and things are

of course essential, but what might make, you know

live music and stage performances essential to everybody?

- Well, the irony here is

that the music provides an opportunity

for people to gather together and share an experience.

And that has for as long

as people have been around has been an important part

of being, of humanity.

And, and without that, there's a gap

and there's a sense of loss.

So that's what we'd like to bring back when we can.

- Yeah. Well, thank you so much, John, for being

on A House for Arts. It was a pleasure having you

and I can't wait to check out some of the streaming content

that you have going on for the music hall.

- Well, thanks so much.

It's great being here

- Please welcome Sydney Worthley.

- Hi, I'm Sydney Worthley. I'm here to play a few songs

off of my brand new EP, Rose Colored Glasses.

This first song, I vividly remember writing this.

I got this first line stuck in my head.

I've been gone for a while now.

I'm back with a smile on my face.

I bet you're proud.

And for some reason, I had the urge to sit down

on my bedroom floor and write out the song

about seeing an ex-friend or an ex-lover at a party.

And thinking that you're over whatever relationship you had,

but then realizing, no I feel like a sinking ship

when I'm talking to you

even though you're doing fine.

So that's what the song was called.

It's called Sinking Ship.

♪ I've been gone for awhile ♪

♪ Now I'm back with a smile ♪

♪ On my face I bet you're proud ♪

♪ Drink of choice in your hand ♪

♪ Now you're wanting the sand ♪

♪ On your toes how are you now ♪

♪ I know you're over me I think you're done with me ♪

♪ I wish that you could see ♪

♪ that I've been so lost without you ♪

♪ I'm a sinking ship ♪

♪ I'm taking a dip in the water that's gonna kill me ♪

♪ I'm floating away ♪

♪ I'm begging to stay in the ocean that's gonna drown me ♪

♪ So why don't you jump in and join me? ♪

♪ Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh ♪

♪ I've been wasting my time, you're my partner in crime ♪

♪ Well, you were but not anymore ♪

♪ You say you're happy now, but I'm wondering ♪

♪ How you did it can you teach me ♪

♪ I know you're over me, I think you're done with me ♪

♪ I wish that you could see ♪

♪ that I've been so lost without you ♪

♪ I'm a sinking ship ♪

♪ I'm taking a dip in the water that's gonna kill me ♪

♪ I'm floating away ♪

♪ I'm begging to stay in the ocean that's gonna drown me ♪

♪ So why don't you jump in and join me ♪

♪ Whoa, whoa, whoa ♪

♪ I know you're mad at me, I think you're making me ♪

♪ Wishing that I could see that I was still lost around you ♪

♪ Around you, around you ♪

♪ I'm a sinking ship ♪

♪ I'm taking a dip in the water that's gonna kill me ♪

♪ I'm floating away ♪

♪ I'm begging to stay in the ocean that's gonna drown me ♪

♪ So why don't jump in and join me ♪

This next song is called Blank Expression.

♪ I stripped my bed from its pride ♪

♪ It had too many holes in the seams so I threw it outside ♪

♪ My pillows drank up all my thoughts ♪

♪ Dreams so realistic they have my stomach in knots ♪

♪ Hey you think I'm just wandering ♪

♪ Hey what do you know? You just met me ♪

♪ Three seconds ago I was just another girl ♪

♪ Walking down the street with no money in my pocket ♪

♪ I had no culture on my face always felt out of place ♪

♪ Then I saw another blank expression ♪

♪ I stack my records to the ceiling ♪

♪ Play 'em one by one while pretending to have feelings ♪

♪ My walls are bare except for lights ♪

♪ Blinding the fact that I have so many empty nights ♪

♪ Hey you think I'm just wandering ♪

♪ Hey what do you know? You just met me ♪

♪ Three seconds ago I was just another girl ♪

♪ Walking down the street with no money in my pocket ♪

♪ I had no culture on my face always felt out of place ♪

♪ Then I saw another blank expression, yeah ♪

♪ Hey you think I'm just wandering ♪

♪ Hey what do you know? You just met me ♪

♪ Three seconds ago I was just another girl ♪

♪ Walking down the street with no money in my pocket ♪

♪ I had no culture on my face always felt out of place ♪

♪ Then I saw another blank expression ♪

So this song is called 4:15.

I just released it as a single

and I just released a lyric video

and my first music video it's out on YouTube.

And you could find all these songs that I just played

on Spotify, Apple music, Pandora, all that jazz.

♪ You were pronounced dead at 4:15 ♪

♪ At least I dreamt you were ♪

♪ And it wasn't what I thought it would be ♪

♪ I cried and I cried but I never got over you ♪

♪ Now I'm stuck in time between loving and hating you ♪

♪ Before I knew you ♪

♪ I was a wide eyed girl with dreams of the city ♪

♪ Black and white, eyes of blue ♪

♪ You took me apart and you fixed me baby ♪

♪ You were my starstruck lover at age 17 ♪

♪ Perfect storms and parts of us nobody's seen ♪

♪ I drove and I drove but I never got away from you ♪

♪ Now I'm stuck in time between loving and hating you ♪

♪ Before I knew you ♪

♪ I was a wide eyed girl with dreams of the city ♪

♪ Black and white, eyes of blue ♪

♪ You took me apart and you fixed me baby ♪

♪ Nurses around you with our future in your hands ♪

♪ My head is spinning round and round, we have no chance ♪

♪ You were pronounced dead at 4:15 ♪

♪ Before I knew you ♪

♪ I was a wide eyed girl with dreams of the city ♪

♪ Black and white, eyes of blue ♪

♪ You took me apart and you fixed me baby ♪

♪ You took me apart and you fixed me baby ♪

- 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.

(upbeat music)

- [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 Malisardi,

The Alexander & Marjorie Hover Foundation

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- [Beth] 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 is pleased to support WMHT programming

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

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