AHA! A House for Arts

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Creative Capital | Shaping The Region's Economy

A creative economy is a world where arts and culture are the drivers of economic activity. It’s not a notion that’s new to New York’s Capital Region, which has long been a haven for creatives and renowned performance venues. But in recent years, thanks to technology and innovation, it has become the fourth-largest employment sector, and it’s growing fast.

AIRED: September 27, 2019 | 0:57:01
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TRANSCRIPT

(bright upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Funding for Creative Capital.

Shaping the Region's Economy

is provided by the Bender Family Foundation.

Additional support comes from

(soft piano music)

- [Narrator] As a not-for-profit health plan,

MVP is working to provide health coverage

that is convenient, supportive,

and personal, the way it should be.

More information at mvphealthcare.com.

- The stroke of a brush,

the thrill of a performance,

the spark of inspiration,

the freedom of expression.

These are not recreational pastimes,

they're not pipe dreams.

For a growing sector

of workers they're a sustainable career.

The growth of jobs in the creative sector

in the last few decades has given rise

to a whole new type of economy,

the creative economy.

(upbeat music)

Hi, I'm Guha Bala.

I'm the President of Velan Ventures & Velan Studios in Troy.

I'm your host.

Today we're taking a journey

through the creative mind of our region.

I've focused my 25-year career on making video games,

one of the industries considered part of a creative economy.

Before Velan, I led Vicarious Visions,

an industry leading video game developer

based right here in the Capital Region.

The creative economy has played a crucial role

throughout my professional life.

Let's answer an important question,

what is the creative economy?

Traditional economies revolve around land,

labor and capital.

We started using the term creative economy

in the early 2000s.

It was a way to describe what we were doing,

which in a way had never been done before.

The creative economy is a unique intersection between culture,

technology and the economy. It's an economic system driven by creative pursuits

like design, the visual and performing arts and media.

The creative economy

in North America generates $620 billion annually.

It accounted for 3% of the GDP in 2013.

That's $2.25 trillion and 30 million people employed.

The United Nations calls it one of the most dynamic sectors

of the global economy but it has the power

to drive socioeconomic development.

But it's not just a big city trend.

The creative economy is thriving right here

in the Capital Region and it's making an impact.

How? That's next.

(upbeat music)

The eight counties that make up New York's Capital Region

are not traditionally thought of as a unique destination

for creative types.

New York City,

San Francisco and Los Angeles rank highest on the list

of American creative hubs.

Yet, it exists here and it's growing.

Creative industries are now

the 4th largest employment sector in the region.

They employ more than 37,000 people.

Together they earn almost $1.5 billion

and produce 2.7 billion in creative goods and services.

56% of creative workers in the region

are wage and salary earners and 44% are freelancers.

Columbia County stands out

with 25% of the region's population employed

in creative positions.

According to a recent study commissioned

by the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy

it is home to the third highest percentage

of freelance artists in the nation,

behind only Brooklyn and Taos, New Mexico.

(upbeat music)

Congressman Paul Tonko,

a Democrat, represents much of the Capital Region.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

- My pleasure, Guha.

- Can you paint us a picture of your district?

What kind of creativity is happening here?

- Well, I think there is a combination of innovation

that comes from the heavy technical sector.

We're dubbed as one of the five hottest beds

of green collar innovative high tech job growth

in the country and so that's a feather in our cap.

But then there's also this tremendous affiliation

with the arts of all kinds,

performing arts, visual arts,

the museum and cultural arts.

The artistry in this region is

very sound.

- From a policy perspective,

what are the sorts of things that we could be doing

to attract more creative workers

as well as more creative industries here?

- What is that specific niche of workers

that we need to create for the creative economy?

It's very important that we stay focused on that.

It may not be the traditional application

of economic development funds but rather a focus

on the creative genius that accompanies the innovation,

the inventive, the entrepreneur,

the technical types that have always grown the economy.

So it's the merging of those two thinkings

that becomes a specific,

unique application with federal policy format

and federal resources to incentivize that sort of growth.

- Congressman, as I understand it economic development often

takes the shape of building a factory or a plant

or capital investments,

but it sounds like workforce development

here means something different?

- I think it's targeting into the workforce.

I think it's creating,

encouraging that creative genius that needs

to be reinforced with,

I think, efforts from Washington rather than providing

for that huge shell of the building.

Giving them the underpinnings of support

as they go searching for the correct employees.

And working with the employee base that is here currently

you have a lot of strength in that creative genius format

and you just want to pull that effort together with policy.

And also making certain that you encourage people

who may want to make that entrepreneurial journey,

that are now tethered into a stronger

industrial base to take the step forward

and begin that journey

by growing not only a business but opportunity,

economic opportunity for the people of this region.

- Turning to perhaps a less well-known aspect

of our credit economy,

about half of our population in the area who engage

in the creative economy are freelancers,

and so many of the issues that they face

are kitchen table issues,

healthcare for example,

the basics of being able to balance a check book

and an income statement,

commercial skills, things like that.

What would your approach be to be able

to support folks like that,

folks that don't necessarily have the business backbone

or a large enterprise backing them?

- Right, it's providing the underpinning of support,

the foundation of support from healthcare to training

to probably all sorts of financial assistance,

and growing the kind of awareness that they need to have

in order to be putting together the plans

to begin a business and maintain that business.

I think that sort of fiscal security is important.

That sort of training is important.

When we've had cluster groups of the creative economy

coming together the first thing they talked about

was single owned and perhaps one-person operations

that need special attention.

And if they're going to be that growth area

where they stabilize and then begin

to hire additional people you want them to be stable

in this regional economy.

And it will be items like healthcare

and will be items like financial

planning that are important to them.

It provides stability for all of us,

those included in large industrial settings

and those who are entrepreneurial in their efforts.

- Sure, and importantly and also close to my heart,

it's really fun to be in a creative economy.

It's fun to have Nine Pin Cider.

- Yeah. - It's fun

to be able to have the Craft Breweries.

It's fun to have the bakeries.

I always like to return to the fact that we could look

at the stats, the figures,

the numbers, the job impact.

But when we really look at the quality of life

that we have here in the region what it means

to make it vibrant,

make it robust,

this is a really great way to do it.

- Well, I think it adds to the imagery of our community

and it's certainly something that as an image needs

to be exchanged and shared out there,

because as I talked with a number of groups

as we clustered together you have to advertise this area

for the innovation that it is,

for the arts that it is,

for the culture that is.

And when we do that we create a sense of place,

a destination with the greater Capital Region.

And then if we work the dynamics of underpinning support

for these startups or for these ideas people

then we have a vibrant future facing us.

- Brilliant, thank again

Congressman. - Okay, our pleasure.

(upbeat music)

- Now that we have a sketch of the creative economy

in our region let's add out a little color.

Let's take a look at what industries comprise

a creative economy?

There are six sectors,

artisinal food and agriculture, media,

design, performing arts,

heritage and preservation and visual arts

and handcrafted products.

More than half the people working in these industries

in the Capital Region are self-employed freelancers.

That's a little more than 16,000 people,

a higher percentage of creative freelancers

than in Boston and New York City.

Let's scale it down a bit and take a look

at some of the people that power the creative economy.

Who are they and what are they doing?

We'll start with the largest sector,

artisanal food and agriculture.

It includes businesses like specialty bakeries,

craft breweries, yarn makers,

maple producers and specialty food producers.

Nine Pin Cider is an Albany-based craft cidery

that has seen explosive growth since it opened in 2013.

It's New York State's first farm cidery

and they use 100% New York apples and fruit

to produce their ciders.

(upbeat double base music)

- My name is Alejandro Del Peral.

I own Nine Pin Cider

in Albany and we're New York's first farm cidery

and we make hard cider out of local New York apples.

(upbeat instrumental music)

We started making cider in the fall of 2013

and what we established as our mission as a company

from the beginning is that we were gonna source

all the apples locally from New York State

and the idea was that we wanted

to promote New York agriculture

by producing quality craft ciders.

And that remains the mission of the company.

(relaxing music)

In the fall of 2013 we got wind that Governor Andrew Cuomo

was gonna create this new license called

the Farm Cidery License and what that license permitted was,

assuming you use 100% New York apples or pears

to make your ciders you get some other privileges.

For example, you can have this tasting room

and there's some other tax incentives

and that kind of thing.

So in February of 2014

we became New York's first farm cidery

and since then have been making hard cider

from New York apples and selling it all over the state

and now in New England too and soon to be New Jersey.

(upbeat music)

A lot of people call us brewers.

They think this is a brewery

but cider is in essence apple wine.

It's more similar to wine than it is beer.

So just like with wine you take grapes

and press them into juice and then you ferment

that into wine.

Cider is the same thing except you use apples

instead of grapes.

But there's no cooking involved and it's a long process

and the quality of the cider is very dependent

on the quality of your fruit.

I grew up in Columbia County.

My parents had nine acres and my dad

from when I was a little kid had been planting apple trees

but he wasn't planting them from,

typically you go to a nursery

and you can buy a variety of apples,

but what my dad did was he planted them from seed.

And when you plant an apple from seed you end up

with a tree that is a complete genetic individual.

So you get a unique apple variety.

And many of the varieties that he grew

and that are still growing right now

are basically disgusting,

you would never wanna eat them.

But what I later learned is that what makes

those apples taste gross,

which is lots of acid and also tannin,

actually translates into what makes

a great tasting hard cider,

a fermented version of it.

So I grew up basically surrounded by inedible apple trees

that I found out later were great to make booze out of.

And not only that,

I grew up,

a lot of people don't realize but in New York State

we have the second biggest apple crop in the entire country

but we grow more varieties of apples

than any other state in the nation.

So apples have always been part of,

I feel, like the culture in Upstate New York

and definitely were a big part of my upbringing.

(relaxing beat music)

We have a partnership with Samascott Orchard

in Kinderhook and they grow,

currently I'm not exactly sure what,

but I think it's about 115,

120 varieties of apples.

And so about 95% of the cider that we ferment

comes from apples grown at Samascott Orchard.

And part of what gives our cider its quality

is the fact that each blend of Nine Pin Cider

is 30 to 40 varieties that have grown on Samascott Orchard

and it's that different types of apples

that give it its complexity.

(upbeat music)

You can tweak the cider making process

at many different points in order

to create a new style or flavor.

The first and I think the most important is the types

of varieties that you're using

and where they're sourced from.

After the apple you can tweak at the fermentation stage,

so you can co-ferment it with different fruit,

you can use different yeasts,

you can ferment at different temperatures

and all that influences the flavor

and the style of the cider.

And then after that you can infuse flavors into cider,

so we make a Peach Tea Cider where we'll take a cider base

that we've fermented and we'll essentially take huge teabags

and fill them with the peach tea blend

that we sourced from Short and Stout Tea here in Albany,

and we cold infuse the tea into the cider

and we create this peach tea cider which is fantastic

and refreshing, especially in the summer.

And you can age cider in barrels

which gives it sort of that oak quality

just like you do with wine.

You can age it on ginger,

the possibilities are pretty much endless.

(upbeat instrumental music)

If I think about how much money,

first of all,

we've pumped into the agriculture side of things

in terms of purchasing fruit.

And then if I think about how much Nine Pin Cider

has been sold by restaurants and bars in the Capital Region

and you will look at that from a dollar standpoint,

I mean, it's a pretty mind boggling number

that our operation here has generated that much economics.

And what's cool is that the apples are sourced

from the Capital Region and the cider is fermented

here in the Capital Region and then the cider is sold

here in the Capital Region and so

it's got a really wide effect.

I feel very good about it having that type of influence,

especially with something like cider.

As a farm cidery we're capped at production

at 250,000 gallons a year.

So our goal is to sort of grow until we can

hit that cap.

We're definitely gonna be working

on sort of satellite facilities.

And the Farm Cidery License gives you the privilege

of five other facilities,

so

look for those,

those will be happening.

(upbeat instrumental music)

- Movies, video,

sound recording, radio and TV broadcasting,

newspapers, advertising,

PR, video game developers,

that's just the tip of the iceberg

in the media sector of the creative economy.

Branch VFX is a visual effects company

located in Albany, New York.

Some of their clients include Disney,

Marvel, Paramount, Warner Brothers.

Their work is world renowned and award winning

and they're right here in our back yard.

- I'm Sam Margolius.

I'm the executive producer at Branch VFX

here in Albany, New York.

Branch VFX is a foundational visual effects company,

rotoscoping, 3D tracking,

also some paint work and like positing.

We work with other visual effects companies in support

of the studios and the network projects.

So our sister company, Shade VFX,

who just won an Emmy for Westworld,

the HBO television show,

is one of our main clients.

And by working with them we get access

to the same clientele they do,

so that's Marvel and Disney and Paramount

and Warner Brothers and Fox, Hulu,

Amazon, Netflix.

We are brand new.

We just opened our doors on November 6th, 2017,

which is exciting on a number of levels.

To be in Albany,

I grew up here so I'm excited to be back.

We started with five employees,

now we're up to seven.

Our goal is to reach between 15 and 20

by the end of the year.

We chose Albany for two reasons.

The first being the tax incentives which is very,

very positive for the producers,

the networks and the studios,

even more so than New York City

which gets great tax incentives.

Secondarily is we were able to partner

with the University of Albany

with the Start-up New York Designation Program.

By doing that we have decreased costs

in terms of the ability to not be charged state income tax

which is great for our employees,

great for the company itself.

Beyond that, we have a great resource in Albany,

there is a massive amount of universities here.

And from that the University of Albany being our partner

amongst others were able to find great talent.

The type of foundational work we do doesn't require

super seasoned veterans except for our supervisors

and therefore we are able to go for entry-level students

who are just trying to make their way.

Albany is a very enviable place in terms

of the cost of living here.

It's also only two and a half hours from New York City,

has a great arts experience going on in general.

We have The Egg.

We have EMPAC at RPI,

The Palace Theater,

Proctors, there's a broad spectrum of cultural icons

here already and it's growing.

The creative economy here, in fact,

seems to be growing at a rapid pace.

(relaxing piano music)

The Albany creative economy

is an interesting and nascent world,

which is really exciting.

I've had the luxury of working in some of the best

in the world,

both in New York City and in Los Angeles.

And to see it at its rawest form,

to see people coming together and see the growth

of advertising agencies here and marketing and creative

and design firms,

and something to my heart outside of our visual film

and TV work is all the virtual reality,

augmented reality and technology explorations

that are happening.

And you're seeing it at a grass roots level

which is really great.

You see non-profits like Youth FX

and The Barn doing some wonderful work

it really outreach to the community

and build a knowledge base that both the kids

and the young adults can really draw upon

in order to actually enter these industries

and be competent in them

and be mentored in them to make a wave,

to be successful in them.

And then you see the universities,

like the University of Albany and RPI,

really pushing forward in games

and digital entertainment and art.

And what we see is a really wonderful conglomeration

of excited people,

talented people and local people.

And by doing that it's creating an actual community

that is growing and learning and will be bringing

in higher level clientele,

better talent, but really fostering local talent,

and that's really exciting here.

- Whether it's graphic design,

architecture, landscape architecture,

interior design, industrial design or printing,

people who are attracted to careers in design

have a palpable passion for their work.

Ashley Armitage is a local graphic designer.

She runs her own studio out of her home,

Ashley A Designs,

where she specializes in brand identity,

packaging and advertising.

- What really brings a logo together?

What brings the entire identity together?

What does the client really want

when they tell me their story?

(upbeat music)

My name is Ashley Armitage.

I am the CEO of Ashley A Designs.

I do a whole variety of graphic design needs

from basic brochures to newsletters and above all,

I love to really dive into an entire branding study.

That's my bread and butter.

(upbeat music)

What I really believe in is good,

clean graphic design.

You see graphic designs so populated

and there's so much going on,

where what I really wanted to bring with my company

is a really clean, aesthetic approach,

just to really convey the story

of what a client is looking for.

If it may be a restaurant,

if it may be a resort

I start to really,

I sketch out my ideas and really bring

all these ideas to the table to them.

And very unique ones,

not just one idea and then turned into one or two

or three just variations but distinct differences

so that the client can really see

what their identity could look like potentially.

From that process I work from my clients

and they usually pick and choose and say

I like this direction,

I like that direction.

And then from there we pick out from the colors,

make sure the typefaces are solid,

also that they're legible.

You gotta realize too with an identity

that this identity is not just a logo.

This is your identity

that's going to be applied to everything.

I wonder, that'd be so much fun

and if I can replicate those three right there.

(mouse clicking)

I have to say it all started,

I gotta say,

back in high school I got the

kind of creative bug from one

of my art teachers named Miss Sally Weigh from Shenandoah.

A shout out to Shenandoah High School.

And she introduced me to this idea,

this concept that art doesn't always

have to be drawing a portrait landscape.

And I just said to myself,

well, I can actually design my work

in these programs called the Adobe products

like Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign.

And I really wanna explore, okay,

where is this gonna go from here

if I really wanna take this as a career?

(dramatic upbeat music)

I went to RAT,

Rochester Institute of Technology.

Then I found myself going to Maryland for a time

and then I actually worked

for a company called Chesapeake Bay Candle

and I designed all of their candle products.

I was actually chosen to do a line in Target.

I did their Pure and Natural line.

I went to Fisher Price,

I did a ton of packaging there and applied my skillset

in an inhouse setting.

And then later on I said to myself,

you know what,

I really wanna branch in and do my own thing.

I will honestly say that get the experience first.

Go into inhouse,

go to corporate,

go to the public and private sector

and get your hands dirty first.

Really see the process.

And then later on as you're seeing yourself

do a little better and say,

I can consistently get some constant money flow

into my business or even to yourself

that you feel like you can establish yourself

then I say go freelance.

Owning your own freelance business you have

to set up those timelines for yourself.

It's not a boss looking over you

and you have to keep on track,

because if you miss out you may miss out that next client.

Everyone always tells me,

they're like, "Why are you here?

"Why are you in Upstate New York?"

And I have to say the amount of talent

that's up here in Upstate is incredible.

And it's so huge between going to the Adirondacks

to Albany where you are going to find some sort

of creativity or arts festival or something in this area.

And I am very honored to be a part of that,

especially with applying my work to be in the real world.

My passion with design,

that is what keeps me going every day.

I know that I can push myself and have it be the best

that it can possibly be.

(upbeat music)

- Careers in music,

theater and dance have been practiced for centuries.

But in the creative economy of today

they're more dynamic than they've ever been.

Nowhere is that more evident than at PS21 in Chatham

founded by the late Judy Grunberg.

PS21 stands for Performance Spaces for the 21st Century,

which is exactly what it sounds like,

a state of the art facility designed

for experimental performance art.

- That's that bird.

But it's good to get that bird in,

it's kind of part of the whole thing.

It shows you that we're not in a studio.

(relaxing sci-fi music)

I'm Judy Grunberg and I'm the founder and president

of PS21 in Chatham which stands for Performance Spaces

for the 21st Century.

PS21 is a venue for the performing arts.

We had our performances in a tent for our first 12 years.

And this year and I guess the reason I'm here

is because we have a brand new building.

(relaxing instrumental music)

We really needed to replace the tent.

I mean, the actual tent that we had bought originally

was decaying quickly.

And to rent one every year and set it up and take it down

is a real pain in the neck and also there were a lot

of other problems associated with having a tent,

such as the bathrooms were porta potties outside,

the performers didn't have a nice place to wait

or to dress or to shower,

scary evenings where the wind blew and people were afraid

that we would be all blown to Kansas.

We decided that let's go for the whole thing.

Let's have a space that can be used all year.

(relaxing instrumental music)

We had an architect, Evan Stoller,

who lives nearby here.

So now we have a black-box

that is open the other three seasons.

And then all of a sudden in early June it just opens up

and this appears magically.

(dramatic instrumental music)

It's like going from A to Z with nothing in between.

It's exciting, we've already had our first black-box season.

And we had three or four performances.

We had some silent films accompanied by a live piano.

It's a very nice intimate space.

(upbeat instrumental music)

Today is the opening of the theater.

(audience applauding)

The idea of this opening was to present,

kind of have a showcase of some of our performers

that we've had over the past to give people an idea,

maybe even people who've never been here before,

of the kinds of things that we present.

(banjo music with tap dancing)

(classical instrumental music)

(tapping of triangle)

(audience laughing and applauding)

90% of the things we present are things

that a lot of our audience has never heard of.

Even though maybe in the wider world

these people are well known,

they're not here.

And my dream is that people will begin to say,

you know, we never heard of it but if they have it up there

it's gotta be something worthwhile.

And that's my feeling.

I just instinctively believe that this stuff

is important and I mean,

I always feel that when your beliefs are supported

by statistics that's really nice.

And I guess the statistics are showing

that whatever is called a creative economy

is a great builder for the community,

economic development of a community.

And it sort of sad because those of us

who are sort of in the arts have always known

how important the arts are to lives growing up,

how important they should be in the schools,

how essential they are for your whole spiritual growth.

And so it's really good to be supported

by the statistical evidence because you know

that as far as corporations and businesses go

you have to prove to them that there's a bottom line there.

You can't just say art is good,

you have to say it's good because of this or that.

But I certainly believe that it's here

and I believe in it.

We've had one performance, let's say,

and the next day someone will say to me,

"Why didn't you tell me it'd be so great?

"I heard it was wonderful."

And I say, well,

I can't call everybody I know

and tell them it's gonna be great.

You've gotta take a chance.

- Much like performance art the 21st Century

has added new colors to a timeless profession.

Artists today bring a new tech savvy perspective

to the visual arts which includes painting, photography,

sculpting, textiles and hand crafting.

One of the region's fastest growing creative businesses

is an eCommerce company based out of Halfmoon, New York.

And they make Darn Good Yarn, literally.

(upbeat music)

- Darn Good Yarn is a creative company.

We are fueled by this concept

that business can be its own creative medium

and I think that's important for anyone who's creative.

I think there's sometimes this,

oh, I'm creative,

I can't be necessarily a business person.

I've seen that a lot and you go, like,

no, you just have to kind of just change

the way you're approaching things.

You can be as creative as you want in business.

That's where the really fun stuff starts to happen.

(upbeat instrumental music)

My name is Nicole Snow and I'm the founder and CEO

of Darn Good Yarn.

Darn Good Yarn is a eCommerce business located

in Halfmoon, New York.

I started the business 11 years ago

and we were just named the fastest growing business

in the Capital Region.

My love of crafting came from when I was a little girl.

My mom, I think,

realized early on that I love to make messes

around the house and I think she smartly put me down

in the basement in this corner and made a desk and she said,

"This is your craft area."

And looking back as a mom now,

I'm like, that was just smart parenting

to keep all of my glitter in one corner of the house.

But I've always just loved to repurpose things,

repaint things, I've always been really crafty in that way.

My great grandmother was incredibly crafty,

I mean, coming off of Ellis Island.

And then as I got older I was always told art

isn't the thing that makes you money.

It was like go to school.

Go do business.

I was an officer in the Air Force

and that passion got kind of pushed down,

but it always came out in these little places.

And then when I got out of the military

I really wanted to explore the creativity side

a little bit more so I swung from one side to the other.

(upbeat music)

I started this business out of my guest bedroom

in my house.

I was living in California and my husband's job

was moving us all over the nation.

I wanted to learn how to knit at the time

so I said let me try to marry us moving around all the time

and making a small business

and then my love for yarn and all things crafty.

I went to school at Carson University

in Upstate New York and the little bit

of that business background helped me

to grow Darn Good Yarn.

I realized pretty quickly

that while I'm a really creative person using paints

and metal and all that sort of weird mediums in that way,

it's stuff I really have fun with,

I can actually use that same creativity in business itself.

And so the business itself became my new medium.

And once I sort of figured that out

I went like, wow,

there's like a whole world here.

(Middle Eastern music)

Darn Good Yarn runs on a really cool concept

called the triple bottom line framework.

So in most businesses you measure the success

of the business based on profitability.

With the triple bottom line framework

you're actually measuring the success of the business

off of three Ps.

The first is profitability.

The second is what you're actually doing for the planet.

And then the third is the people that interact

with your supply chain.

So when you sort of go in with that mindset

you're able to apply that creativity

and you're able to make really cool things happen.

As the business started to grow I realized that the core,

our product I was bringing in which was recycled silk yarn,

when I was bringing that in I realized that the women

that were making this over in Nepal in India,

it was a side hustle for them.

So I said, man,

I think I can create a really cool sustainable job

for them where they can work from home,

they can be with their children.

And from there,

that's when the business started to grow

because I treated the business like a conduit

to create sustainable employment

versus just selling product on the Internet.

The jobs that we're creating are really based

on focusing on individuals that have been affected most

by gender and caste discrimination in these countries.

I'm not trying to go in and rework anyone's history

or countries or anything like this.

I realize that that's very much a part of the cultures

that we're dealing with.

But what I do wanna do is provide a way

for people to work for themselves.

A lot of times it's women who are illiterate.

They usually have had an issue where their husband

has gotten really sick or he can't work and provide

for their families.

So when you lose the main breadwinner,

that's a significant deal.

And when you're dealing with this sort

of caste discrimination you're not dealing

with the social safety nets that we have

in this country even to fall back on.

So what I'm trying to do is create products

that need a lot of people working on them,

even if they are low skill.

And I believe that,

and we're seeing progress of this,

is that when you provide that skill,

especially to women,

that money is staying in the homes

and it's being reinvested back into the next generation.

(relaxing piano music)

The positivity component is really important

to what we do here.

It just, it keeps us creative.

It keeps us trying to do things a little bit better

with a little bit more innovation and that's really

what I think small business is all about.

We like to also think of ourselves as a technology company

and as an RND Lab we let people go experiment

and try something.

If it doesn't work it's no big deal.

When you look at our stats,

we just posted an amazing year on top of the year before.

We closed out 2018 at $7.1 million

and that was with a business size in terms of employees

of eight people.

We've now grown to 21 employees for this year

and we're looking to post an even larger,

I think we're gonna definitely surpass 10 million

this year in sales.

The thing that's always really surprised me though

is that I was never taken seriously.

Until I started talking about my revenue numbers,

until people started to come here people thought

that we just sat around and knit all day

and that's not what's going on here

and it's been so often that it's been pushed to the side.

And then as we started posting our revenue numbers

and then we started blasting the sort of big guys

out of the water, your healthcares,

your technology industries out of the water

and people are seeing that this creative company

is making this sort of traction and scalable traction.

We've been growing at least by 40% every single year

since I started the business 11 years ago.

We are definitely a force to be reckoned with.

- To many, preserving the past is as important

as building for the future.

As it turns out bridging that gap requires

a lot of ingenuity.

There's a branch of creative careers

in heritage and preservation in our region,

a region that is unparalleled in its rich history.

19th Century Hudson River School painter, Thomas Cole,

and his student, Frederic Church,

shared a special bond.

Almost 200 years later they now share a new physical link,

the Hudson River Skywalk.

The skywalk is a pedestrian walkway

that spans The Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

It connects Frederic Church's Olana in Columbia County

with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

in Greene County.

- Thomas Cole was the founder of an art movement

that we now know as The Hudson River School,

which was the first major art movement in America.

And it started with Thomas Cole in about 1825

when he was just 24 years old,

and extended into the late 19th Century.

So it dominated American visual culture

for over 50 years.

- Olana is one of the most magnificent places

in the country.

It's Frederic Church's home and studio

and 250 acre designed historic landscape.

Frederic Church was a founding figure

of American art.

His mentor was Thomas Cole.

(upbeat piano music)

- What we've done with this project is we've taken

the two founders of The Hudson River School

and connected them.

(relaxing upbeat music)

The Hudson River Skywalk is a literal connection,

a trail that you can walk on.

It's three miles one way.

Six miles, a really good workout if you do a roundtrip.

It's this true connection and trail that is open

to the public now for their enjoyment.

- The connection of these two sites is so fantastic

because they've been linked by history

and they've been linked by themes and by stories.

And Thomas Cole,

when he was in his 40s had this young student,

Frederic Church, who was still a teenager

and he took him over to the place

where Church would later build Olana

and showed him this magnificent landscape.

And so these two places have been intertwined

throughout the centuries and now people can think

of them in the same breath.

They can visit them in the same day.

They can walk between them.

- The Hudson River Skywalk concept began in 2015

when Olana and the Thomas Cole site

had a collaborative exhibition called

River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home.

And we were celebrating the opening of that exhibition.

The Bridge Authority folks were invited and present.

- These two artists are on opposite sides

of the river only divided by

our bridge.

This bridge is really a tourism asset

and should be promoted as such.

It had a walkway on it,

although a walkway to nowhere.

You couldn't go anywhere once you got to the other side.

But nonetheless, a spectacular experience.

- It was at that moment that the people in the room

who had hatched the whole idea of river crossings

began to see that this could be the future

of a new combined destination.

Many partners came together understanding

that it's art and art history,

that we have a historic treasure right here.

That's what motivated us all to get together

and work for two, three years.

- It was an uphill challenge because on the Olana side

of the bridge is a very busy intersection

with lots of highways coming in in all directions.

And we talked about it for a long time,

how would we get people over this busy intersection?

What could be do?

We talked about a bridge or a tunnel.

It became a beautiful park with a circle

and crosswalks, benches,

a sitting wall.

Instead of a place that you zoom through

it became a destination to stop

and appreciate the beauty that was there.

- The public can come and walk

across The Hudson River Skywalk experiencing

the three dimensional versions of the paintings

of The Hudson River School.

It's also a significant new economic engine

for our region.

The goal is to really create a new tourist destination

that will be nationally known,

if not internationally known that will draw people

from around the world and around the country

to this region.

And this region we're defining as The City of Hudson,

Olana, across the bridge to the Thomas Cole site

and then to the village of Catskill.

So the skywalk is really a great thing in the sense

that it builds on that infrastructure to create connection

between peoples and culture and history.

(dramatic upbeat music)

- The Hudson River School is a

loose affiliation of artists as well as the writers

that inspired them that had a thought that they shared,

which as that these landscapes here

are national treasures.

And that the beauty and the nature that we see

all around us in this country was something

that we should celebrate and something that could be lost.

They shared this belief also that by being in nature

it was a healing experience,

it was something that we as a country should experience more

and it could cause our spirits to be lifted,

it could cause a moral uplift in the citizens

of the United States and is something to be proud

of as a country.

I think what's so exciting about what's happening now

is that we've heard it.

We've heard this message and we do realize

that this is precious and that it's ephemeral

and it's easy to lose.

So projects like this,

The Hudson River Skywalk,

brings attention to the fact that this is here,

it is still available to us

by the efforts of so many people,

Scenic Hudson, New York State,

Olana, Thomas Cole.

So many people have worked on making sure

that this beauty is still here.

And this is an opportunity,

it's a giant platform to appreciate it from.

(upbeat music)

- We've just explored some of the region's creative minds,

people who are central figures in our creative economy.

They're smart, motivated and producing world class

artistic and cultural content right here

in the Capital Region,

a place that's inspired them,

motivated them and sustained them.

Maureen Sager is one of the driving forces

behind the growth of our creative economy.

She's the executive director

of the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy,

which is part of the Center for Economic Growth.

Welcome Maureen, can you help us tell the story

of the Capital Region's creative economy?

When did we first realize that creativity

was happening here?

- Sure.

Well, the first time that we started

to use that term creative economy was about seven years ago.

There was a report commissioned,

led by CEG,

The Center for Economic Growth

and The Community Foundation and a bunch of funders,

and they used this term,

this application of the creative economy

to size much more than what was considered

before the arts and culture segment.

It added things like digital media and design

which wasn't normally considered part of arts and culture

and culinary arts and agriculture.

And when they put that together and counted it,

finally did that quantification we found out

that it is the sixth,

now, the fourth largest employment sector here.

- This is something we've talked about a little earlier

in the program as well,

New York, San Francisco,

LA, these are the places that rank top

in terms of creative hubs in the United States.

Why here, why in the Capital Region?

Why has it come together in the Capital Region

the way it has?

- [Maureen] Sure.

- And why would it continue to flourish here?

- There's some statistics that are popping here

and it mostly comes from self-employed artists.

So the Metropolitan Statistical Area,

that is Albany,

Schenectady and Troy,

is the sixth highest concentration of self-employed artists

in the United States of America, that's here.

Cities are risk averse now.

The overhead is so high that it's churning

out their people faster than they're bringing them in.

New York City is shedding their residents faster

than any other city in the United States right now.

Over 200 people a day are leaving New York.

They have to go somewhere and they're coming here.

I'm one of those people who left the city

because of overhead.

That has made me into a really risk tolerant person

and you can start your own business,

as we can see

statistically. - You can afford the fell.

- Exactly and they're doing that here

and that's something you can't afford

to do in the city anymore.

I think that's definitely part of it,

statistically we're seeing that.

- Let's talk about freelancers.

I think in some ways what do freelancers look like?

Not the job description of a freelancer

but what does a freelancer typically

in our creative economy?

What defines that group?

What are some of the unique things about them?

- Right, there are two different types of freelancers.

One is someone who does that for their main source

of income and there are lots of people

like graphic designers who it's very common

to have a stable of clients that can support you full-time.

Then there's other people who are doing this

as a side hustle, right.

They have a full-time job that they like

but there's something that they like more

than their full-time job that they do at night,

be it playing music or starting their own company

or opening up their own coffee shop

'cause they want to find the place where they want

to have that cup of coffee.

- It is amazing to think of 16,000 entrepreneurs

in our region.

- Exactly and that's what they are, right.

- So we can certainly see the economic impact

that the group of freelancers has,

the 16,000 or so in the region.

But it's sometimes a little terrifying to be a freelancer.

With some of that risk comes uncertainty as well.

It seems like there are some unique things

that we could be doing to support the freelance community

as well, could you talk about that?

- Sure, there are conversations

about portable benefits, right.

The ACA has been great because you can get health insurance

and so that is something that a lot of people look backwards

and say that was the tipping point

where we could move easily into freelancing

permanent. - Before that

folks would just be limited

to conventional employment, for example.

- For sure.

You know what's strange?

When I was living in Los Angeles,

I was 25 in a bar with my friends all

of whom were screen writers

and none of us had health insurance.

And that's a really dangerous situation.

Someone told us that you could join

the New Mexico Cattle Ranchers Association

for 29 bucks and get health insurance.

And so we all became cattle ranchers.

That's what you had to do to get insurance back then.

- That does sound awesome by the way.

- It does, I've never even been to New Mexico.

But you had to do crazy things to get insurance

and now you don't have to do anything crazy.

You do have to go through,

every November you have to reregister,

but that's it.

And then you're free to,

you have some stability to go forward with that.

If we could extend that type of thing

to 401Ks, it disability income,

to all of that set of benefits

that traditional employee people have

we could really make this into a lifelong career path.

- Now tell us about the future, Maureen?

Five, 10,

15 years out,

what do you see out there?

What should we be doing right now

to make that future a positive one for us?

- Yeah, we have one big idea that we think we've come to

because of the seven years of conversations

that we've been having.

It's based on this other set of economic data

which is that the world is urbanizing.

In the United States

the top 20 cities account for 66% of all new jobs.

66% of all economic activity takes place in just 50 markets.

These are markets that have a million people or more, right.

That is where people are going.

That's where talent is going.

You can't pay people enough to move

to a small market in many cases,

I'm sure that

people see that, right. - Yeah, that's a challenge

that we encounter.

- I'm sure and we hear this over and over again,

Fingerpaint Marketing had 77 open positions recently,

all really well paying jobs,

and they just couldn't get people to the region.

That's something we have to fix not just

for the creative industries but for all industries, right.

So we have those things that you need to become one

of those top markets.

We have a million people.

You need that,

that's the opening call,

you need that.

- And maybe we need to act with critical mass.

- We do.

- Act like a million people.

- We do and that's exactly what we need to do

and if we can do that there is nothing separating us

from those other cities and metro areas.

There's a lot of ways you can look at it and say,

oh, we'll never get there.

But if you can sit and rest in that message

for a minute as to what we could gain

by working together as a region

and look at these cities and towns as our neighborhoods

which are all glittering.

In New York every one of them's glittering.

You want them to be different.

You want them to be special and yet they all benefit

from being connected in that way.

We have that proposition and that's something

that we wanna talk about,

creating a regional brand here that's based

on creative economy because people and talent wanna move

to some place that is known for its creativity.

The top 50 markets,

you can name something about all of them about what

creativity's out there. - Creativity means

cultural vibrance.

- We know that we have these cultural assets.

We know that we have the creative businesses.

We know that we have this young workforce.

We have everything we need and we're geographically,

what could be better?

- [Buha] Sure.

- Than where we are, right?

So this is what we wanna work on,

making this a connected place that we join

under one brand so that we can tell the world

just how great we are.

- Well, it was amazing to hear.

We have to put it into action and let's make it happen.

Thank you for being on the show with us today?

- Yeah, thank you so much.

(upbeat music)

- And thank you for joining us today

on our creative journey.

I've been your host, Guha Bala.

For more about the creative economy and to take a glimpse

of the work of more of the region's creative professionals

visit wmht.org/creativeeconomy.

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Funding for Creative Capital,

Shaping the Region's Economy is provided

by the Bender Family Foundation.

Additional Support comes from.

- [Narrator] As a not-for-profit health plan

MVP is working to provide health coverage

that is convenient,

supportive and personal,

the way it should be.

More information at mvphealthcare.com.

(upbeat music)

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