When Erica and Gerard Price first visited the abandoned 55,000-square-foot factory off Ulster Avenue just west of the village of Saugerties in 2010, the roof was caving in, puddles covered the floor and poison ivy vines the size of tree trunks snaked around the exterior. The building certainly posed a challenge; but it also was blessed with rows of clerestory windows, flooding the interior with natural light, and “good bones,” as Erica put it. Seeking to expand their business on Partition Street, Uniforms USA, they bought the building with the idea of converting half the space into their industrial laundry. The roof and windows were replaced, the hardwood floors refinished and radiant heat installed.
In the meantime, Erica was feeling rather overwhelmed having to manage both the business and a major renovation and landscaping project, so she took a pottery class – and loved it. “It eased my stress,” she said. That gave her an idea for the unused 14,000-square-foot portion of the 1914 factory: Establish an arts center. “I thought it would be a wonderful place for artists to collaborate and have a couple of shows, instead of us being just landlords,” she said. So in November the couple formed the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF) and began transforming the space into a theater and exhibition space, with a stage, lights and 100 movable seats.
Three weeks ago, the SPAF had a soft opening, with Jane Watson of Green Peas TV filming Frank Serpico (yes, he of New York City cop and movie fame) for a cooking show. The official opening this weekend will be something else: a three-day public gala with a little bit of everything, from serious drama to hip hop dancing to a kids’ show to cabaret to tango and swing dancing. Paintings by half a dozen artists, ranging from abstracts to portraits, will hang on the walls.
This Friday night, April 20 starting at 7:30 p.m., a lost play by Eugene O’Neill, Miles from Somewhere, will be performed. (See accompanying article in Alm@nac for details.) It will be followed by a one-man play written and acted by Domenic Silipo, who, chameleonlike, plays a variety of characters inspired by his growing up Italian American in Brooklyn; jazz cabaret duo Ann Osmond and Dennis Yerry; and a tango dancing session, with a performance by the renowned Sid Grant, who’s traveling up from the City for the occasion.
The next day, April 21 between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., there’ll be an exciting show for kids featuring ventriloquist Steve Charney, accompanied by his sidekick Harry, and the Energy Dance Company from the Center for Creative Education performing hip hop. Kids can also paint murals, try their hand at potterymaking and cook. At 8 p.m., Domenic Silipo performs his play, followed by Miles from Somewhere. Then there’ll be an invigorating swing dance demo with experts Linda and Chester Freeman and a performance by jazz vocalist Veronica Nunn, accompanied by Travis Shook on piano, Lew Scott on bass and Willard Dyson on drums.
On Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m., the gala opening winds up with opera selections sung by Maria Todaro, Louis Otey and Kerry Henderson, founding members of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice; they’ll be performing to raise funds for their organization. Tickets for the matinée as well as the Friday and Saturday evening performances are $15 each; admission to the children’s show is by donation. For reservations, call (845) 246-7723.
“So far, it’s been very positive,” said Erica. “I hope people can see our vision and take it home to their family and friends, take a course or go to a museum and continue pursuing the arts.” Noting that the uniform business, which she and her husband started 18 years ago and employs 17, has been very successful, she added that she hopes SPAF “maybe will help better the world.”
For more information on SPAF, located at 169 Ulster Avenue in Saugerties, call (845) 246-7723 or log on to Thespaf.com.