Thursday, February 27, 2014

NYCBallet and SPAC founder, Lincoln Kirstein, was a "Monuments Men".

‘Monuments Men’ soldier helped start SPAC


Ed Burke - The Saratogian 02/20/14 George Balanchine looks over the shoulder of New York City Ballet and SPAC enthusiast Louise Goldstein as she holds a poster of Lincoln Kirstein. Goldstein acquired the posters when the Aldelphi Hotel closed down.

SARATOGA SPRINGS >> One of the U.S. Army’s original “Monuments Men” co-founded the New York City Ballet and was instrumental in the creation of Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Pfc. Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96) joined the army in 1943 and a year later was named to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program, charged with recovering and protecting priceless art looted by the Nazis during World War II.

The “Monuments Men” movie, now playing at Criterion Cinemas in downtown Saratoga Springs, features a character based loosely on Kirstein, the ballet’s general director from 1946-89.

“He was such an important force for arts in this country,” said Louise Goldstein, an avid SPAC booster. “He was here every summer for 30 years. He put ballet on the map in America.”

A Monuments Men Foundation website says Kirstein, while studying at Harvard University, established the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art in 1928. Five years later, Russian choreographer George Balanchine came to the U.S. at Kirstein’s invitation and in 1934 they founded the School of American Ballet.

Shortly after the war, they formed the Ballet Society, which was renamed the New York City Ballet in 1949.

The impetus for SPAC’s foundation started taking shape in 1961, with the goal of it becoming the New York Philharmonic’s summer home. Before long, city ballet became part of the discussions.

By 1963, the philharmonic had dropped out of the picture.

“But the project had a momentum of its own,” SPAC’s website says. “New York City Ballet’s co-founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein helped define both SPAC’s physical form and artistic agenda.”

The stage floor was specifically engineered for the ballet.

“Arnold H. Vollmer designed the floor honoring the wishes of George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, making the original floor a design marvel,” SPAC’s website says.

Kirstein’s contributions to the Monuments Men are now gaining long-overdue recognition with the movie’s release. He and his commanding Monuments program officer, Capt. Robert Posey, recovered numerous masterpieces from the salt mines at Altaussee, Austria.

A character based on Posey is portrayed by actor Bill Murray in the film.

SPAC opened in 1966. Kirstein received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984, the National Medal of Arts in 1985), and with Balanchine, the National Gold Medal of Merit Award of the National Society of Arts and Letters.

“He was one of the most important people in this country for decades in the arts,” Goldstein said. “He saved art for the world during World War II.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

recent gazette editorial urging SPAC to reinstate longer season for New York City Ballet.

Bravo to SPAC for sticking with the arts

Saturday, November 2, 2013
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Marcia White, president and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, has taken her share of criticism for the incredible shrinking New York City Ballet summer residency, which on her watch has gone from three weeks to two to one this year (in dance terms, about the size of a ballerina’s waist).
It’s not all her fault — the ballet company wants more money, which SPAC currently does not have — but it’s a big cultural loss to the Capital Region, and an economic one to Saratoga Springs. Fortunately, White still seems committed to a multiweek residency for NYCB in 2015 (after another one-week stay next year), and to the arts in general.
Some cases in point. After finding out in 2012 that NYCB would again be cutting back, White signed up two other companies, National Ballet of Canada and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, for three performances each this summer. Although neither was up to NYCB’s illustrious standards, they were good. But, perhaps predictably, they weren’t big draws. Another, more popular dance company, Momix, filled the house for one performance; but they do “dance illusion” (a multimedia spectacle with lights and props), not ballet.
And for the coming year, White hit a home run, landing one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious companies, the Bolshoi Ballet, which will be on a three-stop tour of the United States. They’ll give four performances of “Don Quixote,” and can also be expected to pack them in.
The same with David Finckel and Wu Han in the Spa Little Theater. They aren’t dancers but world-renowned musicians — Finckel a cellist and Han a pianist — with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Next year they and their group (which they also serve as artistic directors) will start an annual summer residency in Saratoga, the group’s first such arrangement anywhere. Finckel and Han, who already have a following in the Capital Region thanks to their frequent appearances at the Union College concert series, will make an already good SPAC chamber music summer program an exceptional one.
We’re glad to see that SPAC remains committed to the classical arts, but it must continue to shoot for top quality. In dance, that means NYCB. SPAC’s management has to find ways, whether fund raising, sponsorships or wine and food festivals like the successful one held this year, to get the wherewithal to bring the company back for more than a week each summer.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

SPAC worried about competition coming.

Casinos a concern to area arts venues

Coalition seeks limits on new facilities

Friday, October 18, 2013
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Proctors is among a group of regional arts venues to join together to express concern over the possible impact of proposed new casinos.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Proctors is among a group of regional arts venues to join together to express concern over the possible impact of proposed new casinos.
— Proctors in Schenectady was closing in on a decision on whether to form a partnership with the Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs last spring when the Saratoga Casino and Raceway made a bombshell expansion announcement.
A two-part feasibility study conducted by Proctors over the winter determined the former Universal Baptist Church — with a potential 800-person capacity — could serve as a niche entertainment facility in the Spa City and help fill the gaps left by other venues around the Capital Region. Then the racino announced an ambitious plan to build a 24,000-square-foot event center as part of a $30 million expansion.
The project was announced as Saratoga Springs appeared to be a logical location for one of three proposed live-table game casinos, pending a state constitutional amendment legalizing Las Vegas-style gambling. Then, when state legislators adopted a plan that all but assured the Capital Region one of the four casinos, Proctors decided to put on hold any decision regarding a collaboration with the hall.
Simply put, November’s referendum and the possibility of having a new entertainment venue in the area leaves too much up to chance. Philip Morris, Proctors’ chief executive officer, fears the establishment of casinos with entertainment facilities will have a notable effect on mid-sized venues like the hall and others throughout the state.
“We have our concerns about the casinos,” he said. “They’ll have an impact on Universal Preservation Hall and other entertainment facilities.”
Now, more than a dozen arts and entertainment venues from across the state are grouping together to call for limitations on casinos that would prevent them from having a negative impact on surrounding facilities. The Coalition for a Fair Game is proposing a series of protections that would limit the capacity of casino-based entertainment venues to 1,000 seats, establish long-term limits on expansion of those facilities, and require casino bidders to reach partnership agreements with each facility within close proximity to establish exclusivity terms, among other things.
The coalition includes a number of area entertainment facilities, including Proctors, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Saratoga City Center, Albany’s Palace Theater and the Times Union Center. The group is planning an announcement Tuesday, just two weeks before voters head to the polls to decide on legalized live table gaming.
The coalition isn’t anti-casino, Morris said. Rather, the group wants to start a discussion about the potential impacts such facilities could have on nearby venues.
Marcia White, SPAC’s executive director, has been vocal about her concerns over the impact the casinos could have on entertainment facilities in the Capital Region. She fears having a competing entertainment and conference center — such as the one proposed at the racino — could create financial problems for existing venues.
“It’s something that our communities should all be aware of,” she said.
Racino executives are of the opinion that the planned expansion and potential for live table games won’t have a negative impact on facilities like SPAC. Earlier this week during a forum on casino gaming in Saratoga Springs, racino director James Featherstonhaugh said the only negative impacts of siting a casino in the Spa City would be the same ones that come with any other major business expansion.
“The big change is it will bring more people into Saratoga who otherwise wouldn’t be here at all,” he told a crowd of about 50 people Monday.
Racino spokeswoman Rita Cox said the venue would look to work with neighboring concert halls, but played down the notion that the proposed 24,000-square-foot “multi-purpose space” would impose a hardship on existing facilities. She said the space would likely attract acts and events that wouldn’t otherwise come to the region.
“Quite frankly, most of the things we’re going to be bringing in are going to be different events with a different appeal,” she said.

saratogian, 10/19/13, NYS Parks puts in $900,000 parking lot at SPAC. How about giving us our lawn back?

SARATOGA SPRINGS >> Work has begun on a $900,000 project to repave Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s parking lot and related roadways.
Plans call for repaving and restriping all roadways and parking spaces, installing new landscaping at the entryway and throughout the parking area, and adding new handicap-accessible parking spaces near the box office.
In addition, 420 parking spaces will be paved with porous asphalt and new drainage systems will be installed to improve stormwater filtration to protect local water quality.
“The crumbling parking lot outside of SPAC — one of upstate New York’s most popular summer destinations — will no longer be a visible sign of the deterioration of our park system,” state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said in a statement. “We are reversing years of neglect. The improvements will improve traffic flow, incorporate new sustainable features and provide a more welcoming experience for park visitors.”
The project was awarded to Albany-based Luizzi & Brothers Contracting, which submitted the lowest competitive bid among eight firms.
Work is scheduled for completion in time for the 2014 SPAC season. The contract also includes resurfacing two parking lots in the Geyser Picnic Area within Saratoga Spa State Park. This job will incorporate porous asphalt, too.
The project is the latest in a series of upgrades at Spa State Park. Last spring, outdated parking lot lighting was replaced with new, efficient LED fixtures to reduce energy consumption.
The improvements are part of a statewide revitalization of the parks system. Last year, the state authorized $89 million under a “NY Works” program to fund more than 100 overdue projects at 55 parks and historic sites.
This year, a second round of $90 million is making possible another 90 projects at 50 state parks and historic sites across New York.
Saratoga Spa State Park attracts more than two million visitors per year.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 179 state parks and 35 historic sites.
For more information, call (518) 474-0456, go to: www.nysparks.com or follow on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Victoria Pool opened July 26, 1935 and was known as the Recreation Center at Saratoga Spa State Park. It was also known as the Pool in the Pines, the Spa Pool and later as the Victoria Pool as it is called today.
In 2006 Dr. L. Hoge(pictured on the right)  wrote the following narrative of the time he worked as a lifeguard at the Victoria Pool shortly after it opened in the 1930’s.  The identity of the little boy in the picture is not known.  Dr. Hoge died on May 4, 2012 at the age of 96 in Saratoga Springs. This is a hand written account kept in the Victoria Pool file in the Saratoga Room at Saratoga Springs Public Library :

For two seasons 1937 and 1938 I was a Guard at the Victoria Pool, New York State Park.  The experience which I acquired on this job benefited me a great deal.  I learned how to direct and relate to people in an authoritative manner but always in a way that they would respect.  Meeting many types of individuals was interesting and enjoyable.  I was fortunate to have this job.
When I was a Guard, Mr. Edwin LaDue was Director of the Pool and his assistant was Ralph Gutchel.  They were strict but fair.  There were two guards, Bill Brenan and myself.  In our   locker room was posted a list of rules and regulations which we were to enforce assiduously, no exceptions.  Food consumption and glassware were allowed only outside the barrier protecting the pool area and no smoking near the pool.  Joseph Escobar was in charge of the pool water treatment system.  The filtration and chemical controls were maintained first class.  Rhemi Denton was my age and worked the Solarium.  Jack Wilpen was in the Golf House.  He was a hustler, always with a pencil behind his ear and he kept us informed as to action in his area.  During WWII Jack was an Army Officer and had very interesting duty in Japan.
Bill and I came on duty at 9am and the first work was clean and sweep down the pavement around the pool.  Next we used gear for vacuuming the inside of the pool.  Since on the previous day swimmers were often diving for coins many of which settled in the deeper 10 foot area, we retrieved all coins and saved them in a jar and divided the loot at the end of the season. Finally we applied 5% solution hydrochlorite solution to pavement adjacent to the pool.  The pool was not open until 10am and so having completed our work, we would take a shower and a swim, and then sitting on a poolside bench we comment how fortunate we were. There were colorful flower beds on four sides of the area.  Relaxing classical music was being played and the whole peaceful scene was like another world.  When the doors opened at 10am the guests came rushing in.  Rude and raucous actions were not allowed and if it did occur then that was when our whistles would be piping and order would be maintained.  There were always some who try diving off the side of the diving boards.  This could be very dangerous and we were very emphatic about this not being done.
There were many pool visitors whom I had the privilege to meet and being 22 yrs. Old I was impressed.  Bob Pastor was at the pool regularly during the season.  He attended New York University where he was on the boxing team.  He told me the boxing coach would have been upset if he knew Bob was swimming so much which he enjoyed. Boxers need hard firm muscles, exactly opposite of swimmers.  However, Bob went on to become a heavy weight boxer and fought Joe Louis for the championship, once in New York and again in Chicago.  He was defeated both times. 
George Cassidy was the Starter at New York Racetracks.  He was often at the pool with Bing Crosby who would relate stories concerning film making.  One scene was supposed to be at a south sea island but was actually shot in a studio.  To have the effect of rippling ocean water reflected on her face an assistant stirred a pan of water to obtain the rippling effect.  Bing said that it was difficult to keep from laughing as he was saying his lines. 
Joseph Wheatley was at the pool often and he became a good friend of mine.  He swam for the New York Athletic Club and held the quarter mile world championship.  He also swam with Duke Kahznzmaku, Olympic swimmer and famous surf boarder. In 1945 I was in the Navy and an officer on the USS Atlanta.  We were in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and I visited the Duke who took me to the Out Rigger Canoe Club on Waikiki Beach and because of my friendship with his friend, Joe Wheatley, he taught me to ride a surfboard.  He gave me this card so I could be his guest at the Out Rigger Canoe Club whenever I was back in Pearl Harbor. 
Chauncey Olcott, the famous Irish tenor had a home on Clinton St.,Saratoga. It was called Iniscarra.  Chauncey’s daughter, Janet, was at the pool often with her friends who were thoroughbred horse owners from South Carolina.
Dr. Baudisch was a scientist doing research work on Saratoga mineral waters.  His laboratory was in the Simon Baruch building now the Administration building.  He came to the pool every day and I got to know him well and appreciate his discussions on his research. 
Marshall Cassidy was a member of the Jockey Club and established a training school for racing Stewards.  His daughter was at the pool daily and in later years I was often invited to their home Apple Knoll in Garden City, Long Island.

We saw Al Jolson often.  When he was at the Solarium located at the upper level.  My friend, Rhemi Denton attended him.  At the end of the season Rhemi was very happy when Jolson gave him a $10 tip.


Sophie Tucker was an entertainer at Arrow Head Club.  She was a large lady wearing a huge white flowing bathing suit.  She would cautiously enter the shallow end of the pool.  We would joke “look the pool is rising ”.
New York State Police had a horse mounted division in the state park.  When off duty they would come to the Victoria Pool. 
Sam Rosoff was famous as the builder of New York City subways.  At Saratoga he was well known at the gambling rooms of Riley’s, Arrowhead and Piping Rock, and of course he enjoyed the beauty of Victoria Pool always entering through the Golf House with his entourage.
Teresa Wright was a young actress in 1937 when she came to Victoria Pool.  She played backgammon at poolside benches with friends.  In 1942 Teresa Wright was in the film “ Mrs. Miniver “ with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon and she became a well known movie celebrity.
                                                                Leo J. Hoge, M.D.
                                                                July 21, 2005