“Transformation has changed and informed the very way we see the world and our place in it,” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center at the board of directors annual meeting on May 18.
At the meeting, SPAC leadership and staff reflected upon a successful 2022 season and considered the trajectory of the institution’s collective efforts to serve art, artists, and the community of Saratoga Springs and the Capital Region.
“No longer just an amphitheater, we see SPAC as the perfect confluence of human-made and natural beauty,” Sobol said. “We see SPAC as a refuge, a place of healing, a place where all people are welcome, and all cultures are celebrated. In our hearts, we understand our mission—to connect people to people—and to our planet. And we undertake this important work with recognition of the profound importance of beauty and art in the cultivation of compassion and the creation of a just world.”
SPAC announced that it ended the year with $470,000 of operating reserves. This was attributed to fundraising efforts supported by members, the board of directors, the general public and the utilization of $1.5 million in critical federal grants for budget relief from COVID.
The reserves will be used to help SPAC navigate the challenging 2023 season ahead, officials said.
The transformation at SPAC is evident in programming initiatives, said Chris Shiley, vice president of artistic planning. In addition to sustaining summer residencies with companies like the New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and hosting the 46th Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, “the depth and scope of SPAC programming has exploded,” said Shiley.
“SPAC continues to honor its unique history and cultural roots, while simultaneously finding new and innovative ways to broaden our artistic scope and connect our community,” said Shiley. “The 2023 summer season will span three months, with 28 performances, 24 debuts and 11 premieres, continuing our commitment to evolving and expanding our programming. Anchored by our theme ‘EARTH,’ we will pay homage to our unique position in the incomparably beautiful Spa State Park, as we explore, through the arts, the connections between people and planet.”
In addition to offerings from resident companies, the season includes LiteraryArts@SPAC, presenting insightful conversations with renowned authors, thinkers, and poets; CulinaryArts@SPAC, offering culinary experiences with an emphasis on sustainability, community, and socially conscious cultivation and consumption; and VisualArts@SPAC, with works of art coming alive in various locations throughout the SPAC campus and via collaborations in the Capital Region with community and cultural partners.
Shiley announced dates for SPAC residencies in 2024: The New York City Ballet will return to SPAC July 9-13, 2024 and The Philadelphia Orchestra residency will take place July 31-Aug. 17.
Sobol outlined key improvements at the SPAC facilities. Last year, with partners at Live Nation, SPAC began the crucial renovation of the amphitheater backstage—which had still been in its original state from 1966—making the backstage a modern, comfortable and inviting place for the artists appearing at SPAC.
Also, the performer’s road, also from 1966 – and travelled by patrons, artists and numerous vehicles of all sizes – has been widened, regraded, and repaved.
MLB Construction is handling all the improvement work.
After extensive renovations, done in collaboration with New York State Parks, the Spa Little Theater is now home to a year-round schedule of concerts, presenting 25 events and welcoming more than 8,000 guests to what Sobol described as a “jewel of a venue.”
As part of SPAC’s mission to give equitable access to the arts, SPAC expanded its Classical Kids program, which reaches about 12,000 students and provides two free tickets per participating family. SPAC also continues its Summer Nights at SPAC, which provides free transportation, meals, and amphitheater seating to hundreds of children and family members at select performances during the summer season.
The board also welcomed Keeley Ardman DeSalvo, Sharyn Hiter Neble, Chet Opalka, Dr. Jeffrey Ridha, and Sujata N. Chaudhry as new members.