Erica Price started making pottery a year ago at a very stressful point in her life. “You have this slab of clay and it’s all off balance—and you can’t fight with it. If you fight with the clay it doesn’t work. To find your centering you just have to let yourself go. Put a little force in it, but let the clay go where it wants. Before you know it, you're throwing a 12-foot vase you never realized you could,” she says.
You might compare Price’s explanation of wheel throwing to her most recent project: revamping a 1914 factory building into an art and performance space: the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory. It starts out as a stark, empty space and the vibe is off balance from its end goal. It’s sometimes a struggle that needs a little force, but in the end, a broken down factory is transformed into a 14,000-square-foot home for the arts.
Erica and husband Gerard Price bought the 21,000-foot facility two years ago to expand their Saugerties-based uniform rental and cleaning company. The idea for a performing arts center came from Lou Spina, who walked into the factory on a whim looking for a open space for his performing arts group Stella May Productions.
“I was staining the floor with my respirator on and Lou Spina tapped me on the back. Startled, I turned around, ready to smack him in the face, and he said: ‘Do you have any space?’” Erica recalls. Spina, who runs a music, theater, and media production company, says: ‘This space is great, we could do so much here. That’s where the project started,’” she says.
That was last November. By December, Price was hustling on the Internet trying to find curtains, chairs, lighting, and chandeliers, and building a stage to reconstruct the factory into an adequate space for the arts. The pieces joined together for the first time on March 31 for “Against the Grain,” a cooking demo with Frank Serpico and Noah Sheetz, chef to Governor Cuomo — a production of Green Peas TV.
Price has always been interested in art, but with her family and uniform business, art was left on the back burner. When she and Gerard bought the factory, the stress of their business expansion was overbearing, so she started studying ceramics in order to relax. That’s when art became a stronger focus for her, opening another field, which led to an entirely new business.
On the weekend of April 20, Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF) will present their opening gala, “Arts Under One Roof,” which will feature events from myriad artistic disciplines. “The concept for the event is: all the arts will have a home under one roof,” says Spina.
The gala will give a preview of what’s to come at SPAF. The event begins Friday, when Domenic Silipo takes on four to five roles in his one-man show “Miles from Somewhere,” then Bruce Grund directs a lost Eugene O’Neill play—discovered after 92 years—with actors Michael Da Torre, Eric Jagoda, Jon Lee, Leif Grund, and Douglas Koop; and is followed by jazz cabaret with Ann Osmond and Dennis Yerry. Tango champion Sidney Grant will also perform, with dancer Tara Ryan. Saturday kicks off with free children’s entertainment by magician and ventriloquist Steve Charney at 11:30am. That evening, Silipo and O’Neill’s works will be followed by a swing dance demonstration. Two jazz acts will perform—vocalist Veronica Nunn, and pianist Travis Shook with bassist Lew Scott and drummer Willard Dyson. Sunday features a fundraiser for the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice with opera selections from 3 to 5 pm.
Price’s main vision is to bring art to the community and to share it. “I’m hoping that the community will surround it with love. I really want to keep the art local,” she says. She hopes gala attendees will leave inspired. “Hopefully people will be affected like I was and begin taking a course. Besides being a stress reliever, art is there to expand horizons. What better way to revitalize an old factory building? A place where people were once doing factory work is now a place for people to enjoy art,” says Price.
SPAF’s opening gala “Arts Under One Roof” will be held Friday, April 20, 7:30 to 10:30 pm; Saturday, April 21, children’s show, 11:30 am to 1 pm, evening performances 8 to 11 pm; and Sunday, April 22, 3 to 5 pm. (845) 246-7723; Thespaf.com