<![CDATA[Arts Center on the Hudson - Articles]]>Fri, 15 Jan 2016 23:18:39 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Entrepreneur Converts Mechanicville Church into an Arts Center to Serve the Community]]>Wed, 29 Dec 2010 16:42:45 GMThttp://www.artscenteronthehudson.com/articles/saratoga-business-journal-entrepreneur-converts-mechanicville-church-into-an-arts-center-to-serve-the-community-by-wendy-pagePicture
"Saratoga Business Journal"  by: Wendy Page

It took a strong vision, persistence and determination, and a host of individuals for Jaimen McMillan to convert the former St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Mechanicville into the new The Arts Center on the Hudson.  It also took time and a circuitous path.  

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, built in Mechanicville in 1898, was in disrepair.  The roof was failing, causing water and mold problems, floors were in disarray, and stones on the north side were falling from high up the tower.  A report was produced saying the building was unsafe and possibly irreparable.  

Five years after that report, when McMillan was looking for space for an arts center he wanted to bring to the community, he heard the church was for sale and decided to investigate the charges against the building.  “The building architecturally is very unique,” McMillan said.  “The building itself is a work of art that had to be saved.”

He hired John G. Waite Associates, a leading consultant in the field of historic preservation architecture, to conduct a thorough study. “To change the perceived reality,” explained Bill Brandow, an associate with John G. Waite, McMillan “hired us to do a feasibility study:  How bad is it, what needs to be done, in what sequence.  We kind of laid out how they’d have to go about it, what was significant concern, what was over-hyped.  He used our report as a jumping off point.”

McMillan purchased the church in August of 2007.  With report in hand stating that the building was sound and with a list of necessary improvements, McMillan turned to Richard R. Butler of Butler Rowland Mays Architects LLP to represent him in front of the planning and zoning boards, and to assist with building review issues.  “Jaimen knew it was necessary to just clean the building up, and to make it a multipurpose space to use for all kinds of functions,”  Butler said. “It was a lot of deferred maintenance, a lot of removal of old work that had been done to the original.”  The roof, in large part the source of the problems, was replaced.  Seamless gutters were installed, “then Jim Roberts, my contractor from Home Works, dug trenches to funnel the water away.  Then it was a question of gutting the basement.  My family - my wife Dorothea and nephew - did a lot of the work necessary to turn the tide.”  Walls in the basement that had been covered up for years were exposed to reveal windows eliciting a lot of natural light. Handicapped bathrooms were installed, wall surfaces were restored and replaced, and the ceiling height was raised in the lower level.  McMillan added: “We didn’t restructure the church; we restored it.  This was a restoration. We changed very little- the alter was removed, the iron work and the pews were taken out. We put a totally new floor in the upstairs. A red oak floor is in there now.  We gutted the basement and a new floor is down there, too.  From the pews, we made some beautiful windowsills.”

The idea for The Arts Center was born from McMillan’s career, his travels, and his vision for the future. His expertise is in movement - specifically movement therapy, for which he has a doctorate, and the quality of movement, such as how to incur fewer sports-related  injuries, or how to ensure people hurt less while working on a production line or in everyday activities.  He developed an approach to physical education and spatial ergonomics, and founded the Spacial Dynamics Institute, Inc., where he serves as director.  “Spacial dynamics includes the immediate space around the person as part of the person,” McMillan explained. “This is where we come into the arts. We have to study the science of charisma and connecting - these are spatial bridges that we make to other people. We’ve all been moved by a glance, for example. A glance isn’t physical yet it is as real as anything material. It shows how we can jump out of our own skins and spark something new in others. Connecting to others is perhaps the ultimate art.”  Lots of actors and musicians train in Spacial Dynamics “because they make their living by changing that space on the stage,” McMillan said.  ”There’s a vibrancy between the audience and the performer.”

Once the art of performance is added, it leads to having a venue for these performances. McMillan associates true art with true community, and views The Arts Center as a cultural center and community builder.

As stated prominently on The Arts Center’s website, the center promises to make cultural waves that will be felt throughout Saratoga  County and the Capital District. This is especially true for waves that reach children.  Adjacent to The Arts Center is the Mechanicville Community Center, which  will hold some programs in the Center.  Performances at The Arts Center reflect McMillan’s mission to share “all sorts of art” with the people of Mechanicville.  In the area of performing, “there will be concerts, plays, art exhibits, and dance performances,” McMillan promised. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was performed in early December by Ashley Ramsden, an English master storyteller and actor who portrayed all 23 characters of the classic tale. On Valentine’s Day, Australian actor John McManus and Israeli pianist Gili Melamed-Lev will present Paul Gallico’s “The Snow Goose,” a story about love and compassion set against a background of war and mistrust.

In early April, there will be a dual performance.  ”The Open Window” is the true story of Vedran Smailovic, principal cellist of the Sarajevo Opera, who, during the Siege of Sarajevo in 1992, powerfully responded to genocide with his cello, creating music that was heard around the world. Max Judelson accompanies on the cello.  ”Three Strings” asks the question:  In the middle of a concert, what does violinist Yitzchak Perlman do when one of the strings on his violin breaks?  Gabi Im accompanies on the violin.

Another part of The Arts Center focuses on art education.  Classes will be offered on subjects such as how to sculpt and how to paint. “Fonda Black, The Arts Center administrator, is a specialist in handcrafts,

knitting, and weaving,” McMillan stated.  ”She can make anything.  One of the things we want to be able to offer, particularly to children, is handcrafts.”

Butler is equally impressed by the outcome.  ”What to me is the real story,” he said, “is that Mr. McMillan is the first person in the contemporary history of Mechanicville to restore an historic building. He saved the building. This is a real event that sparked urban renewal in the community, and added a function to the southern part of the  county, not just Mechanicville. It’s really a success story.”  McMillan concluded, “To be able to work on something that majestic brought the best out in all of us, and there was camaraderie in saving something that would otherwise have been lost and could never have been brought back.”

The Arts Center on the Hudson can be reached at 2 South Main Street in

Mechanicville by calling 852-8870, or by visiting, www.artscenteronthehudson.com.  

<![CDATA[Arts Center on the Hudson Thrives in Refurbished Church]]>Sat, 13 Jun 2009 15:51:34 GMThttp://www.artscenteronthehudson.com/articles/arts-center-on-the-hudson-thrives-in-refurbished-churchPicture
"Community News Weekly" by: Lauren Carpenter

McMillan’s vision of what this building could become was even beyond what his wife, Dorothea, could see. Agreeing to disagree, McMillan went ahead and started the process of turning the old church with its mold, failing roof and falling stone into his dream.

Not new to restoration, McMillan once helped a close friend renovate a courtyard next to an old castle in Wales. He also purchased the Mechanicville Elementary School next door using the gym as a hub for training at his Spacial Dynamics Institute (SDI) for those united in their desire to pursue a study of spatially oriented movement.  

With the activity in the church floundering and limited to the rectory, the building was judged to be in dynamic failure. McMillan hired John Waite Associates to do an engineering study which found the building to be sound but deemed immediate action to restore it properly. With the professional assistance of architect Dick ButlerMcMillan went through the required building code officials and planning and zoning boards finding everyone along the way very supportive.

“We saw this architectural gem just falling apart. The high arched ceilings are absolutely beautiful to behold. We didn’t want to see it slowly rot away and we took to saving it,” McMillan said McMillan hired contractor Jim Roberts of Home Works for much of the main restoration and brought in specialists for the plumbing and electric.

He, Dorothea their sons and nephew banded together to do the “donkey work” cleaning, painting, gutting and such. Through SDI, McMillan also has a huge source of pro bono labor from loyal students and colleagues, literally from around the world, willing to lend a hand. He is also very pleased that St. Luke’s existing parishioners, with the purchase of the building, built another church just a few miles away to accommodate their needs.

The Arts Center on the Hudson’s grand hall which easily accommodates 400 guests includes the original stained glass windows throwing rainbows of color on the red oak floor that shines to perfection in the newness of the project.

The original organ, minus its console, lines the left wall of the alter-turned-stage. Hoping to replace the console some day, McMillan keeps it on his endless to-do list, but must prioritize self-funding more immediate goals such as the now finished basement gallery is home to three separate areas accommodating up to 320 visitors and designed for meetings and gatherings with modern restrooms and a roomy kitchen. The kitchen is perfect for caterers to use and includes a turn-of-the-century Garland stove with 16 burners and 4 ovens.

Needing no restorative assistance are the acoustics in the grand hall. “No matter where you are in the room or which way you are turned, the music comes from everywhere,” McMillan says proudly.

With most of the restoration completed, McMillan officially opened in December and has already held several events including master storyteller Ashley Ramsden’s one man show of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Other shows included a combination of drama and music and the Girl Scouts celebrated World Thinking Day there with over 100 in attendance.  Upcoming events will include Time to Play - a clown act and later in July puppeteers will perform. There are also five weddings on the schedule for the coming year.

When he is not digging trenches, painting or refurbishing the Arts Center McMillan, as founder of SDI, is a sought after educator and lecturer holding workshops worldwide and training movement educators and movement therapists.

He spent over 20 years in Germany where he continues to travel several times a year; SDI is also instrumental in the international peace effort Hands in Peace where a model using movement and arts to bring children from warring countries together was created. McMillan has traveled to Greece, Ecuador and China for its festivals uniting several cultures and nationalities. On a smaller scale, he is hoping to do the same at the Arts Center on the Hudson, uniting locals and patrons of the arts.

Aileen Durrant, a former student and Stillwater physical education teacher who went through McMillan’s SDI training program for over five years, encouraged the family to choose this area when considering a return to the United States.

Sadly, Durrant lost her 10- year-old daughter Emma, in a car accident just before the McMillans made their move to a new home in Schuylerville.

“One of Jaimen’s teaching blocks at SDI was on death and dying. When the accident happened, I knew I had to call him right away. Jaimen is a master of the human body and a master in his work in spacial dynamics…I believe that Emma’s life forces helped facilitate him finding these buildings,” she said. Thanks to McMillan’s meandering path from Michigan to Germany to southern Saratoga County along with Emma’s Durrant’s spirit, the incredible Arts Center on the Hudson has indeed found a new purpose and a new life of its own.  

<![CDATA[Soothing The Soul]]>Sun, 12 Apr 2009 15:47:32 GMThttp://www.artscenteronthehudson.com/articles/soothing-the-soulRenovated Old Church Becomes Arts Center In Mechanicville
By Wendy Liberatore (Contact) --Gazette Reporter 

"Arts Soothes the Soul "  Picture
MECHANICVILLE — The grand hall in the Arts Center on the Hudson was silent. But the people, rimming the edges of this large sanctuary, communicated. With slow, sustained motion, they rocked back and forth on their feet and floated their arms toward the center. And in doing so, they created a vibrant, invisible stream of energy among them.

These movers, actors, singers and gymnasts have come from as far as Germany, France and Mexico to take this course in Spacial Dynamics — the practice of commanding a room and communicating without words. 

Big plans
And for Jaimen McMillan, the founder of the Arts Center, this week-long workshop is one small part of his plan for the newly renovated center on South Main Street. His aim, in the once-condemned St. Luke’s Church, is to engage the community, and its surrounding towns, in all forms of artistic endeavors. 

“The arts have a way of bringing people together,” said McMillan as he sat in the basement of the Arts Center. “It’s bigger than religion and politics.”

Last week, the center hosted “The Open Window,” a retelling of the story of Vedran Smailovic, the cellist of Sarajevo who spotlighted the 1992 genocide by performing at funerals and bombed-out buildings. The center staged a three-person play, “The Gospel of John,” on Good Friday. And this week, the center will welcome an international contingent to a weeklong workshop “Moving Through Trauma,” a course to help victims overcome the haunting effects of their ordeal.

Last December, when the center first opened, McMillan was seeking the attention of a local audience with a one-man rendering of “A Christmas Carol” with British actor Ashley Ramsden.

“It was a fantastic, unbelievable show — the accents, the facial expressions of the actor,” said Mechanicville Mayor Anthony Sylvester. “The Arts Center is a very good thing for Mechanicville.”

Good, he said, “because the arts soothe the soul.” And also because McMillan resurrected the dilapidated church that was abandoned and cordoned off with yellow tape for seven years. If he hadn’t, the 1890s stone structure, with its compromised roof and crumbing mortar, might have been razed. The center also put the building on the tax rolls for the first time in its history.

Injection of arts
McMillan, too, is pleased, feeling that the old mill town along the Hudson could use the boost and injection of beauty that comes from the arts.

“Mechanicville is underserved,” said McMillan. “We are dedicated to providing for the underserved.”

In addition to plays, concerts and workshops, McMillan plans dance concerts and lectures. He will also offer classes in circus arts, crafts for children as well as his own Spacial Dynamics, which he says helps everyone from the handicapped to the mentally ill. The Girl Scouts have used the hall for its International World Thinking Day. Several couples are planning weddings at the center. And it has a gallery for rotating art exhibitions — although nothing graces the walls thus far.

The setting, for all of these divergent events, is ideal. Walking through the main doors, one is greeted with a vast, open room. The vaulted ceiling provides acoustic perfection for the piano centered in the altar area. The new and glowing wide red oak board floors are smooth and springy, fine for movement classes. Stacked to the side are 400 cushioned chairs that can be configured in any way necessary. Colored beams of sunlight stream in from the arched stained-glass windows.

Downstairs, a large kitchen provides catered sustenance for those who are attending daylong workshops. With tables scattered about, workshop participants gather to not only eat, but relax, catch up on e-mail and talk. Small rooms, off the basement’s hall, provide space for more intimate meetings.

Getting the church to this level took more than a year of renovations. McMillan purchased the building in August of 2007 after an engineer deemed it structurally sound. The first thing McMillan did was replace the roof.

“We stripped it down to the wood and built it from there,” he said.

Once that was secure, the interior hanging ceiling panels were replaced and painted. The stone work was repointed — so that the massive boulders that make up the exterior would stay put. He also had the building rewired and updated. The old pipe organ had to be ripped out — it was infested with rats. The organ pipes and pump remain.

The basement was a nightmare of mold. After cleaning that out, workers tore down the walls that obscured the basement windows. McMillan replaced all the broken glass and made sloping window sills from the seats of the old pews. Natural light now floods the once-dark basement.

Outside, he dug trenches to direct water away from the building so the seepage, which compromised the building in years past, would not recur. Much of this work was done by McMillan himself, as well as his wife, Dorothea, who planted the circular gardens on the front lawn.

Finally, McMillan donated the unused pews and the old altar rail to the new Episcopal church on McBride Road in Halfmoon.

Costly project
McMillan, who hails from Michigan but spent much of his life in Germany competing in and teaching fencing, as well as honing Spacial Dynamics, says he has no idea how much he has spent on the project. “I wrote the checks, but I’m not sure how much I spent. It was a huge expense. But I could not imagine this beauty being torn down.”

And now that the building is ready, he is hoping to develop a coalition of supporters who will help sustain the building and its programs. Frequent events will get the word out. Currently, McMillan has scheduled about two activities a month. Eventually, he would like to see an event daily, with access to groups that use the adjacent Mechanicville Community Center and nearby Mechanicville Public Library.

“We want it to be the heart of Mechanicville’s social life,” said McMillan.

The mayor said he’d like that too.

“The Arts Center can be a draw,” said Sylvester. “People can come to a show, have something to eat in Mechanicville. It’s a gorgeous place that is a good asset. The possibilities are nice for the city.”