CHATHAM — We are extremely pleased to share with you the news that PS21 has received a $25,000 NEA Our Town award. This matching grant will help underwrite public art installations and outdoor performances designed to highlight a network of walking trails connecting PS21’s grounds and theater to Chatham’s town center. One of the goals of the Our Town program is to encourage not-for-profit arts institutions and municipalities to collaborate on infrastructure projects that “help transform communities into lively, beautiful, and sustainable places with the arts at their core.” The Veilette-Nifosi Foundation has added a $10K challenge, for a total of $35K that PS21 will now match.
PS21 and the town of Chatham were already in discussion about the joint trail system when the funding opportunity presented itself. “It was synchronous,” commented PS21 Executive Director Elena Siyanko. “Part of our plan for our new PS21 facility is to engage audiences in new ways of experiencing landscape and place – through performance. The town approached us about the trails and together we developed the concept behind the NEA proposal. The Our Town award, PS21’s first NEA grant, will help us to continue to build a robust community for the arts and land sustainability, and make common cause with Hudson Valley initiatives.”
The NEA grant is one of the nation’s most competitive arts awards. The $25,000 matching grant will underwrite the PS21 part of a weekend-long program titled “PS21/Chatham: Building Pathways for Enlivened Community and Culture.” “Pathways” is designed as a program of events to take place in both the summers of 2020 and 2021 around the construction and public opening of the new trails (being overseen by the Chatham Recreation Department). The program, organized by PS21, includes a series of outdoor performances as well as programming from other not-for-profit stewards of the Columbia County environment and creative economy.
This summer’s program, tentatively scheduled for Aug.7-9, is being planned with current social distancing protocols in mind. Details will be announced as the rules governing public gatherings evolve. Thanks to our unique outdoor setting, the flexibility of PS21 Pavilion Theater, and our spacious 100 acres of unspoiled fields and orchards, we are optimistic that we will still be able to present selected programs of the PS21’s summer and fall season.
PS21 Theater Arts Program for Elder Residents Continues Remotely
Since its inception in 2006, PS21’s mission, along with bringing exceptional works of dance, theater and music artistry to the Hudson River Valley, has been to provide free and affordable community programs to our area’s permanent residents. With arts organizations across the world shuttered from live performance, institutions are searching for how to continue to best serve their constituents.
As PS21 Executive Director Elena Siyanko said recently: “While the current reality invites institutions around the world to re-examine the model by which we engage in and around the arts, it has also reinforced our steadfast commitment to our mission.”
One program central to PS21’s mission was developed in 2018 by East Chatham professional actor and educator Nancy Rothman for elderly residents of Whittier Place Adult Home in Ghent:
“PS21 and I have had a very special relationship with Whittier,” said Rothman. “Sharing Stories began as a way to bring literary performance to an often isolated group. Through these evenings, as I brought stories, essays and poetry to share, my listeners began more and more to share not only their impressions of the various authors and pieces but also their felt connections to their own lives, memories and to each other.”
Until mid-March, Rothman would go twice a month to the residence to share stories and literature. The program expanded to include participants’ own creative writing. With the pandemic, Nancy could no longer join residents in person. Recently PS21 and Whittier Adult Home have worked together to allow Rothman to send materials remotely.
“This is a dark time of isolation and fear; not being allowed into the facility has been very challenging. Being able to at least keep the connection in this remote way is so helpful – for all of us! It’s allowed them to stay connected with me, to the world outside and, most importantly, to the much wider world of their imaginations.”
The Whittier Place Adult Home Sharing Stories program has recently received support from the Upstate Theater Alliance for a Fair Game, The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Fund for Columbia County and the Bank of Greene County as well as the Hudson River Bank and Trust Company Foundation and NYSCA, both of which support all PS21’s educational programming. The program is now being delivered remotely through audio and video recordings. Plans are in place to continue the program for as long as it is needed and PS21 is exploring offering the program to other facilities.