Story by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andy Choens and Brian Tromans
Like just about every other arts organization around town, the Upstate Artists Guild has been facing some pretty serious financial hardships lately.
But the not-for-profit, primarily volunteer-run group that has operated its art gallery on Albany’s Lark Street for the past six years, has been digging in against the economic tide and pulling itself up by its bootstraps with a number of DIY benefit events in recent weeks.
Still, it seemed unlikely that the funky storefront arts group would get all swanky, but that’s exactly the direction UAG took by throwing their biggest fundraiser to date, the Back in the Black Gala, late last month at the Normanside Country Club in Delmar. And while black and white attire was the recommended color scheme, the event turned out to be a wonderful and wildly democratic fashion statement with supporters in attendance sporting everything from tuxedos to t-shirts, from ball gowns to baseball caps.
There was plenty of fabulous food, live music, free champagne (at least for the early birds) and, most importantly, a vast array of artwork available for sale and auction at extraordinarily low prices. (We walked off with a lithograph and three very cool photographs for a grand total of $30 – a price that would have maybe covered the cost of the frame on one of the photos.)
There was a wide variety of entertainment throughout the evening’s festivities, including the Classical Guitar Society of Upstate New York (Harry George Pellegrin, Jon Tario, Gene Reis, Ray Andrews and Andrew Rutherford), singer-songwriter Matt Durfee and DJ OFI, as well as readings by poets R.M. Engelhardt and Dan Wilcox.
The captivating musician-performance artist C. Ryder Cooley was the entertainment highlight of the evening, singing her haunting original songs (as well as a magnificent rendition of Henry Mancini’s “Charade”) as she played ukulele, accordion and singing saw, while accompanied electric guitarist Corey Aldrich, who doubled as the gala’s emcee. And she graciously stuck around to play a handful of songs with her old bandmates Stompin Jug Ramblers, who closed out the bash in high spirits.
And in the end, a determined arts organization made enough money to keep the doors open, and a good time was had by all. Ain’t that what it’s all about?