The Grand Opening of The Foundry in Cohoes, 9/23/11

The ribbon cutting ceremony at The Foundry in Cohoes
The ribbon cutting ceremony at The Foundry in Cohoes

A Foundry for Ideas.

On a rainy Friday on Remsen Street in the Spindle City of Cohoes, a ribbon cutting took place for The Foundry. It is so much more than a new use for an old building. It is a “cultural enterprise” formed by the hopes and dreams of founding principals Alana Sparrow and Jessie Matulis, and their seven-year vision quest/labor of love finally turned into a reality.

One by one, the front row of politicians and community leaders speechified about the spirit of cooperation involved in making Foundry for Art Design + Culture possible with surprising affection for the founders. But it was the engaging words of artist and co-founding principal Alana Sparrow – silently anchored by co-founder Jessie Matulis – that ruled the day. Choking back her tears, she thanked the late Nadia Trinkala for pointing her to historic Cohoes. Amen! She went on to make the point, in terms most human, of what those that spoke before had done to make this unique multi-use work/gallery/living space possible. Her passion and humor were infectious, and optimistically, a good deal of her message of mission was of job creation for the arts community.

The moment for big scissors and crimson ribbons was afoot. Then the real fun began as We Are Jeneric took to the outdoor stage and gave a terrific showing of their original material in all its instrument-switching glory. But it was the second set – peppered with a handful of unexpected but bang-on covers of Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin – that really took off. As with all outdoor shows, this whipped the local street crazy into frenzy. And as an antidote, Eric chose a Jen-on-lead-vocal song to leap from the stage and issue a non-verbal dance-off challenge to said local. Bravo, sir, bravo.

DJ OFI pretty fly
DJ OFI pretty fly
An all-access open house, revealed a wide open gallery space upon entry, the walls of which displayed an array of photos detailing the before and in-progress renovations. In back on the first floor is a very cool artist residence apartment. The climb to the second floor proved worth it where the to-die-for loft living space of the founders is in full view. The kitchen is all brushed aluminum, smoked glass and marble, which sits above the open and inviting, warm living room area. The master bedroom does not disappoint either, although the closet seems to be unfairly dived heavily in favor of Alana over husband Jessie. The basement boasts an open work space suited for wood working and two adjoining rooms. One ideally suited for a fine or graphic artist or painter, the other a multimedia dream den.

Live music’s end flowed seamlessly from the street to after-party in the gallery space with very talented DJ OFI behind the wheels of steel. I found myself awestruck by the wide variety of styles in his arsenal and his merciful restraint in the use of sub woofer. In his hands, two turntables and a computer become an art form. Good bash!

The hope and vision of The Foundry is a space “dedicated to connecting the arts and creative sectors to the business, civic, education and non-profit community of New York State’s Capital Region. The Foundry strives to teach businesses, artists, institutions and community developers how to use arts and culture in enriching and strengthening the physical, economic and social revitalization of our region.”

Story and photographs by Matt Mac Haffie

Timothy Reidy’s photographs of We Are Jeneric’s performance

Jessie Matulis and Alana Sparrow
Jessie Matulis and Alana Sparrow
We Are Jeneric in the tent with local flavor
We Are Jeneric in the tent with local flavor
Local artist Josette Pastore in the loft kitchen
Local artist Josette Pastore in the loft kitchen
Matt C and Bryan T in the Gallery for free food
Matt C and Bryan T in the Gallery for free food
  1. Mike says

    wish i could have made this – looks awesome! I’m sure the Foundry will have many other amazing shindigs in the future!

  2. Rich says

    Wish I knew about this opening – would have went! Congrats All!

  3. -S says

    I was there and I was so so confused by this project. I’d love to understand. I looked at the original $50K grant and I wonder where the money went. As you said in the post, there is indeed a space on the first floor but it’s just… a space, 4 walls. There is a couple of computers downstairs. What everybody was gushing about though is the incredibly lavish apartment upstairs… which is now occupied by the recipients of the grant. I felt uncomfortable walking there trying to reconcile the original vision of a space for artists vs. the suspicion somebody got a nice grant to remodel their upscale apartment. Help me out.

  4. Sara says

    -S, I haven’t seen the space yet but I share your discomfort – their website could not be more vague. One would think they’d have some actual projects in the works by now…

  5. Mike says

    Didn’t go to the event, but know the couple (for full disclosure, Jessie’s brother Nick is the frontman in my band Swamp Baby, and I think they are marvelous folks).

    I haven’t been to their site in Cohoes since they won they grant, but I know the living space has always been quite lavish – mostly through their hard work on it. The website has always been vague unfortunately, but I know they used to be put on great shows of local artists back in their old space in Menands. I’m sure it’s all on the up and up, they’re good folks – the space downstairs needed ALOT of work, and looks totally rehabbed in the pictures here.

    Their website, while impressive, has always been hard to get info from – I had to go to their Facebook page to see a link they put up yesterday for an “event Gallery Coordinator”, so it looks like things are still progressing (

    Lynn, Jessie, maybe you can comment on this?

  6. -S says

    @Sara: the website is vague indeed and pretty empty, it’s not the “Corp ID Marketing Collateral Website Multi-media” (!!) priced at $20K in the proposal.

    @Mike: thanks. I was under the impression that the living space upstairs had been entirely (re)done, from the before & after photos displayed downstairs. An impression reinforced by the fact that they were letting people visit it as if it was part of the funded project itself. Renting that kind of apartment would command a lot of money anywhere in the Capital District, not your “run-of-the-mill emerging artist” kind of money. Nobody downstairs could tell me how much it would cost to rent either floors. I guess my discomfort also comes from the fact that I took photos of the abandoned St Joseph building recently, a place the Albany Barn project is going to rehabilitate into “a 40,000+ square foot creative arts incubator and community art space”. Different budget, different size, but from the blue-print I saw this is not going to be that level of luxury, it’s meant to be affordable, most likely under the assumption that young artists have modest needs.

  7. Alana Sparrow says

    Et All,

    Would like to take this opportunity to answer questions and correct assumptions made in the above posts.

    @S – I’m glad you were able to make it to the grand opening, and sorry I missed the opportunity to answer your questions at that time. But welcome the open forum, as I’m sure you are not the only one.

    We purchased this building personally, with our own money, for ourselves—to have a space to live and work, and in the process create a place that could be supportive to artists. Comparing us to St Joe’s is just not relevant.

    Based on your comments, it’s obvious that you have little idea of what level of renovation was actually done and what sort of money it actually takes. Very few people do, unless they are in the ‘business’ of it. We certainly didn’t before starting.

    We have received MATCHING grants from the following entities, in addition to our own money and tons of sweat equity have made the entire renovation possible:

    Community Block Grant $25,000
    Main Street Grant $25,000
    National Grid Main Street Grant $25,000

    In total we have just under $400,000 invested in this project.

    With regard to the Pepsi Grant:

    NONE of the Pepsi money went toward the either of living spaces. WE, with our own money and sweat made the upstairs space for ourselves, and make no apologies for it. It’s not for rent, it’s our home.

    The ground level live/work space which has rented for $750 (all utilities included, including wifi, and cable) and was built and designed with the intention of being able to eventually have as a in-residence space.

    After we won the Pepsi Grant we were allowed to adjust our proposal based on our needs. As a result the moneys were used as follows:

    $26,000 – Labor & Materials for demolition/build out of Event Gallery Space, Art Production Studio, Media Studio (the actual cost of this was more than double but this amount of the Pepsi money went to this)
    $6,000 – Website (being unveiled in about 2 more weeks)
    $3,000 – Admin
    $15,000 – Studio Equipment (AV, cameras, sound, cabinets, tables, etc.)

    Lastly, our apologies for the vagueness of the website. Our incorporation was sparked by a Studio Residency we started in another building ( that we did not own) in 2008. At that time we had not anticipated that it would take us another 3 years to complete our renovation. In hind site, it would have been better to run the site as a blog, so that people could have had a blow by blow of the process. So our apologies for that.

    We are happy to answer any questions and are looking forward to moving forward.

    Alana Sparrow
    The Foundry for Art Design + Culture

  8. Matt Mac Haffie says

    I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Alana Sparrow for chiming in at my request. As the author of the piece I felt the discussion here needed to be illuminated.

  9. -S says

    Thanks for the clarification. The visit upstairs and the flyers mentioning that it would be for rent as well confused me.
    Good to hear these grants exist, that is giving me some ideas.

  10. Josette Pastore says

    I would like to thank both Alana and Jesse for opening up your home for us to see in addition to the events and studio spaces. You certainly didn’t have to open your personal space to the public as part of the “unveiling” and if you hadn’t, maybe you would not have been subjected to the negativity and ignorant comments that followed.

    I personally found it inspiring to see what can be done to help revitalize not only the arts/business community but also Cohoes in general as a desirable place to live. Can’t wait to see how things go as your inspiration develops!

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