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Schumer Pushes For Arts Funding In Saratoga Springs

Lucas Willard

The arts and Saratoga Springs have a long history together, but talk today was all about the future. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in Saratoga Springs to put a spotlight on the city’s push for federal funding to develop a city-wide arts initiative.

Senator Schumer joined fellow Democrat Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen at FingerPaint Marketing in downtown to talk about a sector of the local economy that officials consider key to the city’s future.

“When you can go to a place and see great art and feel good about things and involve in creative stuff and go to a nice café that has nice things, you feel good,” said Schumer. “But what people forget is the arts, creativity is a great economic engine, particularly in the 21st Century. And that’s why we’re here to talk about.”

Schumer’s last stop of his yearly tradition of visiting each of New York’s 62 counties ended in Saratoga Springs, where he advocated for federal funding for the city’s first-ever “Arts Master Plan.”

“One that I’m confident can lead to jobs, jobs, and more jobs right here in Saratoga Springs, and all it needs is a little push from the federal level,” said Schumer.

Yepsen said the city has already filed a letter of intent in its application for a National Endowment for the Arts grant. The deadline for the application is January 15th.

“Now we’re obviously we’re going to build on that and build a whole portfolio of creative partners together both public and private that we can list as our partners in the grant, along with support from Congressman Paul Tonko and Senator Chuck Schumer,” said Yepsen.

Yepsen said she hopes the city — home to Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the National Museum of Dance, and burgeoning Beekman Street Arts District to name a few — can secure $120,000 in funding.

The mayor recently appointed members the city’s first Commission on the Arts, which will help develop the Arts Master Plan. The planning process will involve taking an inventory of the city’s creative resources, brainstorming what would attract more businesses, and determining what the city is lacking in its creative sector.

A major goal of the initiative is to attract more young professionals to the growing city. Speaking in front of his employees, with an average age of 29, Ed Mitzen of FingerPaint said the area’s creative spirit is important to the business, which now employs 150 people and counting.

“It would be virtually impossible for us to attract and relocate people to this area if there wasn’t such a community commitment to the arts and creativity. As you can imagine, with the kinds of people we bring on board, we value the arts tremendously.”

According to a study completed by the Center for Economic Growth, the creative economy supports nearly 24,000 jobs in the Capital Region.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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