TROY – Elizabeth Reiss is a self-proclaimed “New York girl” who realized at a young age she needed to get out of town to explore how the rest of the world did things before settling on the idea the Big Apple does everything better. She headed out West on her quest for knowledge. She stopped at Pittsburgh, and that’s about as far west as she got.
The newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy sees similar parallels between the Collar and Steel cities. In history, the two each established a reputation for blue-collar workers that had a hand in building a nation. Pittsburgh steel would go into building America’s buildings and infrastructure, and Troy’s Uncle Sam personified the effort to feed its military. Today, they have both benefited from community projects aimed to revitalize each other. Dreary surroundings that once only hinted of glorious days gone by have come back again.
And, art certainly had a hand in that.
“Joining The Arts Center as CEO is incredibly exciting,” said Reiss on her new appointment as The Arts Center’s CEO. “I’ve dedicated my career to making the arts accessible to the community at-large. With this role, I’ve been provided the opportunity to reach thousands of people in the Capital Region that enjoy and benefit from the classes, camps, exhibits and programs hosted by The Arts Center.”
Reiss takes the reigns of The Arts Center on Sept. 28, and will work towards increasing public engagement. Strategic planning to launch new programs that create and build upon The Arts Center’s brand is already on the agenda. And, she said, she hopes to continue to grow audiences and revenue and be an active leader in the creative and civic dialog.
“We’re thrilled to have Elizabeth join our team as CEO,” stated Susan Radzyminski, Board Chair of The Arts Center. “Her commitment to the arts, her knowledge of strategic development, and heavy involvement with cultural advancement groups convinced the Board that Elizabeth is the leader that will guide The Arts Center to further growth.”
Her early work focused on museum education, teaching classes and camps and developing curricula for museums and schools. At the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, she developed replica working artist studios to enhance exhibitions. While there she developed the nationwide Quilts Across America program. Reiss opened and operated the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City and then enjoyed several years as the director of the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh.
In Pittsburgh, she was best known for producing innovative public art projects, including an artist-made skate-park and ground-breaking examples of environmental art. She was a founder of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and served on the boards of several artist led organizations, including Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre where she still serves as treasurer and advisor.
For the past five years Reiss has served as the Director of Development and Public Relations at the Albany Institute of History & Art where she improved the museum’s fundraising program and initiated new methods to engage current and future donors.
A few exhibits are on display, or soon on the horizon once Reiss takes the helm.
Reiss’ work with the Albany Institute is not finished. As of last week, she was still attending meetings and facilitating projects, to which she plans to do until her last day. But, she expressed her eagerness to start her new role, with a legacy all of its own.
“I look forward to continuing the hard work of the people before me,” said Reiss.
The Arts Center will exhibit work from regional artist Greg Skochko, titled “Air, Fat, Sugar & CO2.” The artwork will be on display now through Saturday, Oct. 10, in The Arts Center’s Main Gallery located at 265 River St. in Troy. The exhibit’s opening reception will be Friday, Sept. 25, from 5 to 9 p.m., and will be free to the public during Troy Night Out.
Skochko’s sculptures function as fantastic mechanical objects, fused with plausible scenarios and characters of his conjuring. His keen observation of the way that people live their lives has led him to experiment with American cultural issues, such as capitalism, classism and over-consumption, in a playful manner. To achieve this, the latest exhibit incorporates inflatables and recognizable cultural references that provide more movement and interaction from the viewer.
“Clairvoyance II: Art of the Visually Impaired,” which is already on exhibit, will run until Saturday, Oct. 10. This exhibit features artwork from the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany Blind Artist Society (NABA BAS), Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI), and the North Country Association of the Visually Impaired, Inc. (NCAVI).
The goal of this show is to proudly exhibit this extraordinary body of work and raise awareness in the arts that visual impairment can never stifle artistic creativity.
Not only does the exhibit educate the public, but creates more accessibility to those with disabilities using Braille catalogs and posters.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.