Albany Barn fosters local talent
By Louis Smith
Albany Barn, located in the Arbor Hill community, has been dubbed a “sustainable creative arts incubator,” offering a digital multimedia studio, lofts and studios available for artists, workshops, concerts and fashion shows among other things.
Operating since 2006, Albany Barn has grown into a one-of-a-kind venue for the area, a movement that stemmed from Barn masterminds teaming up with the Albany Housing Authority and the City of Albany to generate the venue, renovating a decrepit and unused St. Joseph’s Academy to complete their vision.
The ASP had the opportunity to chat with Albany Barn’s Director Kristen Holler, who shared various elements of her and her team’s special vision, one that has catapulted the non-profit to the forefront of the Capital Region’s independent music crusade.
Albany Student Press: What has been the best vehicle for marketing your services to the artistic community?
Kristen Holler: I think social media has been huge for us, and not only marketing our services but trying to keep a vibrant presence on social media. So, we’re also sharing articles and tips on how to be successful as a creative professional. We’re [also] using that as an avenue to talk about available studio space, rehearsal rooms and apartments and things like that at the Barn.
ASP: Since its creation, what has been the biggest obstacle the Barn has had to overcome?
KH: From a purely logistical standpoint, the redevelopment of St. Joseph’s Academy was a massive undertaking. Communicating information that related to our plans and how that fit into the neighborhood plan and the housing authority’s plan in order to apply for funding, and making sure that all the partners were on the same page throughout this whole redevelopment process. I wouldn’t call that an obstacle, but it was a major area of growth for us as a startup, not-for-profit to be working with such a well-established organization and to really be able to advocate for the artists’ community.
ASP: Would you say that overall education and awareness is an ongoing struggle for the Barn?
KH: It’s definitely an ongoing thing for us. We’re looking at ways to improve what we’re doing. Some things we’re looking at in the next year are overhauling our website and making it more obvious from the start all of the different facets of what we do and ways that people can involve themselves.
ASP: The art scene is massive, there’s all different types of arts, different mediums. When it comes to generating a community response, what art would you say really speaks to the community and gets a positive reaction?
KH: One of the big conversations we’re having is not only how do we get people to come out and enjoy, but how do we get them to participate and how do we get them to participate in a way that leaves them in a better place than they were than they started? We’re giving people a unique experience, an experience that allows them not just to consume art or to make art but to really develop some underlying skills. The response has been most positive when we are dealing with music, fashion and the culinary arts. Whenever we do live art making – when people can get a glimpse into the creative process – I think people really enjoy that also.
ASP: A lot of people say that when you’re starting businesses, location is everything. In your experience, would you have it any other way, in terms of the physical location of the Barn itself?
KH: I think that there is a real spirit to Arbor Hill, and it’s so historically rich and there’s just so much interesting stuff here – so much interesting history, so many interesting people that have been here. For me, I love where we are. There’s real vision here, and there’s real care here. When we first started talking about the Barn, there wasn’t a location. It was just that we were going to support artists, and they in turn would have an impact on the community, wherever that community would be.
ASP: From your personal experience, what is one piece of advice that you would give to this next up-and-coming generation of artists, are really looking to branch out into the independent, local art scene?
KH: The people that I have seen that are the most successful do two things. Number one, they treat it like a job and they get up every day as their most authentic selves and they go to work. You have to work. I’m going to quote Ashton Kutcher – he said in some acceptance speech, “opportunity looks a lot like hard work,” and that’s true. Number two is, the people who are the most successful that I have seen are also great connectors of people.
For more information, visit www.albanybarn.org