Institute of History and Art
Capital Region’s 10 most significant arts institutions of
the past 30 years
cast a pretty wide net when we asked people to pick the best
arts institutions, because the Capital Region is truly blessed
by the gods (and goddesses) of the arts with great museums,
galleries and performance venues.
The three that tied for No. 1 are no surprise; they’re popular
and complement each other nicely. The Albany Institute of
History and Art is our “hometown” museum; its collections
reflect the very fabric of our cultural lives, from artifacts
and photographs from, and of, eras past, to a superb collection
of Hudson River School paintings. The New York State Museum
mirrors the AIHA mission, but on a statewide scale. Its collections
reflect achievements in science, art and culture. The Saratoga
Performing Arts Center is a tribute to a public-spirited vision—from
the likes of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, and, more recently,
Sen. Joseph Bruno—that the lives of citizens are enriched
by a venue that hosts dance, and classical and pop music performances.
Proctors is arguably the biggest revitalization success story
of them all. Using the original, grand 1926 cinema and vaudeville
house as a base, volunteers and civic-minded politicians have
brought into being an arts center powerhouse with multiple,
flexible performance venues.
The Egg is another Rockefeller legacy. It may look more like
the cup the egg would be served in, but its two theaters,
the Hart and the Swyer, are gems.
Albany Center Gallery has traveled a long road (figuratively
and literally) from its days under the stewardship of Les
Urbach, and continues to showcase the most innovative local
Caffe Lena managed to survive the passing of its founder thanks
to the dedicated work of volunteers; it’s a Saratoga music-and-arts
Strange bedfellows: Tied for eighth place, Capital Repertory
Theatre and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
don’t have much in common. But we love ’em both. Cap Rep is
Albany’s longstanding professional theater company; the Clark
is one of the greatest museums, um, anywhere.
The five-place tie for tenth place runs the gamut from A to
P. In the Albany Symphony, we have one of the best regional
orchestras in the country. (Cherish them, people.) MASS MoCA
is on the cutting edge of art and performance. NYSTI, first
at the Egg and (for now) at Russell Sage College in Troy,
have been making great children’s theater for decades; the
Writers Institute has brought great authors and poets from
around the world to the cozy confines of Page Hall; and the
Palace Theatre may be the best rock & roll hall we have.
(And it ain’t such a bad place to see a movie, either.)
respondents ranked up to 10 choices, and points were tallied
as follows: 10 for 1st place, 9 for 2nd, and so on.
Tie: Albany Institute of History and Art (54); New York State
Saratoga Performing Arts Center (54)
4. Proctors (38)
5. The Egg (32)
6. Albany Center Gallery (22)
7. Caffe Lena (20)
8. Tie: Capital Repertory Theatre (18); Clark Art Institute
10. Tie: Albany Symphony Orchestra (17); Massachusetts Museum
of Contemporary Art (17); New York State Theatre Institute
(17); New York State Writers Institute (17); Palace Theatre
mention: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (14), Williamstown Theatre
Festival (14), Hyde Collection (13), J.B. Scott’s/J.B.’s Theater
(13), EMPAC (11).
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