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Art’s Part in Ti’s Downtown Revitalization

Art’s Part in Ti’s Downtown Revitalization September 6, 2023
Photo of Chuck Gijanto, Knights of Columbus; Nicole Justice Green, PRIDE of Ticonderoga; and Evan Mack, We Are Instrumrental (WAI).
Chuck Gijanto, Knights of Columbus; Nicole Justice Green, PRIDE of Ticonderoga; and Evan Mack, We Are Instrumrental (WAI), represent organizations uniting to create a performing arts center in downtown Ticonderoga.

Mutualism – the mutually beneficial interaction of two or more organisms – is not limited to the world of plants and animals.

It can be found in our communities. In fact, it is the very definition of community.

Example: a collaboration of three non-profits, PRIDE of Ticonderoga, We Are Instrumental (WAI) and the Knights of Columbus to make the Knights of Columbus’ building on Ticonderoga’s Montcalm Street a performing arts center.

“These disparate groups have come together to create a project that has amazing potential for the community,” said Donna Wotton, executive director of Ti-Alliance, a local not-for-profit economic development group.

The project will not only transform the 100-year-old, three story building, it will be “transformative for the entire region,” said Evan Mack, the composer, Skidmore College professor and founder of WAI, the non-profit that has increased local students’ access to music education exponentially during its relatively brief existence.

“This is an amazing opportunity to bring this building back to life,” said Chuck Gijanto, a Ticonderoga native who has served the Knights of Columbus in a variety of capacities. “I’m so excited about its prospects and what it can bring to the community.”

According to Nicole Justice Green, executive director of PRIDE of Ticonderoga, her organization will purchase the building from Knights of Columbus /Ticonderoga Council #333, which will continue to operate its catering company, bar and related business activities in the building’s street-level space and adjacent outdoor pavilion.

WAI will occupy the second floor, which will be reconfigured for classrooms, rehearsal space, a music instrument repair shop and a state-of-the-art recording studio.

On the third floor, the spacious, open loft will become a performance venue.

“Imagine a Caffe Lena-like venue, but in Ticonderoga, not in Saratoga Springs, where world-class artists come to perform,” said Mack. “Its potential is unlimited. We could not only host music of every genre, but comedians or authors.”

The musicians performing in the new venue may well inspire the students taking classes on the second floor

“to make music, to practice, even to record something,” said Mack.

“Whatever happens on the third floor will create the spark that will light up everyone and everything,” said Mack.

PRIDE of Ticonderoga will recruit an artistic director who will be responsible for the new venue’s programming, scheduling and marketing, said Nicole Justice Green.

Green said PRIDE will also act as the building’s general manager.

Among the projects considered candidates for funding by Ticonderoga’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which was awarded $10 million by New York State in December, 2022, is a plan to bring the building into compliance with all building codes, including those mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. That will require the installation of an elevator, a $1 million expense.

“The building itself has beautiful bones and historic features, so a proposal to bring it up to code is a reasonable ask,” said Green.

Moreover, the proposal aligns nicely with the criteria for DRI funding, which is “to amplify the impacts of ongoing projects and to preserve buildings in historic downtowns,” said Green.

Green said PRIDE was well-positioned to take on the job of rehabilitating the Knights of Columbus building.

“PRIDE has been in the business of historic preservation for 39 years,” she said. “We have funneled more than $15.4 million into those construction projects. So this project is a perfect fit for us.”

According to Chuck Gijanto, the Knights of Columbus, once relieved of responsibility for maintaining an expensive, aging building, will be better able to concentrate on its philanthropic mission and the core businesses that support it.

“We’re a very active organization, but maintaining a building of this size was becoming cost-prohibitive. Now, with the help of PRIDE and WAI, we can remain in this building, which is the heart and soul of our organization,” said Chuck Gijanto.

The renovation of the building is expected to begin immediately and could be ready for occupancy and use as a performance space within twelve months, said Nicole Justice Green.

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