Albany Barn Recipients of Downtown BID’s Norman S. Rice Award

The Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) presented the 2019 Norman S. Rice Arts, Culture & Education Award at its Open Gallery Garden Party on September 6, 2019 to the founding board members of Albany Barn: Ed Anker, Louis Apicello, William Berglund, Jeff Mirel, Jamel Mosely, Annette Nanes, Todd Ritschdorff, and Executive Director, Kristen Holler. The annual award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated significant accomplishment in promoting arts, culture and education within the Capital Region.

Albany Barn was born from grassroots production group Rock2Rebuild, which was established to combine community fundraising events with opportunities for local creative talent. Located in the former St. Joseph’s Academy in Arbor Hill, Albany Barn opened its doors in 2014 with 22 low-cost live/work apartments and +/- 14,000 square feet of performance, programming, exhibition and incubator space for creative enterprise.

Albany Barn is currently home to more than 50 artists and makers in-residence who agree to share their talents through arts-based programming in exchange for access to Albany Barn’s facilities, technical assistance and network. This past year alone, Albany Barn has hosted more than 150 unique events and public art projects, including poetry slams, theatrical and musical performances, fashion shows and film screenings that offer the community an opportunity to experience the space in a variety of ways. Albany Barn also opened a second makerspace, Electric City Barn, in Schenectady.

The award is dedicated in recognition of the legacy of its first recipient, Norman S. Rice, to the cultural and educational landscape of the Capital Region arts community. Past awardees have included Mark Schaming, Owen Smith, David Alan Miller, Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, Tony Iadicicco, Youth FX, and Tammis Groft. Norman Rice served as Albany’s City Historian and the Director of the Albany Institute of History and Art for 20 years.

“Art is a critical pillar of a community, and the Albany Barn founders are actively bridging the gap between artists’ creativity and affordable space for them to live and work,” said Georgette Steffens, executive director of the Downtown Albany BID. “This organization epitomizes the meaning of the Norman S. Rice Award, and we are excited to honor them and have them as a neighbor and partner to Downtown.”

“The Albany Barn continues to make a meaningful impact on our City within their walls and far beyond,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “It is fitting to celebrate the founding board members as we launch a project that highlights local artists and the continuation of vibrancy through art in unexpected places.”

“Nurturing creative activity and enterprise is only one part of Albany Barn’s mission; we aspire to be a catalyst as the Arbor Hill community redefines itself after decades of neglect,” said Jeff Mirel, board president of Albany Barn. “On behalf of my fellow board members, we couldn’t be prouder than to be recognized in the esteemed company of Norman and the other past honorees, all of whom have employed the arts to uplift our city and region.”

The Garden Party event also served as the official opening for the BID’s 2019 placemaking exhibit, Open Gallery, a public art project that transforms Downtown side streets and alleyways into vibrant, active corridors with artwork curated by Albany Center Gallery. Inspired by a wildly successful program in Louisville, Kentucky, 14 back entrances to commercial buildings feature the work of a diverse range of talented and passionate artists. More information and a walking tour map are available at

In 2005, the outdoor placemaking program (formerly “Sculpture in the Streets”) was established to connect Downtown employees, residents and visitors with the places they share by reinventing public spaces with various art forms. From regional creators to world renowned artists like Seward Johnson and George Rickey, the exhibits have attracted thousands annually. Similar past projects included the installation of customized pianos as part of Luke Jerram’s internationally touring Play Me, I’m Yours series in 2014 and giant Dutch clogs celebrating Albany’s history in 2012, all enhanced by the Capital Region’s local art community.

The Garden Party was presented by Albany Center Gallery and the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District. Proceeds from the event will benefit future public art exhibits and the continued revitalization of downtown Albany.

The Open Gallery free outdoor public Placemaking exhibit is sponsored by Gordon Development, Omni Development Company, Inc., ParkAlbany, and Renaissance Albany Hotel. Open Gallery is supported in part by the Amplify Albany Grant Program, a program made possible by the City of Albany Capital Resource Corporation and Capitalize Albany Corporation, as well as by the Fairgame for the Theater Arts Grant.

For more information about the exhibit, contact Jason Bonafide at [email protected] or 518.465.2143 x111. Join the conversation by using #opengallery and #opengallery518 in social media posts.

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