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The handsome Stissing Center in Pine Plains has made amazing progress toward becoming a regional center for the arts. Work continues. Plans remain unsure at this moment whether this summer will bring live shows. Photo by Paul Clemence

Music, Theater and Shared Experiences For an Undaunted Stissing Center

Arts & Culture

Video presentations of live performances were “a godsend” for the Stissing Center during the COVID-19 quarantine, according to Executive Director Brian Keeler.

The pandemic hit at a crucial moment in the years-long evolution of the large stone building in the center of the village from a town-owned building in search of a good use, to what it has become: a beautifully renovated center for the arts, music and culture in the center of Pine Plains, N.Y.

After years of fundraising, meetings with town residents, and then renovations to add stages and classrooms, the center was just beginning to blossom — and then had to, largely, shut down. 

The challenge for the center was to keep the momentum going, and to maintain people’s interest in arts and music during quarantine.

Turning to technology as an ally in the “new normal,” the nonprofit found a way to connect with the community by launching The Chair Series, a weekly program in which The Stissing Center invites an artist to come into the building on Church Street, sit in a chair and perform. From music and monologues to dance and poetry, the series was a success with its weekly releases and accumulated quite the viewership, according to Keeler.

Also popular was the Video of the Week series with videos of performances at, for or about The Stissing Center. 

The video innovations were a silver lining from the pandemic. Stissing Center had to learn “how to capitalize on video and sound,” Keeler said. “Our plan is to continue videotaping and releasing all the concerts that we have in the building so people can enjoy them live and for years after on our YouTube channel.”

The future of live gatherings is still somewhat uncertain, so Keeler said the Stissing Center will take it slow, and take advantage of lessons learned about video programming and “incorporating that into our programming, so we can slowly open our doors safely and people can get together and enjoy music and a sense of shared experience.

“That’s our challenge and that’s the one we hope to meet” Keeler said.

For now, the plan is for the center to host its first chamber music concert on about the third week of June, with a limited audience and all COVID-19 standards.

After that, the plan is to have a chamber music concert once each month, in July, August and September. 

If all goes well, there is likely to be a community-wide celebration at the center, in late summer or early fall.

Meanwhile, renovation work continues that will eventually allow the center to open its doors year-round. Now that the building’s been equipped with heat and air conditioning, Keeler said they’ll be working on other plans, including creation of a second performance space called The Cellar. This more intimate performance space will have seating for 60 to 80 people and will have a cabaret feel. 

The center also plans to get a liquor license that will allow for serving beer and wine.

“Everything we do has a caveat,” Keeler mused, “which makes it very difficult to write anything in stone; we could wake up tomorrow and the world could change.”

To keep up to date on what’s happening, and to get a link to the video series, go to www.thestissingcenter.org.

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