Groups Give Their Pitches To Relaunch Peekskill's Paramount

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Bjorn Olsson of the Tarrytown Music Hall discusses his plans for Peekskill's Paramount at a packed meeting Wednesday night at city hall. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
Kurt Heitman of Red House Entertainment gives his pitch for taking the reins of the Paramount. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
Antonio Chiacca, the Director of Programming at Jazz at Lincoln Center, gives his plan for the Paramount with partner Arne Paglia, right. Photo Credit: Art Cusano

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. — Three groups bidding to take control of Peekskill's Paramount Center for the Arts presented their plans Wednesday night to give the closed venue a second act, and there wasn't an empty seat in the house.

The first bidder, the Paramount Phoenix Group, is led by Division Street Grill owner Arne Paglia. He enlisted the help of Antonio Ciacca, a composer and director of programming of jazz at Lincoln Center.

Ciacca, a Julliard School instructor, told Common Council members and dozens of audience members that he wanted the Paramount to have a "cultural impact" on the city and wanted programs that would tie into city events.

The Phoenix Group would be nonprofit entity and make much of its revenue by renting out the space as a practice facility. "Rental income is significant," Ciacca said.

The group has put together $150,000 in cash for operations, with another $50,000 that could be acquired if they got the contract. The group would pay $50,000 yearly in rent to the city.

It would start by booking acts and programs that have worked in the past and branch out. It would also look to partner with eateries for dinner-and-a-show deals.

If chosen, the group would aim to begin shows April 30.

The second bidding group was the Tarrytown Music Hall, which hoped to make the Paramount its second venue.

The organization, a 501C3 non-profit, has experience managing a similar historic theater, Executive Director Bjorn Olsson said. "There is a special feeling in historic theaters that you don't get in a modern venue," Olsson said.

The Tarrytown nonprofit board would run the Paramount but would invite Peekskill residents to join as well, he said. Commercial shows would be used to pay for more arts-oriented shows, Olsson said. The group would also pay utility costs.

When asked whether the Paramount would feature  smaller acts, Olsson said that would not be the case. Both sides of Westchester would be well served, he said.

Olsson said he hoped to open as soon as possible but said it would take time to get the venue running as it was before.

The third presenter was Red House Entertainment, led by Kurt Heitman of Garrison, a former TV producer and senior vice president of CP Communications. 

Red House would concentrate on profitable commercial shows, especially on weekends, but would also offer cultural offerings such as opera simulcasts. The group would also work to create festivals and tentpole events.

"We would have to run as a for-profit, but you can't ignore the cultural arts. You don't make money on it, but it is needed," Heitman said.

Events would have to be better promoted, he said. Big shows on Saturday nights could anchor the lineup and draw regular crowds, Heitman said.

"I never knew what was going on here unless I was going to a show," he said. "We're going to hit it hard with targeting and promotion."

Red House hopes to be self-sustaining within six months and would then pay rent and utilities. Before that, it hoped the city would not charge rent. Heitman also said his group could bring in much of its own equipment, something other groups could not offer.

Mayor Mary Foster said there was no date set to announce the winning bid.

"We want to give every group full consideration, and we want to be thorough," Foster said.

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katieschmidtfeder:

Hello Leesther,
This is Katie Schmidt Feder. You may or may not remember me. We had a LONG phone conversation regarding the school district. I have now been in Peekskill for nearly 10 years and am co-founder, along with fellow parent and theatre professional Sol Miranda of EMBARK|Peekskill. You reference our website above. I am not sure what you mean by connect the dots. I just want to clarify that EMBARK has not, nor has any desire to manage the Paramount. We are a nonprofit coalition of performing and literary artists and community members. Our vision is and has always been to have a performing and literary arts space that would serve the community with smaller performance spaces, including an experimental space that could also be used for meetings and events, rehearsal and teaching studios, scenic and costume shops, writer rooms, and in collaboration with a visual arts organization such as Peekskill Arts Alliance - gallery space. Our mission also includes educational and community outreach, of which we have already been conducting the last three years. (I also served the last two years as Drama Director at the High School.) We would certainly welcome whatever group is chosen to manage the Paramount and possibly, at times collaborate to use the very LARGE space, but most of our members are creating smaller works or works that require a legitimate theatre space with wing and fly space - which the Paramount lacks. Also, after having to taught for Arts Camp on that vast stage - I do not find it a good space for arts education. We have been building little by little each year and now have a small stepping stone space on South Street (EMBARK@EMC) where our teaching artists offer low cost classes and we are proud to offer affordable arts education to those who may not be able to afford the costly studios. We have a solid board of directors made up of diverse community members. We have been collaborating with many organizations. This week alone we are facilitating ONE BILLION RISING sending volunteer teaching artists to PKMS, Hillcrest, Oakside, the Youth Bureau and Salvation Army Youth Groups to learn "Break the Chain" to bring awareness to violence against women. This dance was taught to a group of Adult women at our space on Tuesday (Ask Mrs. Rainey :) We will ALL dance to TODAY at 4 pm outside the Library! Another collaboration this week is with Hudson Valley Contemporary Center of Art (HVCCA) via their poetry and playwright project "Words that Paint" which is tonight and this weekend. Needless to say - we were not one of the proposers last night, nor secretly partnering with any of them. Arne Paglia has been a good supporter of EMBARK as have many downtown restauranteurs: Ruebens, Gleasons, Birdsall House, G&H Caribbean, 12 Grapes, La Villetta and Zeph's. It is our hope that whichever organization is chosen to manage the Paramount will recognize and acknowledge the work EMBARK has done - at this point completely volunteer by the way - and that they will work to collaborate with us where possibly on educational outreach. We wish the committee clarity and wise discernment as they come to this challenging decision which will impact our community members, local businesses and all local nonprofits such as ours.

leesther:

@Katie, I don't think it was I that you had a long phone conversation with about the school district..perhaps you could refresh my memory....why would I talk to you about the school district?!!!

leesther:

What's Arnie going to do get yet another grant,how many is that?!!
Red House...well.....IMHO...the fix is in connect the dots....http://www.embarkpeekskill.com/#crew......
It should rightfully go to Tarrytown Music Hall...they meet the RFP requirments....

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