Saratoga Anchors Tech Valley

"Albany Nano college" "Steve Janack" "Alain Kaloyeros" "SUNY Albany" "nanotechnology"

Left: Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, CEO, and Steve Janack,
VP for marketing and communications, at CNSE

With the world’s leading nanotechnology research facility in Albany—and a $5 billion GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Saratoga County—the Capital Region finally lives up to its “Tech Valley” name.

Back in the late 1990s, when officials at the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce first coined the term “Tech Valley” for the Capital Region, the name seemed a bit dubious to many upstate residents— mere wishful thinking in the guise of a marketing ploy to convince outsiders that the Albany region was the next Austin, Texas, of high-tech innovation.

But just over a decade later, Tech Valley has turned a corner. No longer a hopeful stab at a self-fulfilling prophecy, we’re now truly earning the name. Sematech—the microchip consortium of semiconductor manufacturers that fueled Austin’s hightech boom of the 1990s—packed up and relocated its headquarters and operations from Texas to Albany last year.

And in the town of Malta, just 10 miles south of Saratoga Springs, GlobalFoundries is nearing completion of a massive $5 billion silicon computer chip factory at the Luther Forest Technology Campus. Known as “Fab 8,” it’s considered the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing facility in the world. Fab 8 started making its first chips for partner IBM in January and is slated to reach full production in 2013.

"SUNY Albany" "CNSE"

University of Albany’s College of
Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Fuller Road

CUTTING-EDGE CHIPS

GlobalFoundries and IBM developed the chips being manufactured at Fab 8 at the University of Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), which leads the world in the field. In the futuristic buildings that make up CNSE’s gleaming $14 billion NanoTech Complex on Albany’s Fuller Road, the feeling of excitement is palatable. Bulldozers are churning up ground for a new building—CNSE’s sixth—that will house efforts to create the next generation of cutting-edge computer chip technology. An adjacent highway, Washington Avenue Extension, is even being moved to make room for the institution’s expansion.

The new building in part will house a major initiative—the Global 450 Consortium—for the world’s largest chip companies to start making chips on 450mm silicon wafers (the current stateof- the-art size is 300mm). On a larger wafer, more chips can be produced during the manufacturing process, leading to increased efficiency.

“If you’re a company that wants to play in this field, you’ve got to be in Albany or in this region,” says Steve Janack, CNSE’s vice president for marketing and communications, as he leads a tour through winding halls of labs and “clean rooms.” Technicians in white coveralls work with microscopic computer circuits in an environment extensively controlled to reduce environmental contaminants such as dust and airborne microbes. “Everything you need to accelerate your research is here,” Janack says. “Why would you want to be anywhere else?”

TECH BOOM

High-tech insiders credit Albany’s nanotechnology institution and its chief executive officer, physics professor Alain Kaloyeros, as the driving force behind the boom of technology companies that have flooded the Capital Region in the past few years. CNSE now employs 2,700 researchers, engineers, students, and academics and has attracted over 300 global companies to offices and lab space in its facility.

Given the complexities of the semiconductor industry—where companies spend 20 percent of their revenue on research—manufacturing needs to be close to research and development, and companies tend to cluster together.

“This past year, we reached a critical mass,” Kaloyeros says. “This region is now known internationally. Companies and people want to come here. Innovation drives the industry. From a New York perspective, we’re never going to compete with China in terms of standard product. We always have to go to higher technology.”

Much of the energy industry is now driven by nanotechnology, Kaloyeros says, and the business model of the semiconductor industry—where companies collaborate and share information—is a model for clean energy companies to follow. To help the U.S. solar industry coalesce around shared innovation, the Department of Energy recently awarded CNSE nearly $60 million to lead a national solar consortium. The project could ultimately make the Capital Region the leading center for solar manufacturing in the United States.

GLOBAL SPIN-OFFS

Ripples of the new high-tech economy are being felt in Saratoga County, where the area surrounding Malta is awash in new construction. Many are support businesses for GlobalFoundries, which currently has 1,200 employees but could eventually employ 6,000 or 7,000. “You drive up and down the Route 9 corridor and you can feel the excitement that GlobalFoundries has brought here,” says a technology consultant.

Despite the sluggish economy in much of New York state, Saratoga and Schenectady counties were the only counties in the region to experience significant job growth during the 12-month period ending in June 2011, according to U.S. Department of Labor data released in February. Wages in Saratoga County rose by 7 percent—a bigger increase than anywhere else in the region—and an influx of high-paying semiconductor industry jobs played a role.

It took years of efforts by state and local officials to attract GlobalFoundries— a spin-off from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)—to a large parcel of land in Malta where the federal government tested Hermes rockets in the 1940s and ’50s. New York state invested more than $1.2 billion in tax credits and refunds to lure the company, and state and local spending contributed up to $300 million to add water, sewers and roads.

But the lucrative financial incentives— matched by competing offers from Russia, China and Brazil—were not the only factors that brought the chip plant here. The proximity of the NanoTech Complex in Albany—and other elite academic institutions such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy—played a major role, as did the geological and physical characteristics of the site. The company needed a place that experiences few ground vibrations, for one, and has the infrastructure to feed the plant’s prodigious need for water and power.

“We committed to a major incentive package and barely beat out some other people,” says Mike Relyea, president of the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit spun off from the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation. It was the SEDC that launched the first efforts to develop Luther Forest into an industrial park over a decade ago.

“The stability of our area was a big attraction,” says Relyea. “The company has to be able to recruit people from all over the world. People love Saratoga.”

TEC-SMART AND SAVVY

The presence of an educated local work-force was another significant factor in the decision of GlobalFoundries to open up shop here. Next door to the chip plant—in a mock “clean room” at Hudson Valley Community College’s new green-certified TEC-SMART campus—students garbed head-to-toe in white coveralls learn the skills needed to compete for entry-level jobs in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. “Our instructors went to Dresden, Germany, to visit AMD to learn what classes would be needed,” says Penny Hill, TEC-SMART’s associate dean.

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A worker in a “clean room” at the University of Albany’s
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering

Students at TEC-SMART—where wind turbines in the parking lot provide some of the campus’ power—can also study toward degree or certificate programs in wind, solar and alternative fuel technology. It’s largely hands-on learning, with students practicing solar installations on a mock roof, working in an alternative fuel lab with hybrid vehicles, or practicing the skills needed by wind technicians on a large turbine outside the General Electric-sponsored wind energy lab.

“We wanted to align ourselves with where the job growth is going to be in the future,” Hill says. Through HVCC’s Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School program, students from nearby Ballston Spa High School take classes on the campus as well, and the program will be expanded to additional high schools next year.

“Growth in the region is going to be around high-tech jobs,” says Hill. “Just look and see where computer chips are used—there’s an insatiable need for chips.”

TEC-SMART is located in a tree-lined technology park adjacent to the Luther Forest development called the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park (STEP). A 280-acre park of mostly forested land—with tightly clustered buildings that house clean energy companies—STEP is operated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

CLEAN AND GREEN START-UPS

NYSERDA decided back in 2001, well before GlobalFoundries came on the scene, to provide a place for clean energy companies here,” says Bob Callender, the agency’s vice president for operations and energy services. “The park reflects our mission to use technology to help the state solve pressing energy and environmental problems—in ways that promote economic development.”

Increasing numbers of high-tech companies such as Lockheed Martin and Electrovaya are relocating to STEP in Malta. Based near Toronto, Electrovaya manufactures battery systems used in everything from life support systems for NASA space shuttle astronauts, to deep-sea submarines and hybrid cars, using a less toxic, virtually waste free process.

As the company increasingly adds high volume projects—such as a contract with Chrysler to provide battery packs for a Department of Energy-backed demo project to produce plug-in hybrid versions of the Dodge Ram truck—they expect to hire more people locally, says Bruce Coventry, vice president of operations. “We’re trying to draw from HVCC TEC-SMART, which is producing candidates who can walk right in our door,” he says.

Electrovaya joins the ranks of other high-tech green companies in the Capital Region, including GE Wind Energy in Schenectady; fuel cell maker Plug Power in Latham; and Ecovative Design in Green Island, a startup producing mushroom-based biodegradable materials for packaging and home insulation. And the Army-owned Watervliet Arsenal is successfully marketing its excess space to a bevy of technology companies, including nanotech firm Vistec Lithography, which relocated from England in 2008.

“The stability of our area was a big attraction. The company has to be able to recruit people from all over the world. People love Saratoga.” —Mike Relyea, president, Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp

GROWTH POTENTIAL

Coventry credits New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who took office on January 1, 2011, with creating a climate that is accelerating the relocation of high-tech companies to the area. “There was a period when businesses would run from New York,” Coventry says. “Now they’re running to New York. It’s amazing what leadership can do. When Cuomo came into office, he very early on established a position that said he was going to draw businesses here.”

It’s hard to fully gauge the potential for future growth, but Luther Forest head Mike Relyea notes that GlobalFoundries has the space to build two more plants on its site, and he is working to draw two more large manufacturing facilities to Luther Forest.

“It’s very important for us to diversify,” Relyea says. “The semiconductor industry has peaks and valleys. It’s a cycle. But we think it’s here for the long-term. We’re literally just in the beginning of all this. The impact of this could be felt from Glens Falls down to Kingston and over to Utica. The overall growth that this type of development spurs—if it’s done right—is a region that big.”

GOING GLOBAL IN WILTON

In Wilton, north of Saratoga Springs, where the area off Exit 16 contains some of the region’s last developable land close to the Northway, officials from the Wilton Global Job Development Corporation are marketing land next to the ACE Hardware distribution center. They envision an office park for companies that provide support or complementary services to GlobalFoundries and other technology-related industries.

“Exit 16 is easily the most viable location for companies to relocate,” says Raymond O’Conor, Wilton Global Job Development Corporation president and CEO of Saratoga National Bank. “As you work your way north, Exit 17 doesn’t have central water or sewer. Exit 18 and 19 are developed out. Further north you get to the Adirondack Park. Head south and at Exit 15 you’ve got one of the largest retail complexes in the Capital Region. The expectation in the Saratoga Master Plan is that Exit 14 will remain green and open. And Exit 13 has properties with businesses already on them and environmentally sensitive land. Exit 16 is really it.”

While some applaud the potential for development and job opportunities in the region, the specter of rampant growth gives other residents pause. “My personal philosophy is you’re either moving ahead or you’re falling behind,” O’Conor counters. “It doesn’t matter whether you want things to change or not, they’re going to change. You can decide whether you want to be a community that decays over time, or a community that moves ahead and stays economically and socially vibrant.”

KEEPING THE COUNTRY IN THE CITY

But undoubtedly, balancing growth with the need to protect the character that makes Saratoga Springs—sometimes called the “City in the Country”—an attractive place to live and do business will be a challenge in coming years.

Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga P.L.A.N. (Preserving Land and Nature), agrees that the county should focus on concentrating development along the Northway corridor—in existing hamlets and villages when possible—while looking to protect land on the east and west flanks of the county—where there are farms, working forests, good soil and critical natural areas.

Trabka points out that the county has a green infrastructure plan, adopted by the county Board of Supervisors in 2006, that identifies natural areas, trails and farms that should be protected through tools like transfer of development rights, which allow development in one area in exchange for conservation in another.

“All the people coming here are going to need places to hike, go bird watching, buy food from local farms,” she says. “If you have a plan in place and you know what you want to protect, development can actually provide an opportunity for conservation. As long as local municipalities look at the county’s green infrastructure plan and use it, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

In Albany, Kaloyeros thinks the state will be able to use its growing leverage with high-tech firms to spur redevelopment in parts of downtown Albany needing revitalization.

“Downtown Albany is challenged and companies have left,” he says. “There’s a great opportunity to encourage companies to rehab properties and start bringing people back to downtown Albany, and do it in a way that makes sense.

“We truly have become a field of innovation and economic development for upstate. But we can’t take things for granted. The sound bite that captures what all this is about is what Governor Cuomo said recently: ‘New York is open for business.’ That wasn’t an invitation. That was a statement of fact.”

Story and photographs by KIRSTEN FERGUSON
Published in Saratoga Living magazine, Spring 2012 

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Good Reads for 2013: A Holiday Gift Guide for Book Lovers

For the horseracing junkie, the history buff, the art aficionado or just about any other friend or relative on your holiday gift list, Saratoga Living and a host of local book lovers offer the following suggestions for books to give this season.

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For the Foodie

Burma: Rivers of Flavor (Artisan Publishers), a new cookbook by Naomi Duguid about the rich cuisine of an ancient country, garners raves from book buyer Stan Hynds of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont. “I personally know booksellers across the country who have tested recipes from this book before its release,” Hynds says.

Saratoga Reads—a group that brings the Saratoga community together to read one voter-chosen book each year—poured over 150 nominations before paring their list down in the fall. Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (Random House) by unconventional chef and New York City bistro owner Gabrielle Hamilton made the cut for her “no-holds-barred” memoir.

Masala Farm: Recipes and Tales from an Uncommon Life in the Country (Chronicle Books), the latest cookbook by Chef Suvir Saran—a respected authority on Indian cuisine and a former contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef”—gives readers an intimate look at the bucolic farm in nearby Washington County where Saran spends his time cooking hearty, spice-laden feasts.

For the Horse Racing Fan

Saratoga Springs’ Lyrical Ballad Bookstore stocks mainly used and antiquarian books in its Phila Street labyrinth, but co-owner John DeMarco keeps newer books of Saratoga interest on hand. He suggests Kimberly Gatto’s Saratoga Race Course: The August Place to Be (The History Press) and The Spa: Saratoga’s Legendary Race Course (Turnberry Consulting) by Paul Roberts and Isabelle Taylor for racing fans who want to spend the off-season learning more about the storied history of the nation’s oldest Thoroughbred race track.

For a fascinating look at the seedier underside of horse racing, Steven Riess’ The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime: Horse Racing, Politics, and Organized Crime in New York, 1865–1913 (Syracuse University Press) explores the historical connection between organized crime, politics and horse racing in the Empire state.

And for a lighter view of the relationship between humans and horses, Elizabeth Letts’ The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation (Ballantine Books) tells the heart-warming, true story of a down-on-his-luck horse and the trainer who transformed him into a show jumping champion.

For the Culture Maven

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), an epic history of films and filmmaking by critic and historian David Thomson, is good reading, says Northshire bookseller Charles Bottomley, even as it “enlightens and infuriates.”

Maureen Sager, director of Saratoga Springs’ Spring Street Gallery, has two catalogue suggestions for the art lover’s holiday wish list: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (Metropolitan Museum of Art), the Met’s “relentlessly gorgeous” catalogue for the provocative fashion designer’s posthumous retrospective, and Nancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary (Prestel). Tough Life Diary—edited and produced by Ian Berry, curator of Skidmore College’s Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery—contextualizes the visual artist’s powerful Tang exhibition from earlier this year.

For the Literature Lover

Another Saratoga Reads finalist, The Art of Fielding (Back Bay Books) by Chad Harbach, interweaves the stories of a Wisconsin college president, his adult daughter, and several members of the college’s baseball team. “Full of love, baseball and literary allusions, this is a big-hearted, ambitious book,” says Saratoga Reads.

A recent nominee for a National Book Award, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company), a novel by U.S. Army veteran Kevin Powers who served in Iraq, is a “beautifully written story of war that will hold the interest of men and women” says Barbara Norelli, Social Sciences Librarian at Skidmore College’s Lucy Scribner Library.

Mark Helprin’s In Sunlight and in Shadow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a love story set in Manhattan in the aftermath of World War II, is “a deeply romantic, supremely intelligent novel,” recommends Northshire bookseller Karen Frank.

For the poetry lover, Connie Brooks—proprietor of Battenkill Books in Cambridge—picks the newest “must have” collection by Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings (Penguin Press). “Is there anyone who can resist Mary Oliver’s poetry?” asks Brooks.

Saratoga Springs’ own Pulitzer Prizewinning author Steven Millhauser, a professor at Skidmore College, won the 2012 Story Prize for We Others: New and Selected Stories (Knopf), a collection of imaginative pieces set in places as disparate as Thomas Edison’s lab, 19th century Vienna and contemporary Connecticut.

Live By Night (William Morrow) is the new crime epic by suspense master Dennis Lehane. “If William Kennedy were Raymond Chandler’s editor, the result might resemble Lehane’s latest,” says Northshire floor manager Erik Barnum, calling the dark Prohibition-era tale about a small time gangster’s rise a “literary masterstroke.”

For the Eco-Minded

Farmer Joel Salatin’s latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World (Center Street), explores challenges of the food system and ideas for reforming agriculture, says Deborah Miles Czech, promotions coordinator for the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, which features a local farm—Kilpatrick Family Farm—whose owner Michael Kilpatrick interned on Salatin’s unconventional Polyface Farm in Virginia.

For parents, Karen Totino from Saratoga Springs’ Green Conscience Home and Garden store recommends Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis (Da Capo Press) by Sandra Steingraber, who won the 2012 Green Prize for Sustainable Literature for her book exploring links between rising chronic childhood diseases and toxic chemical exposure.

For the History Buff

In Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), prominent historian Henry Wiencek presents “perhaps the most important study of Jefferson in years,” says Northshire bookseller Bill Lewis of this account of Jefferson’s attitudes on freedom, slavery and race.

Warren County (New York): Its People and Their History Over Time (Donning Company Publishers), by the Warren County Historical Society, gives a detailed view of Saratoga County’s neighbor to the north, from the Native Americans and first European settlers to the rise of agriculture and the suburban development of the post-World War II years.

In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci left Florence, hoping to work for the Duke of Milan as a military architect to no avail, but he ended up painting the Last Supper, a tale told in Ross King’s Leonardo and the Last Supper (Walker and Company). “This absolutely fascinating book shows the artistry, techniques and politics that created one of our most memorable works of art,” says Northshire bookseller Louise Jones.

The Burning of the Piping Rock (Matchless Books), a novel by Washington County author Joseph Cutshall-King, is a popular seller at Lyrical Ballad, says co-owner John DeMarco. The historical mystery—based in part on true events— tells a fictionalized account of the real-life and still unsolved 1954 arson of the mob-owned Piping Rock Casino in Saratoga Springs.

For Kids & Young Adults

In More (Houghton Mifflin), an inventive and spare picture book by author I. C. Springman and illustrator Brian Lies, a magpie collects too many bright, shiny objects and a friendly squirrel helps him. “This is currently my favorite picture book to recommend to preschoolers and kindergartners,” says Battenkill Books’ Connie Brooks.

Loudonville librarian Annie Davis suggests several books currently flying off the shelves in her elementary school. Let’s Go for a Drive (Hyperion) is the newest of Mo Willem’s extremely popular books about the much-loved Elephant and Piggie characters, while Pete the Cat Saves Christmas (HarperCollins) by banjo picking author Eric Litwinis has “groovy songs the kids love.” And Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas (Kids Can Press) by Melanie Watt tells the tale of a petrified squirrel who “goes to ridiculous lengths to stay safe that are so silly the kids crack up,” says Davis.

For young adults, the “scary, smart and thrilling” book The Diviners (Little, Brown), written by author Libba Bray and set in 1920s New York, is Brooks’ favorite young adult novel of the season. Davis praises The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins)—by Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao and based on a true story of a captive gorilla—and R.J. Palacio’s life-affirming friendship fable Wonder (Knopf) as the top young adult books of 2012.

Story by KIRSTEN FERGUSON
Published in Saratoga Living magazine, Winter 2012/2013

Larger than Life: The Legacy of Alfred Solomon Lives on Through His Charitable Trust

Solomon

When Alfred Solomon—a cigar-chomping hat innovator and horse-racing enthusiast—died just before his 105th birthday in 2004, his friends held his birthday party anyway, at his request.

By all accounts, Solomon had “a million friends” during his lifetime, and his posthumous birthday bash at the Saratoga Golf and Polo Club on September 25, 2004 was attended by more than 130 of them. They came to celebrate the dapper entrepreneur’s hilarious wit, boundless energy and remarkable mental acuity that lasted into his centenarian years.

During his life, Solomon was often asked to divulge the secret to his vigor, as someone who played golf until he was past 100 and danced at summer galas when he was 103. His answer typically credited a daily health regimen involving Maker’s Mark bourbon, raisins soaked in gin, and a cigar or two.

But long-time friend and Saratoga artist Beverley Mastrianni says Solomon’s longevity was equally attributable to his love for people and the community. “He was fueled by people and parties and by loving his work,” she says. “He had such a love of life, and he was such a funny man.”

“He was fueled by people and parties and by loving his work. He had such a love of life, and he was such a funny man.”—Beverley Mastrianni on Alfred Z. Solomon

The Manhattan-born Solomon devoted his career to running his garment district hat company, Madcaps, in partnership with his sister Janet Sloane. In the 1940s and ’50s, Solomon revolutionized the world of hats, acquiring designs from fashion houses in Europe, adapting them to American tastes and selling them at “hat bars” in department stores.

In 1942, Solomon and his wife Nancy bought a 286-acre farm on West River Road in Northumberland, naming it Madcaps Farm, and he spent weekends and summer racing seasons in the area for the rest of his life.

Larger than life while alive, in death the colorful legacy of Alfred Solomon lives on. Solomon died with no heirs—wife Nancy and sister Janet predeceased him—but with millions made through his company and savvy stock investments. His will bequeathed significant gifts to several local institutions, including Yaddo, Skidmore College’s Tang Teaching Museum and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

And much of Solomon’s fortune established the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust. Managed by co-trustees Harry Snyder and Robert Ingmire, the trust has had a profound impact on local causes and institutions in the years since Solomon’s death, funding everything from a new stage for the Saratoga Shakespeare Company to a dental clinic for backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course run by the nonprofit Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST).

Saratoga Hospital was one of the largest recipients of the trust’s generosity. Although Solomon had uncommonly good health in his later years, age-related concerns inevitably brought him to the hospital, flight case filled with Maker’s Mark in hand. There he struck up friendships with hospital personnel, including Terry Lee, executive director of the hospital’s Saratoga Care Foundation.

“He was one of the most interesting men I’d ever met,” Lee says. “He was just a Damon Runyon character,” she adds, referencing the colorful rogues that inhabit the writer’s tales of Prohibition-era New York City (adapted for the well-known musical Guys and Dolls). “Up until the day he died, he had the mind of a 20 year old. I don’t know if it was the Maker’s Mark, the golden raisins, the hamburgers or what, but it worked.”

Friends describe Solomon as “close with his money” during his lifetime and not a natural philanthropist, someone who knew more about making money than giving it away. Prescient investments in companies like IBM and Pfizer—long before most investors were hip to the coming booms in personal computers and pharmaceuticals—sealed his fortune. “I can remember going into his room at the hospital. He had business prospectuses all over his bed,” Lee says. “He was a phenomenal investor.”

When the hospital needed funding to open a new state-of-the-art emergency department in 2009, they received a$3.1 million gift from the trust. It was the largest gift in the history of the hospital, and the new emergency wing bears Solomon’s name. In an outcome that Lee says would have made Solomon “thrilled,” each of the four trauma rooms in the department bears a racing-related name, from the Backstretch to the Starting Gate.

“Alfred would have loved this place,” Lee says of the much more private and high tech emergency center that has transformed the hospital’s overall image and its ability to attract the best staff. “Certainly no one wants to be in the hospital, but he loved the doctors and the nurses. He’s obviously made a huge impact on the care that’s being given to the patients we see. If Alfred was here, we’d have a toast to success.”

Another local institution to benefit greatly from Solomon’s legacy is the National Museum of Racing, which received a $1 million bequest to support the museum gift shop, which now bears the names of Solomon and his wife Nancy. An Anthony Alonso portrait of Solomon—in blue striped blazer and blue checked driver’s cap, cigar in hand—greets museum visitors as they walk in the front door.

“He was not at all a snob. Everyone was on a level playing field with him. He was a man of the people.”—Saratoga Hospital’s Terry Lee on Alfred Solomon

His trust also helped to fund the museum’s racing simulator. The first of its kind in America, the simulator replicates the feel of riding a thundering Thoroughbred, giving visitors a taste of how much strength and agility is needed to ride the rail at 40 miles an hour. Once it was installed, the museum immediately saw an increase in attendance, and the simulator is helping get young people involved in racing.

That would have meant something special to Solomon, who never missed a Saratoga meet, sitting in Box E33 for decades. “I was with him in his box once and Hillary Clinton stopped by,” says racing museum assistant director Catherine Maguire. “He was holding court the whole time. Everybody wanted to come by to say hello to him.”

But despite all of his wealth and social status, Solomon was not a person who looked down on the less fortunate, says Lee. “He was not at all a snob. Everyone was on a level playing field with him. He was a man of the people.”

Story by KIRSTEN FERGUSON
Published in Saratoga Living magazine, Summer 2011

Living Arts: Salem Art Works Is a Model of Community Spirit

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Drive down a residential side street in the village of Salem, and you’ll find something unusual even for a small town in rural Washington County. Next to a railroad crossing on a street lined with houses, a small lane opens up into an expansive 119-acre farm. You wouldn’t expect to find such openness right in the middle of a village, with scattered barns, woods, fields, streams, ponds and a hilltop pasture looking out across the village to the Green Mountains of neighboring Vermont.

Even more atypical is what you’ll find at 19 Cary Lane when you get there. A red metal sign with serrated teeth like a circular saw blade marks the road into Salem Arts Works, also known as SAW, a sprawling artist’s retreat, education center and exhibition space.

“This is something I’ve been thinking about since college—having an art farm. This property is tailor-made for what we’re doing, in its footprint and design. It was on the market for years. If it had been subdivided, it would be just another anonymous place you drive through to get gasoline.”—Anthony Cafritz

The lane starts out paved as you drive past the sculptures at SAW’s entrance, including a large Nam Le steel piece that looks abstractly like an ostrich or a headless llama. The road turns rougher as it winds past repurposed barns and outbuildings that contain artists’ studios, galleries and workshops—including a blacksmithing forge, a welding bay, an iron foundry and a wood-fired ceramics kiln. “Please remember that we are a former dairy farm; all facilities are rustic and are greatly affected by the environment and weather,” reads a disclaimer in the SAW catalogue.

Eventually you come to grassy fields where SAW’s summer artists-in-residence, staff and interns live close to the earth in RVs, tents pitched on wooden platforms and trailers covered in artistic graffiti. There’s even one little camper on a hillside painted to look like a slice of pink watermelon with green stripes down the sides. Nearby is the Cary Hill Sculpture Park, containing modern and contemporary pieces by more than 70 artists, including American abstract expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero and French conceptual artist Bernar Venet.

It’s all the grand vision of artist Anthony Cafritz, who grew up in a family of artists in the Washington, D.C., area before graduating from Bennington College in 1985; he then received an MFA from SUNY Purchase and lived for years in New York City, Vermont and other locales. Cafritz founded SAW in 2005, after searching for land to realize his dream of a space where artists could collaborate and freely experiment with new work. After looking at about 100 farms, he located his ideal spot in Salem on a former 300-cow dairy operation that had been vacant since the 1990s. (Disclosure: I grew up in Salem, back when the land that SAW now sits on was the Carlos Cary Farm.)

“This is something I’ve been thinking about since college—having an art farm,” says Cafritz. “This property is tailor-made for what we’re doing, in its footprint and design. It was on the market for years. If it had been subdivided, it would be just another anonymous place you drive through to get gasoline.”

He sits at a picnic table under a tent as artists drift in and out of SAW’s open-air outdoor kitchen at lunchtime. Next to him is SAW associate director Dianne Winter, who helps to organize and promote events like this Saturday’s SAWFest. Now in its sixth year, the eclectic one-day music festival brings together an array of top local indie bands. This year’s lineup includes My Pet Dragon, Railbird and the Black Ships—bands scouted by Winter, an avid local music fan.

“We can put on anything,” Cafritz says, pointing to one of SAW’s six portable telescopic stages. “We have a natural amphitheater here. I wanted to make this place have so many different facets—to be healthy and more alive.”

On an average summer day, SAW buzzes with activity, with about 25 people living on site, including Cafritz and office staff, college-age interns, and artists attending on self-funded residencies, fellowships and work exchange programs. In colder months, when two farmhouses provide the sole winterized accommodations, the number dwindles to seven.

Day visitors come for workshops in topics like glass blowing, welding, ceramics, yoga and printmaking; there’s an oil-landscape painting class taught by Salem plein air master Harry Orlyk. Other visitors come just to walk SAW’s grounds and trails, which are open from dawn to dusk. “We’re always welcoming people here from the community,” Cafritz says. “The place was acquired in part so the village has a park. People have been visiting [Cary Hill] for a long time. The mantra of this place is that this is for everyone to use.”

The overall atmosphere is communal, with everyone—including Cafritz—expected to pitch in to clean up and make food, and generally to be courteous and adhere to green principles of recycling and composting waste. Nightly group dinners are cooked on a rotating schedule using locally grown food, including food from SAW’s garden. “I’ve never been too keen on having a definitive hierarchy in anything. It doesn’t breed good things,” Cafritz says.

His inspiration for the loosely structured, interdisciplinary art farm came from Black Mountain College, an experimental liberal arts school founded in rural North Carolina in 1933. Closed by 1957, the college cultivated a collaborative, creative spirit and inspired many leading American artists, including composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham and artist Robert Rauschenberg.

“Bennington College was spawned out of that approach to education,” Cafritz says. “Keep it simple but keep it open with an inherent structure and also have in place checks and balances where the mission or structure can never be corrupted or co-opted. The studios and facilities here are all working spaces. They can all be repurposed very quickly. Accommodations are clean but spartan. There are just enough tools so you can actualize an idea. The place’s simplicity is its strength. The idea is not to have a lot of rules here.”

In part, the rural isolation helps to keep the pressures of the art world at bay, Cafritz believes. “We’re trying to maintain an atmosphere free of any kind of politics,” he says. “The time we live in now, everything is so commercialized. The art world very much reflects that. I feel you should be able to go somewhere for a month and have autonomy to investigate ideas free from any trappings of marketplace—to have a place where you can actually breathe and get in touch with your own thoughts.”

“I want to enhance what we are in Salem, not to gentrify it in any way but to improve the quality of life here so farming is even more trenchant than it is now.”—Anthony Cafritz

Cafritz has just returned from Germany, where SAW participated in its annual artists’ exchange. Called Salem2Salem, the three-week residency brings together artists from around the world to exchange new ideas and experiences. And coming events at SAW in September include the 6th Annual Intercollegiate Iron Pour (Sept. 21-23), which brings college students and professors from around the country to share techniques in iron casting. A Harvest Festival on Sept. 15 celebrates local agriculture with a community dinner of locally grown food, local craft vendors and a barn dance.

Through events like these, Cafritz hopes to not only involve the community in SAW, but also to support the economy of the small town he now calls home. In Salem, Cafritz serves as the president of the Chamber of Commerce, which seems quite astonishing to a longtime native (i.e., me) that such an esteemed local position would be granted to an “outsider” and artist to boot.

“I’m chamber president because I want to make what we do here really matter in a positive way,” Cafritz says. “I want to enhance what we are in Salem, not to gentrify it in any way but to improve the quality of life here so farming is even more trenchant than it is now. I’d like to see new businesses—smaller cottage-sized industries—and make sure Washington County will be known for farming for an indefinite period of time.”

Article by KIRSTEN FERGUSON
Metroland newsweekly cover story, August 16, 2012