People take new jobs for all sorts of reasons: Sometimes it’s for better pay, sometimes it’s for better benefits. For Louise Kerr, executive director of Saratoga Arts, it was for the opportunity to have a stronger connection to her community.
That idea of community immersion not only drives her personally, but it’s what she strives to improve on on behalf of the entire organization. Formerly the director of visitor operations & engagement at Hudson’s Olana State Historic Site, Kerr came on board at Saratoga Arts in August of 2020 and hit the ground running. “As soon as I toured this facility, I knew Saratoga Arts had everything you could possibly need to serve an entire community,” Kerr says of the organization’s headquarters on the corner of Broadway and Spring Street. “On a personal note, I was really interested in putting down roots somewhere where I could be immersed in a community, and Saratoga has everything you could possibly want.”
Despite the wonderful things Kerr immediately recognized at Saratoga Arts, she quickly realized that the nonprofit, though it had been serving the Spa City for nearly 35 years, was something of a mystery to locals. “During the first four months of my being here and reaching out and starting to make connections, I was astounded because so many people I met who had lived here all their lives yet had no idea what Saratoga Arts did,” Kerr says. “People thought of it as just an art gallery. What we’ve been trying to put out into the community is that we facilitate all genres of art. So that’s 2-D, 3-D and then music, theater, dance. We want to be able to facilitate creativity in whatever form it takes.”
In addition to its own exhibitions, Saratoga Arts also collaborates with other local arts organizations to present exhibitions at Saratoga Arts and beyond; hosts summer camps and other year-round educational programs; presents First Night, Saratoga’s arts-centric, city-wide New Year’s Eve celebration; and distributes approximately $130,000 per year into the community by way of grants for individual artists and community (there’s that word again) organizations.
“I realize that one of the things I’m good at is being able to connect all different types of organizations together,” Kerr says. “I see Saratoga Arts as an umbrella organization that touches all of the cultural organizations. People can come into Saratoga Arts, and we’re able to say, ‘Here are all the music venues with shows this weekend. Here are all of the sculpture exhibitions you can go to. Here are the poetry readings. Here’s the book signing that’s happening.’ It all exists—it just hasn’t been organized together.”
And, as we know from the pandemic, Saratoga is #StrongerTogether.