Sen. Schumer tours LPCA during Adirondack trip
LAKE PLACID — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer toured the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Wednesday, Nov. 22 as a part of his annual official visit to Essex County.
“When COVID occurred, the arts was threatened with a total shutdown, whether it was Broadway or much smaller venues like this,” said Schumer, D-NY. “We worked real hard, bipartisan. We did many of our things bipartisan — Trump didn’t want to, he was president. But we forced him to save our stages.”
The LPCA received around $250,000 in funding from the “Save our Stages,” or Shuttered Venue Operators, grant program in 2021. The grant program, run by the federally funded U.S. Small Business Administration, aided arts and performance venues when they were unable to generate revenue from in-person performances during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Schumer was a key negotiator of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which contained provisions for the SVOG program.
“Honestly, without (SVOG), we might have disappeared,” said LPCA Director of Education and Outreach Tara Palen. “Other arts organizations around might not have made it because of (the pandemic), and that’s a scary prospect — that it’s so fragile and yet this is something that’s so important to the community for all ages to have an arts facility that they can turn to.”
The tour began at the Lake Placid School of Dance, which is off the main lobby of the LPCA. Schumer said the arts play an important role in New York and the U.S. economy.
“The head of the (American Ballet Theatre) told me 10,000 women around the world come to New York City to try and get one of 100 slots in the ABT and the New York City ballet, but half of them stay,” he said. “People don’t understand what an economic engine the arts are. People forget about that.”
Schumer is a newly minted thespian. The night before he came to Lake Placid, he made his Broadway debut in “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” a show that features a rotating cast of celebrity cameos.
“It was fun,” he said of the performance. “I got paid in pleasure.”
When asked about how he plans to secure future funding for the arts both statewide and nationally, Schumer said that partisanship in the U.S. House of Representatives may be a barrier.
“We’re fighting hard to get (funding for the National Endowment for the Arts),” Schumer said. “I did it every year. We have some of these right-wing … we have some people who are far over who don’t want to fund it, but overall, we usually succeed. We need the House. Tell your congresswoman to support it.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) is the co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus. She voted in support of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Schumer also said he wanted to “spread the word” about the work he has done for the North Country.
“I won my fifth election by a lot, but I lost this county, and I’ve done so much for it. They just don’t know. The leaders know … but the citizenry don’t know,” he said. “Government helps people, and these days, government is under such disrepute, and it’s really because a group of hard-right businesspeople who don’t want to pay any taxes … they have captured all of these institutions, including Fox News and others.”
Schumer lost Essex County to Republican candidate Joe Pinion by a little more than 1%, or about 200 votes, during the 2022 election. Schumer won the state by around 13%.
The cast of LPCA’s annual performance of “The Nutcracker” paused their dress rehearsal to welcome the senator and pose for a photo with him.
“The arts are very important and they make our lives a little bit different, a little bit special,” Schumer said to the cast. “‘The Nutcracker’ is not the kind of music you would listen to on your iPhones. It’s different, right? It makes you feel nice and good … so I thank you for this.”
LPCA Executive Director James Lemons and Managing Director Jon Donk presented the center’s “Arts Front and Center” project to the senator to round out the tour. The project is a $20 million new facility for the LPCA, which will be located closer to Saranac Avenue and is intended to be more accessible to handicapped visitors. The project is still in its early stages — it is projected to open in 2026 — but Schumer looked at some preliminary designs. LPCA was awarded a $7.5 million grant from the New York state Council on the Arts in June to help fund the project.
“We will need the support of everyone, including our elected representatives, to really make a reality a facility that this community deserves,” Lemons said.
Schumer was also scheduled to visit The Wild Center in Tupper Lake on Nov. 22 before returning home to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving and his 73rd birthday, which were both on Nov. 23.