Flux at St. Joseph's

st. joes

Gothic.

By Jessica Pasko

Remember that Papergirl project? It's part of a bigger art event called Flux that's being held this weekend.

Flux promises three nights (and two days) of art, music and food (served up by the Albany Pump Station). But the real star of the show will be the venue itself, St. Joseph's Cathedral in Albany's Ten Broeck neighborhood. It's a beautiful, fascinating building that you shouldn't miss the opportunity to check out.

Really -- you need to see this building.

St. Joseph's has had a rough few years since it was desanctified in the early 1980s 1990s. The church first opened in 1860, designed by noted American architect Patrick Keely in the Gothic revival style. Think large, pronounced arches, high ceilings and dramatic stained glass windows. (Incidentally, Keely also designed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Eagle Street.) It was the third Catholic parish built in Albany, designed primarily to serve the incoming Irish population affiliated with the Erie Canal. The bell was even made locally by the Meneely Bell Co. of Troy, N.Y. (There's actually a little display in one corner of St. Joseph's that will tell you more about the bell casters of Troy.) And the entire thing was built using a lot of Schenectady blue stone.

st. joes exteriorThe church, now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, was sold to a private owner in 1981 and leased back to the parish, which held its last service just over a decade later in 1993. Eventually it was purchased in 2000 by local restaurateur Elda Abate for a $1, with plans to use it as a venue for weddings, receptions and other large events. A messy legal battle with the city followed and the building ended up in a state of dangerous disrepair. The city eventually sued to take over the building through eminent domain. In 2003, a state Supreme Court turned the church's title over to the city.

That's when the Historic Albany Foundation took over and the organization immediately launched an effort to save the church from demolition and work to reverse some of its deterioration. Most of the pews had been ripped out, some of the floor tiles were missing, birds, bats and other creatures had begun to make the church their home. It was not a pretty sight, as you might imagine.

Using state grant money and various donations, Historic Albany rebuilt a crumbling support pillar and began patching the roof, among other undertakings. And ever since then, the organization has been working to to raise money to re-use and restore the building.

Ken Jacobie -- a photographer, massage therapist and artist -- saw potential and has been working for awhile to come up with some sort of way to really pay homage to the building and showcase local art. He says Flux will be aimed at not just respecting the beauty of the church, but also at highlighting some of the deterioration, as well as the church's history. The name "Flux" is meant to also reflect the idea of the building's history of changes, its past contrasted with its ever-changing future.

A group of artists working in a wide array of media will be using the church as a backdrop for their installation pieces, and the structure's natural acoustics will provide a cool venue for local musicians to play in. From what I saw in the works this past weekend, it's definitely worth checking out -- especially Sunday when sunlight will illuminate the beautiful stained glass windows throughout the church.

If you can't make it this weekend, but are still interested in seeing this magnificent building, you can contact Historic Albany to schedule a private tour. From time to time, the organization also does group tours of St. Joseph's.

Flux

Friday, 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Saturday, 7 p.m. - midnight.
Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

Admission is a $5 donation, which will go toward restoration efforts.

photos: Ken Jacobie

Find It

St. Joseph's
38 Ten Broeck St
Albany, NY 12210

Comments

I'm so there. I'm glad to see them finally doing something with the place, since as planned Albany neighborhoods go, the Ten Broeck area is one of my favorites, the church of course being the centerpiece. If only they'd do something like this with the abandoned church in the Pastures.

A few photos from last night at Flux:
http://bit.ly/4dfxwv

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