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Bernadette Speach
Bernadette Speach

Tannery Pond Community Center to have first paid employee

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The Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek is marking its 10th anniversary this week with a celebration. After a decade of operating with a volunteer Board of Directors, the center will also have its first paid executive director starting on July 1. The center is owned and maintained by the town of Johnsburg.

Town officials and board members at the Tannery Pond Community Center Association say it's time the building becomes self-sufficient. And they want the center to play a bigger role in the North Creek economy. Andy Flynn sat down with the new director and has this profile.

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Andy Flynn
Adirondack Correspondent

For years, Bernadette Speach has had one foot planted in Brant Lake and another in Brooklyn and New York City.  At age 64, she’s taking over as the Tannery Pond Community Center’s first executive director.

“There’s three components to my careers. The composer/performer (the pianist), the teacher and an arts administrator. And all of them actually are about being a teacher, whether I am presenting something on my own or other people’s work. I’m inviting people to look, listen and respond. That’s how I define teacher,” Speach said.

Since 2002, the Tannery Pond Community Center has been an important social center in North Creek. It hosts concerts, plays, art shows, town meetings, youth programs and conferences. Speach says the center's auditorium is a great venue for live performances and said, “The space itself is incredible. I know, the people there know it’s incredible, lovely, inviting, well built, thoughtful. But in my mind, when I’m comparing it to some adventures I’ve had in presenting, particularly in the New York area, wow, it really has all the qualities that are great for the people who are coming and for the people, the artists, who are presenting.”

The Tannery Pond Community Center Association raised $50,000 to pay for the director’s position for one year, including a salary of $36,000 plus expenses. Now it’s up to Speach to find ways to raise money to continue her position and build an operating budget. She said, “I’ve been in this situation before. That’s the other part that you should know about me.”

Robert Soros, a philanthropist in New York City, called Speach in the late 1990s, asking her to help rebuild The Kitchen, an important arts center in Soho. He was the chairman of the board, and she was developing educational programs there at the time. She remembers checking her phone messages at the time.

“And there was one from Robert Soros. He says, ‘If you don’t come in here and clean up and rebuild this place, we’re going to close the doors. I said, oh man, what do you say to that? So that wasn’t the first time this happened to me. But yes, I called him back and from that phone booth I helped them rebuild The Kitchen. I think it has to do with not only my experience at doing things but my ability to listen, see what’s up, figure out really what the priorities are and then rebuild.” Speach said. The Kitchen is now one of the most vibrant arts venues in Manhattan.

Speach says she hopes to position the Tannery Pond Community Center to play a more active role in the economic development of North Creek, particularly with tourism. “On a larger scale, I’d like to take my experiences as an arts manager, as a presenter and as an artist to create a touring route from Montreal to New York City. I’m on several boards, and I’ve been a part of this network for many, many years. Now that that train comes through the town, it connects so well. I think that this will make it more feasible for artists to go from one place to the other,” said Speach.

The Saratoga & North Creek Railway is now offering daily runs to Saratoga Springs, with Amtrak service to Albany and New York City. The North Creek train station is at one end of Main Street, Tannery Pond at the other. Speach hopes to use the space between to figure out the center’s future. “I literally want to walk up and down the street and talk to people and introduce myself, and there has been a question who this community center is for. And I think some people have been reluctant to come forward. I’ve been told some of the reason, but it could be because it’s not providing what they’d be interested in, in some way,” said Speech. “So I’m interested in hearing what everybody has to say whether they like what’s being done, whether they can see other possibilities for programs there, and I really feel that my job is to support the programs that are there and help to build them and to enhance and expand on them as well.”

North Creek will have a chance to meet Speach at the Tannery Pond Community Center’s 10th anniversary Gala celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 30.

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