Thursday, September 6, 2012


One of the greatest promoters of the visual arts here in the  Capitol district of  NewYork was Les Urbach, a veteran of Hollywood and Madison Avenue  who arrived here in the late sixties thinking he'd retired. Appalled by the lack of local appreciation for the visual arts and particularly the dearth of public support for local artists,  he lobbied the City of Albany to provide some kind of venue for exhibits.

At first he was only able to find funding for movable display units which could be set up in banks or other public spaces.  Later he was able to secure a lobby space in the Capitol District Psychiatric Center but after a short time there,  convinced "The-Powers-That-Be" to allow the conversion of what I believe was a public parking garage into a permanent gallery.  Christened "Albany Center Galleries",  it was a wonderfully large space easily appropriate for all manner of art.  Local artists loved it!  The vast space encouraged many to produce art larger than they'd done until then  This wonderful gallery, bouyed by Les's enthusiastic support launched the careers of many regional artists.

I was one who benefited from Les Urbach's strong interest in local artists. At the time I was president of a new association of University of NY connected artists.  "Graphic Artists Of New York", was a group particularly interested in printmaking and drawing; as wonderfully diverse a group as you can imagine.  Les was one of the first to give us a major show. It gave us the visibility needed to make us a strong presence in the larger community. Later we had a strong show which traveled nationally!

One of Les's favorite annual exhibits was  titled "Masque",  a show of artist designed masks (it may have been a Halloween inspired event) which were auctioned off during a benefit affair at the gallery. I believe this lively event was held annually for five or six consecutive years and contributed significantly to the gallery finances.  Here pictured are three that I did by cutting apart old prints or drawings and reassembling the elements as collaged "Masks", -  framed faces of a sort that more than satisfied Les's idea of a creative answer to the "Masque" challenge. These pieces along with a few others reside in the collections of area art lovers. One collector, a well known benefactor of local arts in general and Center Galleries in particular, successfully bid on several of my works over those years.

As an ardent advocate for any art medium, Les Urback could see worth in an artist's work and could fuel his or her ability to break out in new directions.  He was in a way, a one man show, but his influence lives on not only in the Albany Center Galleries, but in the memories of those he championed as he almost singlehandedly revived appreciation of the visual arts and artists of this area.

Les Urbach died in December, 1997.

"The mission of the artist ...... is to call the old magic back to life"  Tom Robbins

"What makes greatness is starting something that lives after you."  Ralph Stockman

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