One of the things I’ve most enjoyed since launching CMR Communications is getting to tell Albany’s stories. Shortly after I started the business, I began to hear rumblings of a new website that was aiming to fill the void left by the demise of All Over Albany.
I was a huge fan of All Over Albany, and, for a brief time, even toyed with the idea of launching a similar site. The idea rose from my work with Albany’s Heritage Tourism Working Group, convened by Mayor Sheehan.
A small subset of the group hatched a plan to develop a mobile-friendly blog, maintained by Albanians, with a focus on what makes Albany special – whether you lived here or were just passing through. We dubbed it The A-List, and determined that the blog would have a personality, a voice, enthusiasm ... people would want to invite The A-List out for a drink.
Unfortunately, despite early enthusiasm, the effort fizzled for want of content.
So, when I heard about CivMix, I was determined to provide all the content they could use!
The founders of the site say that:
this region not only needs news about local happenings, the arts, government and community events, it deserves to have that information delivered in the most thoughtful, engaging way possible.
And how did they land on the name?
It turned out to be more straightforward that we feared. We wanted something that spoke to the amazing blend that makes up our rich community. The phrase “community blend,” translated to Latin, is “civitas mixtio,” or CivMix, for short.
CivMix launched in early June, and my first article ran on June 5. Since then, I’ve written some 20 articles about everything from a Revolutionary War Gossip Tour at Fort Ticonderoga to a mural of a sturgeon painted on a building in Troy. But the beat that I’m staking out is cool and quirky – or thought-provoking and compelling – stories about Albany.
I’ve included links to several of them below. Get yourself a beverage and poke around some of these articles. And as you’re reading, I hope you’ll think of ways that I can help you tell your story! Drop me a line and we can talk!
The Language of Houses by Alison Lurie.
At Home by Bill Bryson.
The History of Here by Akum Norder.
A brief glance at my bookshelves reveals that I’ve long harbored a love old houses.
My youth was shaped by a series of homes within feet of each other at Melville and Continental Avenues in Cohoes. A 1970s raised ranch built by my parents. A 1929 Dutch Colonial style built by my paternal grandparents. The ancestral home of the Janotte family (my paternal great-grandparents), just across the street, where two great aunts lived. The difference in craftsmanship between the latter two and the 1970s construction was clear to me even as a child.
In grade school, my best friend was the granddaughter of the family living in the Van Schaick Mansion at the time. Built around 1735, the house is where plans were made for the Battle of Saratoga. History hung thick around the house and grounds.
Over the past several months, I’ve been a pretty regular correspondent for CivMix.com, the blog that highlights local happenings, the arts, government and community events. Two of my pieces focused on new dining options on Lark Street, but in each case, I did a bit of research on former uses of the buildings.
When the owners of Frajee’s Grill at 189 Lark cut the ribbon on the storefront nestled between Jewel of India and the Imperial Market, they became just the latest in a long line of stewards of the building.
It was Ikes’ Pizzeria in 2008; Romeo’s Pizza for several years; one of those sketchy cell phone shops that painted the exterior neon green in 2016; and My Dacha Slavonian European Café was open in the summer of 2017 but closed the following year. The Dacha’s interior featured brick walls painted dark red and terra cotta vinyl floor tiles. The shop has been completely overhauled for its latest iteration.
Just up the block, 197 Lark St. – most recently the home of Crisan Bakery & Edible Art Gallery – had been vacant for nearly five years. Before Crisan, it was Carosello’s Bakery for many years, though the space had another brief brush with art when it hosted the pop-up “Bakery Show” in 2004 for Albany Underground Artists.
And before that? For at least three decades, the Domenico family operated a business there. In 1960, it was Domenico’s Modern Market, and James J. Domenico Jr. lived above the shop. For much of the 1940s, it was Domenico Brothers Fruit, and in 1930, the storefront was occupied by George D. Price, News Dealer, though a James Domenico was listed as a tenant. In 1920, Mary G. Hickey, a milliner, had a shop there.
Soon, 197 Lark St. will have yet another incarnation as the new home of D.P. Dough, previously located at 212 Western Avenue. The co-owners of the franchise are Nick Warchol and Craig Dutra, who, along with August Rosa of Pint Sized at 250 Lark, also operate Post Wine Bar across the street.
In September, I’ll present my first “House Story” to a new neighbor in the Center Square Historic District. He reached out to me before he had even closed on the property.
Using deeds, assessment rolls, city directories and other public records, I’m developing a compelling narrative history of his house, its builder and its occupants, including copies of photos and original documents as available.
Unless you’re living in new construction, every building has a story to tell. Can I help give voice to your House Story? Drop me a line!
In mid-June, a loose coalition of grassroots activists, with support from long-standing immigrants’ rights organizations and other organizers, announced a nationwide mass mobilization.
On Friday, July 12th, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, would bring thousands of Americans to detention camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees.
As the 2019 Legislative Session was wrapping up, I found myself with a bit of extra time on my hands. I decided to get involved.
I knew that many local organizations were already doing good work around immigration issues. I began reaching out on June 20 to create a Capital Region SUPERGROUP to take part in Lights for Liberty. My goal was visibility and allyship – and to empower people from many different backgrounds to make a stand for justice.
On July 12, we filled Albany’s West Capitol Park with speeches, poetry, prayers and song. And candles. Lots of candles. We were part of a mass mobilization with tens of thousands of people, at 817 events, on 5 continents. Here's what the Washington Post had to say about Lights for Liberty.
I’m profoundly grateful that dozens of local and regional organizations and several individuals brought their expertise and deep ties in their respective communities to this coalition.
So many people commented on the variety of speakers at the event, and how inspiring their remarks were, that I put together an online resource with links to participating organizations. One of the goals of Lights for Liberty was to support and amplify the work of direct service organizations, and based on reports from the participating groups, we delivered!
Please click on the Sway below to bring up navigation tools, and learn more about these great organizations. (Frustrated by poking at the image? Here's a direct link to the resource.)
When you're done, I hope you'll let me know - how can I help you tell your story?
So many nonprofit arts and cultural organizations have all they can do to support their mission – it’s even harder to find the time to tell their stories.
That’s where CMR Communications comes in!
When the Arts Center of the Capital Region was getting ready to launch a series of public art projects, they needed some help spreading the word.
I started by reviewing and consolidating their existing materials (such as grant applications, proposals, and artist agreements). I talked with staff and artists to collect additional information and create a narrative theme.
Once we all agreed on the vision and direction, we:
Do you need some help managing the ways you deliver content and messages to your members and supporters? Do you need to share information with your club or organization members, elected officials, advocacy allies and social media influencers?
CMR Communications will work with you to tailor and deliver timely, clear and compelling messages for key audiences, ensure that all platforms are coordinated and used appropriately and analyze results to improve outreach strategies.
How can we help you tell your story? Drop me a line!
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It's getting harder and harder to come up with exclamation-point-worthy blog headlines. This one was a doozy.
Does it seem macabre to look forward to a 4-part lecture series on the bubonic plague? Maybe not if you look at it through the lens of Connections - the 1970s BBC series that "took an interdisciplinary approach to the history of science and invention, and demonstrated how various discoveries, scientific achievements, and historical world events were built from one another successively in an interconnected way to bring about particular aspects of modern technology."
Here, for example, are 10 Good Things We Got From the Black Death. That's how I'm looking at it, anyway. Check out the full syllabus for the program that starts on May 15 at the University Club, and I hope you'll sign up to learn more about The Black Death in History.
Shortly after I launched CMR Communications, I was invited to be a panelist for “Thayer Day” at SUNY Purchase. I spent April 2nd on the campus and enjoyed presentations from outstanding seniors in the State University of New York system in visual arts, theater, video, music, dance and spoken word.
More photos and clips of the students work are in the presentation below. Let me know if you like it!
Go to this Sway
I had a call today from a friend with questions about the New York State Department of Labor’s SEAP - the Self Employment Assistance Program, so I thought I’d share my experience.
According to a Mathematica Policy Research report issued in January, 2017:
Individuals who lose their jobs may have the skills and desire to start their own businesses. Some states have taken action to help unemployed workers create their own jobs by establishing Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) programs, which allow Unemployment Insurance (UI) eligible individuals who meet SEA program requirements to receive a weekly self-employment allowance while they are setting up their businesses. This allowance is equal in amount and duration to regular UI benefits. SEA program participants are also exempted from actively seeking wage and salary jobs so they can devote their energies to self-employment activities while they receive SEA allowances.
This is a long way of saying – the NYS DOL is giving me training wheels for my business!
I received a letter from the NYS Department of Labor on New Year’s Eve, inviting me to apply for SEAP. Seemed like a sign from the universe – instead of going back to work for someone, I’d become a solopreneur!
Here’s the timeline:
Enrollment in SEAP lets you work on your business, but at the same time, requires you to complete 20 hours of training, meet (at least twice) with a business mentor, and submit five benchmark forms. The timeline SEAP provided for benchmarks was:
I’m pleased to report that – as of yesterday - I’ve completed all training and submitted all benchmark forms to fulfill my SEAP requirements! Here’s the list of trainings I completed – all online. SCORE and the US SBA have helpful resources!
Drop me a line if you would like to share advice or if I can tell you more about SEAP!
In January, 2016, I hatched a plan for February 29 - Leap Day. As past President of the University Club of Albany, I gathered a group of female business owners for a program called LEAP IN: Entrepreneurship and the Power of Peer Support. The panel discussion featured successful business owners who made the leap outside their comfort zones to start and grow their own businesses. Each panelist shared stories about her business journey, her successes and failures, and the support she’s received from – and given to – other business owners. (We were SEEN in the Times Union!)
Now, I’m following my own advice! After parting ways with my employer of 15+ years at the end of October, I took a “gap quarter” to figure out whether I wanted to find another job – or build a new way of life. I decided on the latter.
So, I’m launching my own consulting firm – CMR Communications. The ink is still wet on my DBA, but I’ve already been talking to prospective clients and am excited to share this news.
I’ll be adding more details about my plans, my services, and my own experiences – but I’d like to hear from you! What advice would you offer a solopreneur? Drop me a line! I’ll look forward to hearing from you – and will share updates as time permits!
Colleen M. Ryan is an