The Sanctuary

Updated: Oct 13

Troy's refuge for Creatives. Improving collective and personal mental health.

Author: Andrew Kaminski


To learn more about The Sanctuary, visit their website at: https://www.mediasanctuary.org/


Some time back, I called an Albany information desk. I asked them if they knew of any local community art projects. I was looking for collaborators...


See, if you're anything like me, you have endless ideas. My brain is a fountain that is generating never-ending plans, visions, intentions, and the like. Some ideas become reality. Other ideas integrate into a bigger plan. I ended up getting into a half hour conversation with the grants person about this place in Troy called "The Sanctuary."

A greenhouse managed by the Sanctuary with murals painted on the outside.

Fast forward to October. I am interning at the Office of Mental Health (OMH) in Albany. OMH asks their interns to review Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFP grants state money to organizations that claim they can solve a problem.. whatever problem that may be - that relates to mental health.

I decided it was finally time to visit the sanctuary - to see their model of how they run things. I contemplated how the state the state could direct money for an organization that helps artists, the community, and community members that need support for their mental health. The Sanctuary seemed like the right place to start.


I have a firm belief that daily creative activities promote a healthier mind. Our society, with a strong emphasis on financial sustainability, leaves a major gap in our civil society to address the need for creative outlets. How do you make time in our daily life for the things you love when there is a constant demand to support the structure and financial foundation of one's physical existence?

A building purchased by the Sanctuary to house science

education for eager students.

The Sanctuary addresses this gap. They have begun to build a bridge between the demands of our world and our pull to honor our creative impulse. It is human instinct to explore. To experiment with possibilities. To create with our whole heart. To call upon all our faculties. The creative cycle is complete when we share what we make.

 

Once we share, we get new ideas from those who witness our creation.

 

My OMH supervisor supported my visit. I hopped into my car, and drove from Albany To Troy. I got off the exit, and drove away from the hip downtown area. Troy's downtown area has a chic presence. Young twenty and thirty somethings pose in selfies, and post on their social media accounts to show off how cool they are. There were no twenty somethings posing in selfies by the sanctuary. This place was real. As real as it gets.

The inside of the church had a large banner on it with the Sanctuary's name.

A man named Steve, whom I coordinated with through email was expecting me. On my drive close by, I noticed a SNUG banner. SNUG means "should never use guns". This is a social activist group that makes efforts to decrease gun violence.

As I pulled my car up, Steve greeted me in front of a church with murals painted on the outside of it.


He let me know we were going to tour the site. So we started up the street. The Sanctuary, as I started to gather, was run by a group of people who were invested into the community. This group has a mission to provide creative outlets, and run a radio show, host events, all for the sake of living life on one's own terms. This is the essence of independent media. To express as you want to express yourself. To not be beholden to a corporate sponsor. They did not want to sell anything that would contribute to the mindless exploitation of the environment. Their efforts are compelled by the whole-hearted connection to all aspects of what one does. They have been operating for twenty years. They work with a wholly present consciousness into all their efforts.


For instance, Steve took me to a lot across the street from the church, where I first arrived. There was a stage, in front of a grassy open space. The stage, was made of what looked like concrete, and contained mosaic tiles all throughout. Steve had talked about the complex process of buying the area for their organization.


 

Through determination, persistence, and thoroughness, the Sanctuary was able to own this piece of property. It added to the total property managed by the organization.

 

The lot allowed performers, musicians, and similar people to put on acts and entertainment.


It was impressive what this group had pulled off. They scooped up a plot of land in the middle of a rough area in Troy, and turned it into something no one expected. And their mission, which they stay faithful to, has been to facilitate the creative expression of themselves and collaborators.

A wall with photos of performers and guests that have debuted their talents at the Sanctuary.

 

Tires used in the Sanctuary's community garden. Recycled

materials were present throughout the location.

Steve then took me to their community garden - another plot of land adjacent to the original property they acquired. It was the result of a collaboration with people from the nearby area, garden growers, and artists. There was little regulation to this garden project. People who were involved would plant something, and tend it as needed in whatever spot was available. There was a general air of respect for the other plants. As opposed to Capital Roots in Albany, there weren't sections, divided up, with a fee. No. The Sanctuary had a more "organic process" to their allotment of spaces in their garden.

The staircase that led to the outdoor garden from the roof area that held gardening materials and art supplies.


There was also involvement with students from RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic institute - America’s oldest technological research university). Steve pointed out a project where they would allow the indigenous plants in that section of land to grow, and to be sanctioned off from the areas of lawn that were to be cut and maintained in a typical fashion.

Posters with QR codes allow quick access

to their website, and provide easy connection and follow up from onlookers.

They used every spare space for creative purposes. The barn above their equipment supplies area was used to create social activist materials.

The area surrounding the center is not entirely safe, and the name "The Sanctuary" lives up to its promise. It's a space in a hairy area of Troy. For security purposes, they have an electronic security system. If someone loses their keys, and there's a concern that someone breaks into their safe space, they can change the code to enter their location.

Their security system was used to de-

activate keys and re-install security

codes to protect students from the

sometimes harsh environment surrounding the Sanctuary.


If you're not an artist, or a gardener, there were also options for scientists, and people who find comfort in the science lab. Steve showed me an area with beakers, testing kits, a sterile equipment, where RPI students were conducting testing experiments on water, air, and soil contamination.

I was impressed with this immense sculpture that an RPI student fashioned. It was a map of the Hudson River. Carved into the wood was a crevice where the student poured blue resin into to resemble the Hudson River. Steve was showing me around, and if I

hadn't pointed out how marvelous it was, he might not have told me the back story of it. Every year, students have all sorts of ideas, and he remained skeptical for most of them. One out of ten of the proposed ideas would come to fruition, and when they did, it was sometimes glorious. I felt the glory of this idea that came into manifestation.


 

The science lab gives students a chance to embody being a real scientist with professional equipment.

We walked upstairs from where the science labs, and he showed me an area that could be dedicated to mental health maintenance, counseling, and the like. There were a bunch of chairs arranged in a newly renovated top floor. It felt safe, and clean - ideal for a space to process mental health.

They had a clean room for 12 step programs.

There was also a private room for 1:1 counseling if someone needed it.


When I walked out, I heard buzzing. Steve told me there was a bee keeper there. I saw thousands of bees flying in that contained area. The students, he shared, hadn't tried honey before until they tried the honey at the

Sanctuary, and their lives were changed

when they realized they could generate

a source of sweetness.

The box of bees had thousands of bees buzzing all

around.

Finally Steve led me to the church, where they have performances, and speakers, and is the site of their longest running rented space. Originally, the space was a church, and the Sanctuary Media Company had arranged for them to occupy it. It's where their whole arrangement began. As we walked towards the entrance, there was a loaf of bread in a box, and Steve informed me that they are given donations from a bread delivery connection. Someone who wants to see the staff well taken care of. It reminded me of when I stayed in a Buddhist temple in Thailand, and the villagers would bring the monks food daily so they could spend their time meditating and increasing the energy levels of the near by village.


The church space was as you'd imagine - high ceilings, and a large stage, and a space for chairs for a captive audience. There were four high quality video cameras waiting to capture whatever performance would happen up there. He told me of their upcoming appearance by Chris Hedges.


As I entered the space, he pointed out the baby grand piano. Made me curious how it sounds in its glory, with a full audience. The piano was a donation.

The baby grand piano was accompanied by photos - relics of performers who had played it in the space's history.

We went around back, and there was a large mural of an angry dove with an olive branch in its mouth. The artist who did it was an illustrator for MAD magazine.


We went around the back, and there was a radio station setup. He showed me this state of the art recording studio - the kind you'd see behind a large concert. Many buttons that light up, and microphones. With a glass wall that separates outside noise.

I noticed the famous Thomas Cole painting from his series "The Course of An Empire: Destruction". I found this to be a feeling that was sprinkled

throughout the sanctuary. There was a necessity for a sanctuary, to be shielded from the bullets, and the outside world. I was standing in "the last refuge", encapsulated in a dying empire. Although the USA has thriving areas, there are some parts, like the one the Sanctuary was nestled in, that paint the other side of American prosperity. The Cole Painting is also a scene that describes the period right before the empire induces a complete transformation, and there is a fresh slate for whoever is left after the downfall. The painting put much in perspective.

Painter Thomas Cole's Course of An Empire: Destruction, of which a poster

was displayed in the radio station of the Sanctuary.

We went down the stairs, and there was a kitchen. I snapped a picture of the buddha that was positioned in the shrine section of the wall. The Buddha reminded me that peace is possible. Against all odds, one needs only to consider the Buddha, and realize that all life is merely an arrangement of atoms, organized by harmonies and rhythms beyond human comprehension.

A smiling woman arrived, and had a glowing energy. Steve walked me outside, and we sat on the steps outside the church. He gave me his time. His energy. And he was genuinely interested in the project I was in. He showed an authentic sense of interest in what I was looking to create. He expressed his value in mental health. We will see where our meeting brings us. For now, I'm looking forward to seeing Chris Hedges share a talk in that church space this upcoming Friday.


 

 

About the Author:

Andrew Kaminski

Born in 1989, Kaminski is dedicated to merging the left and right hemispheres (figuratively & literally) of the human mind on a global scale. The left hemisphere, being the logical, practical side. The right being the creative, artistic side. Both sides Kaminski posits, must integrate within all human lives to facilitate a global and collective state of enlightenment. Once all humans are merely aware of the possibility of merging both left and right hemispheres of the brain, a great mass, Kaminski argues, will descend upon the earth. This mass, known and researched by Sri Aurobindo, an adventurer of consciousness, and author Kaminski follows, is known as the "supermind". The supermind is part of the next great evolutionary phase on Earth.

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