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Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Monday, October 3, 2011

MoHu Festival

MoHu sounds like something you might get in a health food store. It happens to be the name of a culture festival taking place between Oct. 8- 16. Approximately 150 artists, producting organizations and venues will take part and offer several hundred events over the 9 days of the festival.

The organizers are hoping for 50,000 people to attend the various events which range from art to music to theater to dance. Most will be small events but plenty of events are large like "The Capital District Sings" will use multiple choruses and many performers."

Philip Morris, the CEO of Proctors and one of the forces behind MoHu, believes the diversity of this event represents the wide cultural gaps MoHu will fill for the community. The event is being led by Albany Pro Musica and will include the Gay Men's Chorus, the Chinese Community Center Chorus, Ne'imah Jewish Community Chorus, the Electric City Chorus and Octavo Singers. That's like the UN of choral shows.

Morris hopes that MoHu will be a way of fostering collaboration between organizations in the future and not just for 9 days and he is not alone in seeing the necessity for organizations to start thinking regionally. Some 20 years ago a civic leader and early exponent of regionalism told me it was easier to get people to fly across the Atlantic Ocean than it was to get them to cross the Hudson River using a bridge. It's still true today.

MoHu is a great idea, but it is working without a budget or an official leader. The idea is for each group to market themselves as part of MoHu and hope a larger concept is left in the public's mind. The result is the festival is only two days out few people know that MoHu is happening.

A major problem is that this year MoHu is really an umbrella marketing tool. There are few if any programs created for MoHu. Almost everything on the schedule would have happened anyway.

Which is still pretty impressive. And, that is the point of the first MoHu festival. To get people to pay attention to what they take for granted. There is so much to do in this area it is impossible to do everything. The problem is few people realize all the arts and cultural events that areoffered in thearea. t Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the artistic director of Capital Rep, calls it " an embarrassment of riches."

Short term MoHu is about raising awareness. Long term it's about branding. Robert Altman the president of WMHT chairs the committee. He believes that local cultural organizations have to raise the attention of private business and government as to the economic value of the arts. "The arts are an economic engine," he says. Then adds that the arts are critical in drawing new high-powered businesses to the area. "Tomorrow's educated workforce isn't just interested in only a job. They will want to live in a place that enriches their lives. Events like MoHu are a way of showing the capital region is that kind of place. If we want major companies to invest in this area, we must invest in the arts."

Morris points out how the area has embraced the term Tech Valley to describe the business climate of the region. He says, "That might be good for business, but it doesn't do much for the arts. We have to find a brand that defines us as a cultural entity."

Could that brand be MoHu? It doesn't flow easily off the lips and seems rather vague in concept. But think back in the early sixties in Manhattan the area just south of Houston Street was a desolated place you were warned to to go near after dark. Today SoHo is one of the hippest areas in NYC.

Locally, before 1965 who knew what a SPAC was? Today, try to imagine life without it. So maybe in the future when someone asks you where you live - you might answer "Upstate NY, in the area that borders the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. You know -MoHu."


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