Meet the Leslie Puryear Community Stage.
As a joint project of IG and Grassroots, the trailer/stage has an expansive mission to uplift the community, provide a platform for new anad innovative arts programming, host workshops and community events, raise funds and awareness for other non-profits and serve as a hub for dynamic content both downtown and in rural Tompkins County.
The trailer came into being because of the vision of a Cornell club called Building Community. The club describes themselves as “hands on thinkers who find joy in making”, and hosted workshops like bench-building, slip-casting, tool restoration, and collected donations of tools to hold as a resource for building projects in the community.In April they approached Ithaca Generator seeking collaboration opportunities, which ultimately resulted in the trailer and it’s contents being transferred to IG. The idea was to continue their tradition of supporting community build endeavors and give the trailer a more permanent and durable home. Learn More about Building Community at Cornell
Becoming a Stage
We held onto it for a few months before being approached by Alan Vogel of Grassroots. He is an all-around power volunteer and coordinates their building projects each year. Alan, Jordan Puryear (Grassroots honcho) and his brother Jeb (Drummer and songwriter with Donna the Buffalo) suggested that it would make a great collaboration between our two organizations. They offered to finish the build and bring the trailer (now a stage) to Grassroots where it could host the Congo Square Market.
A small army of volunteers brought the whole thing up a notch by welding a new super-structure for the stage and fold-out canopy. It was a star-studded endeavor, with custom painting by John Gurchi, (artist-in-residence at Museum of the Earth), and some very talented builders from the Trumansburg area crafting a set of 8 gorgeous slab-wood benches for the audience to sit.
It was reanamed “Leslie Puryear Community Stage” in honor of Jeb and Jordan’s mother, who passed in the last year.
With the coordination of Jhakeem Holtom (of New Roots Charter School and Southside Community Center), the stage was a fixture of the Congo Square Area during the festival, hosting Reggae, Hip-Hop, Storytelling, African Drumming, and all kinds of other programming.The scale and accessibility of the stage brought a sense of intimacy and ownership to the performances – with the audience and performers interacting more freely and fluidly than on larger stages. On Saturday night a crown of hundreds gathered around an impromptu hip-hop collective cypher session with Jhakeem working the sound board – it was a vibrant scene!
Now that Grassroots has come and gone, the next step is to start scheduling programming! We have a contractor on board who can deliver and deploy the stage for events off-site. McNeil Music offers sound equipment rentals right here in Press Bay Alley. The idea is to offer the stage as a party rental for weddings and other events, while offering it as a low- or no-cost platform for non-profits and community events.
Even in its “resting” location, the stage offers a terrific opportunity for public-facing programming and events. We would love to build on the relationships we have with Congo Square, Southside, Grassroots, and New Roots Charter School. We are also interested in using the stage to host workshops for and by Generator members that we might not be able to run down in the basement, or that we could take to schools and community centers.
Have an idea for the stage, or interested in renting it for your event? We’d love to hear from you!