Lenape Elementary Amps Up Fun with Amphitheater

Starting this month, the New Paltz Amphitheater will begin fundraising for a 500-seat, seven row amphitheater at Lenape Elementary School.

The idea originated in 2014, from the then-principal. The original concept was an amphitheater that would be built on the natural slope near the elementary school. Jennifer Voorhis, a representative from the New Paltz Amphitheater, was the president of the PTA at the time when the principal pitched the concept to her.

When finished, the amphitheater will be used by the Lenape Elementary School community as an outdoor performing space, as well as an outdoor classroom during the school day. This will benefit the school because they has always prided itself in emphasizing the performing arts, with each class putting on a production at the end of each school year. 

The amphitheater will also be used for other community events, including magic shows, plays and events by people in the community.

“Our vision is that it will be an outdoor performing space to serve the whole community,” Voorhis said.  “Lenape prides themselves on being a performing arts school.”

After hearing about the idea for the amphitheater, Voorhis explained her own idea for a fundraiser unlike those in the past—instead of selling apparel, candles or wrapping paper, the school would hold an online auction. This fundraiser was unique in the sense that it was accessible to people outside the school district and zip code. Auction prizes went to people as far away as Ohio and even South America.

“I sat down with my friend Mark Masseo, who is a landscape designer, and showed him some of the ideas that the principal and I had thought about,” Voorhis said. “He suggested building it out of stone if we wanted the project to be sustainable and easier to maintain.”

Ninety percent of the amphitheater will be made of permeable pavers, which Voorhis calls “the new standard in green infrastructure.” The amphitheater will also employ only local products and people for construction. Products used include Rosetta Stones from Gardiner and Unilock from Dutchess County.

The rain has caused some delays in the project’s construction, but the structure is about 20 percent completed, while the funding is halfway there. If the progress continues at this rate, Voorhis expects that it will likely be completed in a few more years. Because the team consists of a small group of volunteers, only one or two fundraisers can be organized per year.

The New Paltz Amphitheater’s upcoming fundraiser View of the Ridge Project will most likely be in May 2019. The program will be a collaboration between the New Paltz Arts in Schools Association (NPASA) and Roost Studios, an artist cooperative and gallery space in New Paltz. Marcy Bernstein, the director of Roost, is assisting the organization in View of the Ridge by offering her skills on how to run an art gallery, as the event is an auction of art reflecting what local artists see when they look at the Ridge. 

The auction will raise money for the project, primarily the construction. NPASA will receive a portion of the money. There will be a reception and viewing of the pieces up for auction. Any mediums may be used, and students are encouraged to submit applications to be one of their artists. If needed, funding for materials will be provided.

“The director of Roost is connecting us to artists in her community, and has helped us fine-tune this particular fundraiser,” Voorhis said. “We pride ourselves on being supportive of the arts, and she has the knowledge base on essentially how to run a gallery.”

To find out more about how to get involved in View of the Ridge, visit www.newpaltzamp.org/view-of-the-ridge/. For more information on the New Paltz Amphitheater, visit www.newpaltzamp.org or contact Jennifer Voorhis at newpaltzamp@gmail.com.