RAG's new director enjoying challenges

By Jennifer Kabat
Jenny Rosenzweig is the new director of The Roxbury Arts Group. She has geek chic glasses with clear plastic frames, a broad smile and gamine Audrey Hepburn hair.

Her conversation veers from JayZ to the joys of living in the Western Catskills and the importance of The Roxbury Arts Group’s Sunday knitters. Her tastes are broad; she even lays claim to liking Neil Diamond, and she can wax nearly rhapsodic about the single traffic light in Delhi.

Here, rather than in Brooklyn where she grew up, she says there’s the kind of quiet and time where you can appreciate the pause of a stoplight and have time for conversation. Now, at age 32, she is RAG’s youngest director, a position she started in mid-November.

As she talks she’s nervous about revealing her age, worrying they’ll dismiss her – or think she has radical plans in store. But, she’s remarkable for her youth and energy.

Andrew Weiss, one RAG board member, talks enthusiastically of his confidence in Rosenzweig. “Her intelligence, experience and creative energy are exactly what is needed to continue RAG’s strong presence in the cultural life of our community.”

Important organization
She also brings an enormous amount of poise to the group and discusses RAG’s importance locally with a rare, uncalculated eloquence. She never stops to consider her words but is simply enthusiastic about persevering its place here.

She even describes her first plan of action as a sort of “listening tour,” she says lightly making fun of how politicians seeking office make a point of “listening,” but she is serious about hearing what people think about the group, an invitation she extends heartily to Catskill Mountain News readers. “I welcome,” she says, “anyone reading this, to call the office or e-mail me and let me know what your ideas are.”

Rosenzweig came to RAG from being the West Kortright Centre’s managing director. There she was in charge of day-to-day operations and budgets, one of the most demanding parts of running a small arts organization, in fact, of any arts group. Before that she worked at the Upstate History Alliance in Oneonta, a job that took her across the state to every little museum and historical society.

History is key
Asked about the various cheese museums of which New York has several, she shakes her head but also says, “The local historical societies and small museums were crucial in community building and the same is true for RAG with their facilities here and in Stamford and Denver.”
As part of that mission, she wants to collaborate instead of competing with other arts groups to make all of the organizations stronger.

“It’s important to break beyond the boundaries of just Delaware County or whether you’re in the Town of Roxbury or not, or the Catskills or not.” She wants the groups together to be broader and bigger.

As she’s talked to people about RAG, she’s heard one thing repeatedly.

Open year-round
“They like that we’re here in the winter and not only open on Saturdays.”
She explains the organization isn’t about choosing between the acclaimed Todd Mountain Theater group or kids’ workshops. It’s about diversity.

“We need to provide variety and let people know we’re not dictating what’s good and that we don’t exist just for city exiles in summer.” She talks about the importance of the knitting Sundays as well as the open mic in Stamford and the writers’ nights. The group’s primary role, she insists, is serving the local community.

“In our region, going to a performance is a way of traveling without leaving. You need diverse programming for that.” Which means not just music or dance or art, but all of them and within those categories a variety of offerings.

Visited early
Rosenzweig may have grown up in Bensonhurst but spent her summers here with her family in a house just around the corner from where she now lives in Hamden. She has a deep appreciation of the Delaware County Fair and introduced her son to it last summer when he was barely eight months old.

Because of her age and being a new parent, she’s keenly aware of the need of strong children’s programming and is aware that travel distances can discourage parents from enrolling their children in workshops, something she’s keen to solve. She wants to ensure RAG is essential to local youth.

“There can be few opportunities to stay and so many reasons to leave,” she says, and even sees her being a young person working here as important too, almost by example. “I don’t want people to have to leave to find engaging things to do or to work.”

Family fare
Her first programming is going to have a family friendly side. RAG is planning a “Food Glorious Food” film series at the end of January and hopes to include a matinee of “Ratatouille.”
As an example of finding synergy with other local groups, she wants to partner with nearby restaurants during the festival and is discussing plans with the SUNY Delhi culinary program to prepare a movie-themed meal. When asked about her own favorite food, she laughs, “Everything. I grew up in a Jewish-Italian family.” Then she glances at her hands and admits the truth, which she’s about as ashamed to cop to as her fondness for Neil Diamond. “Cotton candy.” It’s clear why she loves the county fair.