Q & A: Crossroads Gallery owner Rolfe-Albright blends visual and healing arts
On Route 20 in Duanesburg, colorful world religion flags hang over the doorway of a simple white house. The Jewish Star of David, a Hindu om, the ancient hourglass shape of the Great Goddess, a Christian cross and the Islamic symbol for Allah mark the entrance to Crossroads Gallery, an unusual business for this quiet corner of Schenectady County.
The first floor is a store, where visitors can view or purchase paintings, ceramics, jewelry, photography and wood sculpture by local artists, as artwork and handcrafted items are decoratively mingled with books, CDs, homeopathic remedies, natural body products, neti pots, tea pots, gems and geodes.
On the second floor, there are rooms for massage, reiki treatment, tarot card readings and psychic readings by Katie Manning-Hilton, a well-known local medium.
In a small, single-story building next door, there’s another spa/massage room and an art gallery that doubles as a workshop for classes in pottery and psychic development.
“There are two sides to this store: the visual arts and the healing arts,” says Elisabeth Rolfe-Albright, a Schoharie County native who opened Crossroads in February 2007 in a former tanning salon.
Because her own spirituality is connected to nature, the store changes with the seasons. During autumn and winter, shelves are stocked with yarn and fleece items from Staghorn Valley Alpacas in Delanson and locally made pies and breads.
Visitors will find artwork and recordings by more than a dozen local artists and musicians, including Schenectady painter Steven Kowalski; Duanesburg ceramic artist Suzanna Van Schoonhoven Hunter; Rich Goodhart of Guilderland, a shamanic musician and sound healer who performs at Kripalu yoga and health center in the Berkshires; and Dan Sainsbury of Bodacious Woodworks in Gallupville, who carved the bountiful tree on the store’s roadside sign.
Rolfe-Albright is a descendant of the Bradt family, among the original settlers of Schenectady’s Stockade District. She is the mother of three children and graduated from Schenectady County Community College with a degree in paralegal studies.
Even as a girl in Sunday school at a Dutch Reformed Church, Rolfe-Albright was curious about early Christianity and Paganism, which she defines as “earth-based spirituality,” and as a young woman, she took a course in comparative religions.
In a small room at the back of the store, Rolfe-Albright has set up a Wisdom Room, with books and artwork reflecting her interest in alternative and ancient religions and practices, including early Christianity, Paganism, Buddhism and Hinduism and Native American rituals.
Q: Why did you open this center for art and healing?
A: I opened Crossroads Gallery to bring attention to alternative healing forms, alternative spirituality and the talents of so many great local artists to the community. This has been my dream since I was a teenager. I actually dreamed about a space like this.
Q: Who are your customers?
A: Mostly women, and they range in age from teenagers to elderly. The majority are from the outlying areas of Duanesburg, Albany County, Schenectady County. A few come from the Schoharie County area.
Q: What are your most popular items?
A: Jewelry is a big seller. We have tons of jewelry, mostly locally made . . . jewelry with healing intent. . . . And there are customers that come in for certain products: just for cards, just for tea (Divinitea from Schenectady), just for muesli (Mu Mu Muesli from Sharon Springs). . . . It’s all spiritual. . . . I totally research everything that goes into the store. A few items are from China, but they are all ethically produced.
Q: This is a unique business for a small town like Duanesburg. Are there any other businesses like this around here?
A: I don’t think so. I pick up the Healing Springs magazine a lot when I go to New England. There are places like this, which is really intriguing to me. There are stores that offer everything that we do. I just find it fascinating that other people tap into that. But they are not around here.
Q: The Wisdom Room has raised some eyebrows in Duanesburg. Why is that?
A: It’s the room most talked about in Duanesburg. People call it anti-Christian. It’s the stumbling block to get people to come here, which makes me sad. . . . There’s nothing here that’s against Christianity; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Its purpose is to show that all the world’s religions share a common view and that we are all connected.
Q: What is your holistic philosophy, your way of life?
A: It’s finding balance. It’s the mind-body connection. When my middle child, Samantha, was having problems, . . . I took her to all these different doctors, and said “Why is this happening?” This one doctor, who was very old, said, “Heal the mind, and the body will follow.” And it just stuck in my head.
My grandmother used herbal products. I grew up in a farming community where you didn’t eat food out of a box. You didn’t eat anything frozen. . . . That stuck with me, too.
Q: What’s your five-year plan?
A: I would like to expand this business to include a cafe with local foods, to be able to have a venue for music . . . where people can come and listen to classical guitar or listen to a jazz band and have some baked goods or have some good coffee or tea on a Friday or Saturday night. Combined with the store, combined with the healing arts, in one big space.