Art’s Night Out

From Portland, Maine, to Pasadena, Calif., art nights have popped up in downtowns across America. Wh

From Portland, Maine, to Pasadena, Calif., art nights have popped up in downtowns across America. While the concept is the same, with people taking to the streets on a special evening each month to see local art in galleries, coffee shops, boutiques and bistros, each city’s event has its own unique personality.

Here in the Capital Region, art night takes an unusual twist, as we’ve got five free events each month within a radius of 35 miles, each in a different city or village. And instead of competing, there seems to be a cross pollination. Troy, Albany and Schenectady even promote the other nights on their Web sites.

“It’s not Schenectady versus Albany versus Troy,” says Mitch Messmore, organizer of Art Night Schenectady. “If they miss one, they won’t miss out on the arts for that month.”

During January, the coldest month on the calendar, The Gazette took the five-night challenge, with visits to 1st Friday in Albany, First Fridays in Ballston Spa, First Saturday Arts Night in Saratoga Springs, Art Night Schenectady and Troy Night Out.

This Gazette writer found that no matter how low the mercury dipped, Capital Region residents were out there, hungry for a communal experience and enjoying art exhibits enhanced with live music, dance, lectures, demonstrations and films.


Art Night Schenectady is less than a year old, but it’s growing steadily, attracting 500 to 600 people. Held on the third Friday, it was launched last May during the same week that Movieland opened on State Street. In November, Art Night got an even bigger boost with the unveiling of the new Proctors.

The heart of Art Night is Jay and State streets, where a stream of people sporting black-and-white badges flows through the Jay Street Studios, Proctors, Two Spruce Pottery and the 440 Arts Center. Participants also travel by trolley to the Stockade District, the Schenectady Museum and Union College’s Nott Memorial.

In December, the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” was shown outdoors, and last month, there was more film al fresco, this time from local independent artists, projected on a wall outside Center City. On Jay Street, vacant storefronts have been revived with paintings by Oakroom Artists and sculpture by Robert Blood.

Of the 23 venues, the most popular may be the second floor of 440, where last month a hip-looking crowd checked out abstract paintings by Chip Fasciania as music emanated from a laptop set on the windowsill.

This year, the goal is to draw more Union College students and offer live music après-Art Night, from 9 to 11 p.m.

The next Art Night Schenectady ( will happen from 5 to 9 p.m. this Friday.


Ballston Spa’s art night was launched in 2004 by the Strolling Village Artisans, an artists’ cooperative. It’s now run by the Ballston Spa Business & Professional Association.

“It’s a different kind of art night, not just visual arts,” says association board member and artist Madeline Gallo. In November, Wild Thyme Whole Foods & Tea Co. offered gourmet snacks and recipes, and there have been free tango lessons at Mango Tree Imports. At Strolling Village Artisans, where each visitor is warmly welcomed, “Meet the Artist Nights” are planned every other month. Balloons mark the 15 to 18 venues, and participants can win prizes if they visit half the venues and get a card stamped.

Ballston Spa doesn’t need a trolley because visitors can walk to the venues, except for Mango Tree and the restaurant Fifty South, north of the village.

Even in the winter, First Friday draws about 200 people. There’s always live music at the Coffee Planet, and in the summer, musicians perform at the Whistling Kettle and outdoors on the patio at Strolling Village Artisans.

In June, artist-decorated Adirondack rocking chairs, like the horses in Saratoga Springs, will be placed around town, and in August, the village’s first outdoor film festival will debut in Wiswall Park.

The next First Fridays in Ballston Spa ( is from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 7.


Eight years ago, Saratoga Springs was the first Capital Region city to create an art night, which was called First Thursday.

But as the city grew, Saratoga needed a fresh weekend event to attract both local residents and out-of-towners. So in June 2007, First Saturday replaced First Thursday. The goal was to “energize the local gallery scene,” says Joel Reed, director of the Saratoga County Arts Council, which coordinates the event.

While the numbers of participants aren’t tracked, the venue count has jumped from seven to 13, with six of them in the Beekman Street Art District. “Last summer, First Saturdays became block parties on Beekman Street,” says Reed.

The trolley that zipped from Broadway to Beekman last summer isn’t running this winter, but will return in May or June.

In 2008, First Saturday strollers can expect to see window decals, flags or banners marking the venues. There will be music events at SCAC’s Arts Center Gallery beginning at 8 p.m. Booked for March is Patrick Stacey, a composer of electronic computer music. In May, Broadway will be shakin’ with a belly dancing troupe and music by The Swamp Babies.

The next First Saturday Arts Night ( in Saratoga Springs is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 1.


“We’re always getting new venues,” says Michael Weidrich, coordinator for Albany’s 1st Friday.

The Linda, WAMC’s performing arts studio on Central Avenue, has joined the city’s art night as one of five venues in the After 1st Friday Music Series, which kicks off after many of the 25 regular venues shut their doors.

First Friday began in September 2006 when the Upstate Artists Guild invited other galleries and shops on Hudson and Lark streets to stay open and schedule receptions on the same night. In January 2007, with Albany Center Galleries’ move to Columbia Street, 1st Friday expanded its territory. Fund-raising paid for a trolley that now shuttles people on an eight-stop loop that includes the Opalka Gallery at the Sage Colleges, the New York State Museum and the Albany Institute of History & Art.

In January, there was a lively crowd for “Bedroom Community,” a group show at the Upstate Artists Guild, and more than 100 people jammed Albany Center Galleries for the reception for its annual members show.

Weidrich says 1st Friday will really expand this summer, with an even bigger “Sculpture in the Streets” show sponsored by the Downtown Albany BID.

The next 1st Friday ( in Albany is from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 7.


It was one of the coldest nights of the winter, but 1,000 people turned out in January 2007 for the first-ever Troy Night Out on the last Friday of the month.

One year later, the event known as “TNO” in text-message talk, has morphed into a major arts event and gained a major sponsor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. With EMPAC opening at RPI in October, Troy Night Out could become an important showcase for electronic media artists, says Elizabeth Young Scarlata, a business owner and one of the founder of Troy’s art night.

The event has grown from 30 to more than 50 venues, marked on a map that tells visitors where they can jump on the trolley and indicates the sensory experiences at each venue with color-coded “Look,” “Touch,” “Taste” and “Hear” squares. Red lanterns, indicating “Look,” for example, hang at the entrances of shops or galleries with exhibits. “After parties,” late night dances that follow art night, have become legendary with the younger crowd. “They’ve taken on a life of their own,” says Young Scarlata, an interior decorator who runs Living Room Antiques on River Street.

This month, to celebrate the one-year anniversary, a gala and art auction benefit will be held in the Frear Building.

The next Troy Night Out ( is from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 29.

Categories: Life and Arts

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