Schenectady County

Brush strokes in park growing

Jerry Burrell Park will be filled with artists this weekend.

Jerry Burrell Park will be filled with artists this weekend.

Following the success of last year’s painting program, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center will bring professional artists to the park on Friday and Saturday to encourage painters of all ages to pick up a brush.

The center will provide free canvas, easels and paints. Last year, more than 100 people participated, although many of the children painted imaginative scenes instead of crafting a picture from the world around them.

The artists, all of whom were painting the landscape around them, were somewhat bemused by images of oceans, waterfalls and fountains. But it was a hot day, and children were inspired by the mushroom-shaped sprinkler throwing water in one corner of the park.

The artists offered them advice suitable for beginners — mainly, the children wanted to know how to mix paints to get new colors. It was the adult painters who really benefited from the artists’ experience.

A group of senior citizens huddled near each artist, soaking up lessons on everything from color to perspective. They were so interested that the center started a special painting class for them, which has run every Tuesday since.

“The seniors asked what programs we had for them and we were like, ‘none’,” said center spokesman Tony Gaddy. “So it led to the senior program. It also led to an exhibit, ‘6 over 60.’”

Business owners saw that exhibit, comprised of art from six senior citizens, and asked if they could display the paintings in their lobbies. Now the center has a regular traveling exhibit, dubbed Jerry Burrell Gallery on Tour.

Although most of the children didn’t have the painting skills to fully take advantage of the artists’ lessons, Gaddy said they cleared a critical hurdle in their view of art.

“I think they saw they weren’t restricted by what they could come up with,” he said. “It was fun, it wasn’t an assignment. When we brought the fun back into it, it really opened them up creatively.”

Children also seemed to take art more seriously during the two-day program. Normally they paint on paper and cardboard at the center. But they’ll be given actual canvas on Friday, along with expensive acrylic paints.

“They’ll be working with professional artists out there — to experience the whole environment, setting up easels in the park, it’ll be great for them,” said Valerie Lewis, art supervisor at the center. “They’ll get to take home a real piece — not that they don’t do that now, but they’ll have a real canvas.”

“We supply the paint and canvas, everything,” Gaddy said. “All they have to do is bring their imagination and their patience.”

The event will end with a potluck dinner at 4 p.m. Saturday at the center.

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