Art Attacks!

Schenectady Art Attack, billed as the biggest art show the city has ever seen, rolls into town this

Schenectady Art Attack, billed as the biggest art show the city has ever seen, rolls into town this weekend.

The first-ever, two-day indoor arts fest will celebrate not only the arts but the first days of spring, and more than 400 artists are expected to occupy more than 20 locations.

“The idea is to invite artists from all over and ‘jolt’ the city,” said Don Rittner, historian for Schenectady and Schenectady County, and leader of a four-person team of volunteer organizers. Artists did not pay a fee to participate and their creations were not selected or evaluated by jurors.

“We’ve got painters, we’ve got poets. We’ve got wood crafters, photographers and ceramics. We even have a chain-saw carver,” said Rittner. “We’re trying to show the wide diversity of talent in the area. We’re not rejecting anybody.”

‘Schenectady Art Attack’

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Schenectady: downtown, Stockade District and Upper Union Street.


MORE INFO: Maps and brochures available at Schenectady City Hall during event. You can also read about Schenectady Art Attack on Facebook.

The free event begins at Schenectady City Hall, where the public can pick up brochures and maps that detail what’s happening at each place. Each location will also be marked with an outdoor sandwich sign.

Besides City Hall, the venues include the Hellenic Center at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Schenectady County Public Library, Proctors, 440 State St., “working” Gallery/Studio, New York Folklore Society and Civitello’s Italian Pastry Shoppe.

Art Attackers

More than 400 artists have signed up for Schenectady Art Attack. Here’s a small sampling of the participants, in alphabetical order:

— Denise Allen (folk artist)

— Linda Van Alstyne (painter)

— Jorge Luis Alvarez (photographer)

— Debi Angilletta (painter)

— Chris Averill-Green (painter)

— Ted Beardsley (painter)

— Jeff Burns (film maker)

— Carol Caruso (painter)

— Carol Coogan (artist, illustrator, designer and writer)

— Joyce Dannibale (painter)

— u Leevi Emits (painter, sculptor)

— Todd Fabozzi (poet)

— Mike Feurstein (filmmaker)

— Fran Giordano (photographer)

— Vin Giordano (photographer)

— Kathy Troidle Jackson (children’s book author)

— Roman R. Jaquez (filmmaker)

— Becky Jarczynski (painter)

— James Kenneally (painter)

— Marie Kenyon (painter)

— Gail Kort (painter)

— Sarah Martinez (painter)

— Juergen Meier (sculptor)

— Musicians of Ma’alwyck (chamber music ensemble)

— Carol McCord (pottery)

— Jim McCord (poet)

— Andrew Minnery (pottery)

— Catherine Wagner Minnery (painter)

— Gerri Moore (painter)

— Joan Nathan (cookbook author)

— Nancy Niefield (pottery)

— Joan Oliver (painter)

— Don Orr (woodworker)

— Jim Petrillo (chain-saw wood carver)

— Tim Prendergast (painter)

— Diane H. Reiner (photographer)

— Ralph Rosenthal (photographer)

— Maureen Sausa (painter)

— Jay Spivack (photographer)

— Tague Sprague (sculptor)

— Marianne Vrobel (painter)

— Leigh Wen (painter)

Most of the places are downtown, within walking distance of each other, or on Upper Union Street, with the exception of Mohonasen High School, which is holding a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday for the 2010 Mohonasen Art Alumni Exhibition.

For some venues, like Moon & River Cafe in the Stockade District and Sow’s Ear Studio, on upper Union Street, Art Attack will be an extension of Art Night Schenectady, the monthly arts event that is scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, the day before Art Attack begins.

“Art Night is an ongoing celebration, and this is a two-day blitz,” explained artist Nancy Niefield, operator of Two Spruce Pottery, which is a venue for both events.

Celebrity vases

For Art Attack, Niefield made and donated 20 “celebrity ceramic vases” that will raise funds for City Mission of Schenectady in a silent auction. Visitors can see the vases and place bids on them in City Hall Conference Room 110.

Actress Thora Birch, who starred in the movies “American Beauty” and “Ghost World,” painted and autographed two of the 10-inch-tall vases. According to Niefield, Rittner became acquainted with Birch three years ago when the actress was in Schenectady filming “Winter of Frozen Dreams.”

Niefield shipped Birch the vases and paint several months ago when the actress was in Colorado shooting a film. Birch then shipped them back to Two Spruce, where Niefield fired them.

Besides Birch, local celebrities who painted and signed vases include Liz Bishop from Channel 6, Benita Zahn from Channel 13, Wanda Fischer of WAMC, Schenectady City Council member Barbara Blanchard and “Schenectady Today” host Ann Parillo.

Jeff Burns of Troy, an independent filmmaker who runs Knightsfall Productions, will be screening two short films, “Chasing Fate” and “Breaking Up,” which have won awards in festivals. “Chasing Fate” is about a young man who tries to prevent the woman he loves from dying, and “Breaking Up” is about unrequited love and bad cell phone reception.

Art Attack is an opportunity “to get my work out there and entertain people,” Burns said. “As an independent filmmaker, you really need to take advantage of these opportunities. My films have been at festivals which have been sold out, but also at festivals where only five people showed up. . . . The more people who get to see my work, the better. You never know what it will lead to.”

Artist Leigh Wen, a former Niskayuna resident who moved to Manhattan a few months ago, will be exhibiting two larger paintings from her Four Elements collection on the second floor of City Hall. The Taiwan-born artist has won many awards and grants, including honors at the Biennial Internationale in Florence, Italy.

“It’s been a long time since Les Urbach [the late founder of Albany Center Gallery], and the artists have not bound together. I am glad Don Rittner is putting in this huge effort to do this very difficult task,” said Wen.

At “working” Gallery/Studio on State Street, one of the first art galleries to open in downtown Schenectady back in 2002, operator Catherine Wagner Minnery welcomes Art Attack.

“It is a great idea to showcase the arts and the city . . . I hope we have a huge turnout, and I really hope the weather cooperates,” Minnery said.

Jay Spivack, a Cobleskill photographer, heard about Art Attack from Cobleskill’s Tri-County Arts Council, where he exhibits his work in the council’s next-door co-op shop.

Sharing vision

“I enjoy the opportunity to talk with people about my work, to share my vision with them,” said Spivack, who will be showing nature and landscape images at the Hellenic Center on Liberty Street.

Artist Ted Beardsley, co-founder of New York Plein Air Painters, a statewide organization with more than 200 members, will be exhibiting his own plein air landscapes at Five Star Frame and Art on Clinton Street.

“I am retired from the Schenectady schools, and one of my major interests while working was in advocacy and support of the arts. I want to support an important Schenectady art event,” said Beardsley.

Art Attack is an all-volunteer event dreamed up by Rittner and organized with the help of his committee: Peggy Houlihan Bielecki, Maryanne Rappaport, Mikal Mastrioni and Meghan Murphy. Murphy, a photographer and graduate student at Goddard College, is co-coordinator of Art Night Schenectady with Mitch Messmore.

“I’ve been thinking about this for years and years,” said Rittner.

His original goal was a gathering of 1,000 local artists “to attack the city,” and when he sent out a call for artists in December, the event, which doesn’t have a Web site, grew by word of mouth and chatter on Facebook.

In February, he announced that the number of artists would be reduced by half because there was not enough space available downtown.

“We’re doing this with no money,” he said. The event’s only funding was $500 from the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Commission to help pay for printing the brochures, he said.

Rittner, who is a big fan of Art Nights and has attended the monthly events in Troy, Albany, Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa, sees Art Attack as an event that showcases the entire region, not just one area, and offers opportunities to many more artists.

In addition to his historian role, Rittner runs the Schenectady Film Commission, which works to attract and assist film companies that are scouting for locations.

If the event is a success, Rittner would like Schenectady Art Attack to become an annual event or maybe even a traveling event, landing in Albany as “Albany Art Attack,” for example, or another Capital Region city.

“It’s a jolt of the city with culture,” said Rittner.

Categories: Life and Arts

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