Artistic expression on view along Schenectady street

Art class project presents new ways to create things
Schenectady High School students arrange artwork Friday on McClellan Street.
Schenectady High School students arrange artwork Friday on McClellan Street.

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady High School is looking a bit more artistic, thanks to the recent installation of more than 200 pieces of abstract art along McClellan Street.

Through a project called Schenectady Students are smARTer, students are discovering that art class doesn’t have to be intimidating or something they just have to get through. It offers them an opportunity to express themselves that they might not get from other classes.

Over the past three years, the program has been working with studio art classes at Schenectady High School to help students better understand the foundational principles of art through abstract art. This gives students confidence in the way that they create and understand artwork.

“It’s an exciting way to lead kids into this abstract art, which really is based on composition and color,” said Peg Foley, a local artist and former Schenectady teacher. 

She’s been working with teachers Tom Sarnacki, Natalie Boburka and Scott Porter for the past few weeks to develop the students’ abstract art projects. 

For most students, studio art is their first high school-level art class, and some weren’t too excited about it, at first. 

Taina Ayala, a junior, was among them.

“At first, I thought I wasn’t going to like it,” Ayala said, “I was skipping the class at first.”

But one day she stuck around, and something clicked. 

“I could express myself through art, and I figured out that I could connect with paint,” Ayala said.

Another student, senior Victoria Blanto, said that after taking studio art, she wants to go to school for art education. 

“It showed me new ways to create things,” Blanto said. 

Sarnacki, one of the lead art teachers of the program, said he’s seen many students experience those “click” moments.

“My wife’s an elementary school teacher, and she talks all the time about that moment when students learn to read, . . . and it’s similar with this process and composition,” Sarnacki said. 

Composition, one of the foundational principles of art, can also be one of the most difficult things to teach. But when students learn the skill early on, it can help them get over a lot of hurdles in understanding art.
“Even students at the college level don’t always get a lot of immersion in composition, and here they’re doing it right away in high school,” Sarnacki said.
But for students like Ayala, it’s an immersion not only into composition but into school itself.

“The arts not only are wonderful in and of themselves, but they’re also a catalyst for success in all disciplines here at school. A student’s education is completely enriched by having the arts play a very important part,” Sarnacki said.

The exhibit was done with exterior paints, so the installation can be kept in place for the next few weeks. After that, it may be moved inside Schenectady City Hall, as it’s done in years past.
To see the exhibit, take a walk down McClellan Street, starting at The Plaza.

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