More art-making opportunities for youth this summer

Additional funding from the Schenectady County Legislature enables Kids Arts Fest program to make multiple appearances around town
In this file photo from June 4, 2016, 5-year-old Azakia Carter shows the mask she colored during the Kids' Arts Fest.
In this file photo from June 4, 2016, 5-year-old Azakia Carter shows the mask she colored during the Kids' Arts Fest.

The arts are taking over downtown Schenectady.

Kids Arts Fest, which kicks off at noon on Saturday, brings thousands of families to Schenectady for a day of performances, arts and crafts, pickling and a STEAM-centric workshop. But that’s far from all that’s going on.

The schedule for the free event, now in its 24th year, is jam-packed. The festival has outgrown City Hall in the last few years and takes place on Jay Street just outside of it. But that’s not the only thing the festival has outgrown.

“Thanks to the county legislature, Kids Arts Fest will not just be a one-day thing,” said organizer Betsy Sandberg.

Due to the increase in funds for the festival (they received a thousand dollars more than last year), they’ll also be at the Mabee Farm on July 3 for the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra’s Independence concert and on July 14 for Canal Fest. They’ll also be at SummerNight on July 13, at Steinmetz Park on July 21 and at Family Movie Nights. They’ll bring a host of arts-centered activities to each of these performances and community events.

Organizers are also hoping to reach more cultures this year.

“We have long sought to provide arts experiences that highlight other country’s cultures and folklore,” Sandberg said.

Last year, while volunteering at a fiber arts booth at the Steinmetz Family Fun Day, Sandberg said she worked with a young girl who didn’t speak English.

“I could not understand a word of her language, and she could not understand my English. We never did say each other’s names correctly. But she clearly understood the art of what I was doing. Together we created [a] representation of an ice cream cone,” Sandberg said.

That experience inspired her and other organizers to bolster their poetry program. They researched everything from nursery rhymes to well-known children’s poems from across the world, written in Italian, Mandarin, French, Darsi, Bulgarian and Hindi. Attendees can create their own poems, which will be displayed at next year’s Kids Arts Fest. Poet Danielle Colin will work with kids to guide them through the making of their own poems and they’ll have a chance to read them during a poetry slam-style open mic. Ramblin’ Jug Stompers will perform a few poems from 3 to 4 p.m.

“My experience with the girl at the Steinmetz Family Fun Day inspired our planning committee to find a way this girl, and so many others like her, might see their country and their languages reflected,” Sandberg said.

Beyond the written word there are plenty of other activities to get involved in.

There’s the “Schenectady and Me” project, which invites Schenectady residents to work with professional artists to create collages inspired by their neighborhood. This activity isn’t limited to kids, adults are more than welcome to jump in as well.

The fest also includes a bit of science and history this time around with the Izetta Jewel Project, which is led by Anne Rockwood. An exhibition celebrating the unique life of Jewel, who was an actress, activist and politician, was recently up at miSci. Jewel is also known for being one of the first people to star in a radio-television drama. Rookwood invites attendees to bring any cylindrical cardboard containers (like oatmeal) to the festival to make artistic representations of a crystal radio, using yarn instead of copper wire. Kids will also get a chance to learn more about Izetta as well.

Also new this year is a poster contest. Artist Mary Frances Millett will provide instruction and assistance for those who want to enter. There are three age groups: 12 and under, 13 to 19 and 20 and older. $100 in prizes will be awarded between the winners. Posters should be turned in by 4 p.m. on June 2 or if artists need more time, they can mail the poster to the Proctors Box Office (432 State St. Schenectady) by June 15. Finalists’ work will be on display at Schenectady County’s SummerNight. The winning posters will be used to promote next year’s Kids Arts Fest.

Darn Good Yarn donated 300 saris to give to those who fill out surveys about the festival. Attendees have the chance to help out Habitat for Humanity by working with CREATE Community Studios to paint a few doors. They’ll be auctioned off at Habitat’s fundraiser later on this year.

There will also be several performances throughout the afternoon, including improv by MopCo Improv Theater, jazz from the Oneida Middle School jazz band, video game music with a twist by Geek Musica!, dance by Dance Me, and music by Mike Purcell. There will also be puppet shows by The Puppet People and other performances.

The Kids Arts Fest is also looking for volunteers to help set up and with several other activities. For those interested, visit to contact the organizers. Check out the full schedule of events on the website as well. The festival will be held rain or shine. The rain location will be Proctors.


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