SCHENECTADY — More than 100 people stepped into place Friday morning outside City Hall to create what was billed as the Capital Region’s largest-ever human mosaic.
Participants each held up a board featuring Electric-City-themed collages as a drone captured the heart-shaped mosaic from above.
“This is really what community spirit is about,” said Peg Foley.
The local artist is the lead organizer of Schenectady & Me, a community art project that started two years ago and led to the sweeping mosaic.
In 2017, Foley and other volunteers like Heather Hutchison of CREATE Community Studios started working with community members to make collages depicting what they loved about Schenectady. People from ages 2 to 92 pieced together 600-plus collages at venues and events around the city over the course of the last two years.
“We have collages from every neighborhood in the city and an image that represents every neighborhood in the city,” Hutchison said.
With supplies funded by The Arts Center of the Capital Region, as well as private donors, community members came together to depict their homes, their favorite eateries or abstract scenes made out of newspaper and colored tape.
Some are intricate, with impressively realistic scenes of downtown Schenectady, and others are more simplistic, evoking feelings of nostalgia or joy.
Josie Casper, a Schenectady High School junior volunteered to be part of the human mosaic on Friday morning, holding up a board with prints of four different collages, one with the word “Cruz” spelled out in balloons, and a few others that were more abstract.
Casper was one of more than 100 people who showed up to be a part of the mosaic. Each person was given a board featuring prints of four different collages and a designated spot to stand. Altogether, when they held up their boards, the group formed the shape of a heart, which was captured by a drone hovering above the crowd.
Several members of the Schenectady Rotary Club, including Amy Brule, Deb O’Connor, Lisa Jackson and others came out to be a part of the mosaic, holding up boards with abstract collages.
“As Rotarians, it’s really important for us to support our community,” Jackson said.
Kristen Cargill of the Capital Region Chamber held a board that included a print of her own design, inspired by the new Schenectady train station.
“We used it as a company team-building activity, so we’re excited to see the tiles on the actual benches,” Cargill said.
Right in front of Schenectady City Hall, not too far away from where the human mosaic was formed, her collage is featured in a sculptural bench, representing the next phase of the Schenectady & Me project.
The plan is to scan each of the collages and turn them into tiles that make up modular benches made of steel and concrete. The City Hall bench features dozens of collages; one depicting Jay Street, another showing Perecca’s and still another representing Music Haven.
“These benches showcase the collages people have been making for the past two years. Our City Hall [bench] is the first of many. This one is not a big one but I envision having giant sculptural benches throughout the city,” Foley said.
With funding and support from SilverGraphics and The Schenectady Foundation’s Thriving Neighborhood Challenge, there are plans to make four benches and place them in different neighborhoods around the city.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy spoke to the crowd of volunteers on Friday, praising the Schenectady & Me project and the city’s community.
“There is a change in attitude in this community. The expectations are changing where it used to be a city that people didn’t think that things could happen. Now they realize that we can do things; that we come together, we solve problems, we make things happen,” McCarthy said.
To find out more about the Schenectady & Me project or to donate visit createcommunitystudios.org.