Virtual Kids Arts Festival kicks off Schenectady ArtsWeek

Annual Jay Street outdoor event comes to your living room and/or computer screen

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts, Schenectady County

In photos: Niskayuna High School seniors Ellie Zenner, left, and Abby Auster perform their senior solos on the Proctors stage as part of the Schenectady Kids Arts Festival. The recorded segments will be aired on TV and online (see story).

Due to COVID-19, there won’t be dancers, musicians and artists on Jay Street this weekend celebrating Schenectady Kids Arts Festival. 

Instead, they’ll be dancing, creating and performing right in your living room. Rather than postponing the popular festival to 2021 organizers decided to hold the event virtually, via TV and Facebook Live.

Working with Open Stage Media and Proctors Collaborative, they filmed some of the participating artists like Alex Torres and His Latin Orchestra and some of the dancers from Dance Me School of Dance and Character Development in Schenectady. 


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“[People] always love the Dance Me dancers. We have people line up for it,” said organizer Betsy Sandberg.

Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, the dancers weren’t able to perform their traditional senior solos at the end of the year recitals and competitions. 

“As a senior, it was going to be a really special competition season and I was really excited about the dances. It’s sad that we didn’t get a chance to do them,” said Abby Auster, a Niskayuna High School senior. 

The sting lessened a bit when Sandberg brought them in to record her senior solo on Proctors’ stage and be a part of the virtual Kids Arts Festival.

“It was such a great feeling . . . I’ve danced on that stage before but to just be able to have that experience, just me and all of that equipment in front of me, and the empty [theater], it was just an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had before,” Auster said. 

Auster, along with fellow Dance Me seniors Ellie Zenner and Maxine Wetzel, recently recorded their solos, which will air this weekend. 

“I’ve been dancing on Proctors stage since I was four years old [performing] in ‘The Nutcracker.’ It was really nice to be able to start when I was four years old performing on Proctors stage and then have the last time doing my solo be on Proctors stage,” said  Zenner. 

The Niskayuna High School senior has been working on the lyrical solo since September and to finally be able to perform it was gratifying. 

“I thought the opportunity that I had was amazing. I’m thankful for that and being able to dance on Proctors’ stage is such a special thing,” Zenner said. 

Beyond the recorded performances, the festival will also feature plenty of art projects, as is tradition. Each year, Kids Arts Festival gives thousands the chance to interact with and make things like drums and paper frogs. While those activities are going to be a bit different this year, they’re still being offered through how-to videos sent in by local participating artists. 

Artists at The Hamilton Hill Arts Center will be demonstrating how to weave Ojo de Dios or God’s Eye crafts. Other artists will show kids how to turn a paper bag into a mask and how to create a peace lantern using construction paper and a glow stick.

Musicians like Alex Torres and percussionists from his Latin Orchestra will demonstrate how to play drums and maracas. Other segments teach kids how to create their own drums or maracas using household items.

Volunteers last week put together art supply kits for kids who don’t have the supplies to create those crafts and want to participate in the Kids Arts Festival. They were distributed throughout Schenectady neighborhoods this week, featuring supplies for the activities that will be featured during the festival and others. 

“We worked really hard to try to make it fun, a good experience for the kids, and in a way, we might even reach more people,” Sandberg said.

Another recently added component to the festival is an essay-writing contest, which was started by Aneesa Waheed of Tara Kitchen. Kids are invited to write about how life has changed for them during the COVID-19 crisis. There are two categories: ages 5-11 and 12-18. The first prize is a Google Chromebook, the second is art supplies and a gift certificate to Tara Kitchen and the third is art supplies. The essays are due by July 1. For more information visit 

Segments of the Kids Arts Festival will debut on and Spectrum’s channel 1302 and Verizon Fios’ channel 37. They will air at 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday and noon and 3 p.m. on Sunday. There will also be Facebook Live events throughout the weekend.  

For more information visit

Schenectady ArtsWeek

The Kids Art Festival kicks off the first virtual Downtown Schenectady ArtsWeek, which runs from June 6-13. 

Organized by the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation, the week is meant to showcase creative outlets in the Electric City’s community with live music, theater shows and craft projects. 

Every night at 7 p.m. from June 8-13 on the DSIC’s Facebook page there will be activities led by local artists and organizations that people can participate in. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, June 8: Create Community Studios invites viewers to head outdoors for some relaxation and mindful meditation with Yoga Bliss. They’ll discuss mandalas and create an interactive, collaborative nature mandala.

Tuesday, June 9: Betsy Sandberg will lead viewers in creating a chalk mandala! Viewers will need a few pieces of chalk and a space to draw on the pavement. Viewers who’d prefer to stay inside can create a chalk mandala using a piece of paper.


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Wednesday, June 10: All Write Together and 2nd Wednesday Poetry Open Mic will join together to host an open mic-style hour of poetry. 

Thursday, June 11: Keisha Stovall will teach viewers how to create a portrait using paper, pencil and crayons.

Friday, June 12: Marion Morrison Leap will lead viewers in a mandala drawing using crayons, markers, colored pencils and other common art supplies.  

Saturday, June 13: The Hamilton Hill Arts Center Artists will present steel pan instructor Janiya Minor and multi-percussionist Jordan Hill. Together, they will perform folk, reggae and Disney songs. Viewers are encouraged to participate by singing along. 

For more information on Schenectady ArtsWeek visit

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