SCHENECTADY — A center for arts and culture in the city has been shuttered since the pandemic.
Now, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center will receive $70,000 in federal funding for renovations designed to safeguard against the coronavirus.
Planned improvements include the installation of a new heating and cooling system to improve basement ventilation, where the majority of classes are held.
Funds will also be used to install a new bathroom, which will allow staff to supervise hand washing, and upgrade kitchen and flooring for better drainage.
“It’ll make it easier to protect the kids from COVID,” said Executive Director Rachel Conn.
Programming has been online-only since the beginning of the pandemic.
Conn said she hoped the upgrades, which will be augmented by an additional $15,000 from an insurance payout for a broken pipe, will be complete by next September.
“Ideally when we’re done with repairs, we’ll be able to open up safely,” Conn said.
The center, which has historically served over 200 children annually, is also poised to launch art programming celebrating Black lives after the City Council allocated $30,000 for the initiative.
Documents submitted to lawmakers outline a proposed eight-week youth program which would bring in a licensed counselor to facilitate conversations about how racism has personally impacted kids.
Then their feelings would be shaped into an art project.
The proposed program would also bring in a historian, an artist to help conceptualize the project and a filmmaker to document the process.
Hamilton Hill Arts Center also aims to allocate $20,000 for three art pieces “memorializing and celebrating” Black lives and has assembled a panel to help guide the process.
Schenectady NAACP and Black Dimensions in Art, a Capital Region arts organization, will aid the center in putting out a call for artists to submit their proposals.
Conn said additional details will be forthcoming.
“This project is so important because it not only gives people a voice, but allows them to know Schenectady believes in them and supports them in what they have to say about their future,” Conn said. “Here at the arts center, Black Lives Matter every day and that’s what we’re all about.”