Schenectady art show puts students in the spotlight

Sophia Dlugolecki took inspiration from classic cartoons for her painting “Hanna Barbera,” seen above her on the wall. (photo provided)

Sophia Dlugolecki took inspiration from classic cartoons for her painting “Hanna Barbera,” seen above her on the wall. (photo provided)

School years are typically filled with chances for students to share their talents with friends and family, whether it’s displaying their artwork or performing in concerts or plays.

However, for the past year, those opportunities have been few and far between.

“It feels like something’s missing,” said Amanda Magnetta Ottati, the owner of Bear and Bird Boutique and Gallery in Schenectady. Her daughter, Rosemary, is a fifth-grade student in the Niskayuna School District and has had many extracurricular activities canceled due to the pandemic.

It’s part of why Magnetta Ottati decided to host an art show at Bear and Bird focused solely on student artwork. Called “My Little Eye,” it includes paintings, digital drawings and more from students ages 16 and younger.

“I wanted them to have a chance to have this as a positive memory for this time because it’s cool to see your artwork on the wall and to bring your grandmother to see it and just have it be appreciated,” Magnetta Ottati said.

That’s certainly true for Ranna Payamfar, a student at Woodland Hill Montessori School.

For the show, the 12-year-old artist submitted a cheerful digital drawing called “The Girl and the Llama.”

“I think it was probably a new age of art for me, and it definitely made me a little more confident in my digital art,” Payamfar said.

She was inspired by trips that she’d taken with friends to farms that had llamas. “When I was designing this art piece, I was thinking about some times when me and my closest friends, Lucy and Ally, had spent time together without the bizarre masks covering half of our faces . . . These two memories were so fun to think about, that it was so much fun to draw,” Payamfar said.

Having her work up at Bear and Bird has been nothing short of an honor for Payamfar, who said she was initially inspired to try digital art because her mother is a digital artist.

“She has inspired me so much in art that every time I draw something I think is the ugliest thing ever, she encourages me to make another one,” Payamfar said.

Another student, Sophia Dlugolecki (16), who previously attended Scotia-Glenville High School and is now home-schooled, took inspiration from classic cartoons for her painting “Hanna Barbera.”

“I got really interested in Hanna Barbera and I did my own research and then I just started painting them and felt good about it because they came out well,” Dlugolecki said.

Her piece captures some of her favorite cartoon characters like Fred Flintstone and George Jetson. While sketching them would have been easier, Dlugolecki said she wanted to challenge herself and so for this piece, she decided to paint the characters instead.

It’s the first time she’s had her work featured in a commercial gallery space

“It’s exciting to have new people looking at it,” Dlugolecki said. She’s spent more time working on her art this year and says it’s definitely improved and been a positive outlet.

Niskayuna students and sisters Katherine (13) and Emma (10) Juras have also spent many hours during the pandemic drawing, though that’s not out of the ordinary for them.

“On almost every paper, especially paper in school, there will be one or more small little drawings,” said Emma.

For her piece in the show, called “Finona” she took inspiration from her favorite creatures: cats. Her drawing reflects a smirking feline with golden-yellow fur.

Katherine’s piece is a digital drawing of a smiling figure with fluffy brown hair. Titled “Benny,” it’s a different sort of style for the artist, who often creates unique characters. Before the pandemic, she was in the school’s art and anime clubs, though COVID-19 has put a damper on those.

“My Little Eye” has given Katherine, and the other students involved an opportunity to share their work. Some artists have brought their extended families to see the show and made it more of an event, going out to eat afterward.

“It’s a reason to get together,” Magenta Ottati said. “I think [students are] proud of having something hung where other people can see it.”

The show runs through May 28. Bear and Bird is located at 107 State Street, Schenectady. For more information visit

Categories: Art

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