Betsy Sandberg knows a good idea when she hears one, and Margie Amodeo’s notion of putting origami butterflies on bobby pins was clearly inspired.
Sandberg, director of the Kids Arts Fest in downtown Schenectady, first heard of the idea for this year’s event, she had an immediate reaction.
“Of course, I love it,” said Sandberg, who was forced to push the 2021 Kids Arts Fest from June back to this Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “And it made me think about the struggles that caterpillars go through to become butterflies. Even though the theme of our 27th anniversary festival is ‘CommUNITY,’ to me it’s really about emerging from struggle into something better.”
Amodeo, coordinator at the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College, felt that the story of the monarch butterfly was a perfect and fun fit for these tough times.
“I have about 1,000 bobby pins ready for this, and I thought the sight of kids pinning the origami butterflies onto their clothes and then running around covered with them would be a lot of fun,” said Amodeo. “A couple of years ago we made owl masks, and that was a bit hit. I would think monarchs would also be a big hit, and it also encourages children to do their part as active citizen scientists.”
Amodeo and a handful of Kelly Adirondack Center volunteers as well as a group of Union College students will have two tables set up on Jay Street outside City Hall to assist children in their creations. They’ll also be an educational component.
“We’ll talk about Journey North, a group that monitors the migration of the monarchs, and we’ll encourage the kids to also monitor that project and look out for the butterflies themselves,” said Amodeo. “They can actually track the migration of the monarchs, and think about the plants they can grow in their yard and how to carefully choose the herbicide they use. The monarchs are struggling right now, and we should remember that any native species, like milkweed, will help support them.”
Some monarch butterflies endure migrations of 3,000 miles.
“It’s totally amazing how they ride the currents, and many of them make the migration in both directions,” said Amodeo. “Some don’t make it. Milkweeds and other native plants are a lifeline to the monarchs making this trip. We’re trying to get the kids to appreciate this, and think about what they can do to have a positive effect.”
Amodeo said the opportunity for the Kelly Adirondack Center to be a part of the Kids Arts Fest is something she always looks forward to.
“This is really a special event for us,” she said. “Typically, we tend to serve more of the college community and our continuing education groups, so much of the time we’re dealing with seniors. We’re also currently closed to the public because of COVID, so this is a really big day for us. It’s a great opportunity for outreach.”
Making butterflies won’t be the only fun activity for kids on Saturday. Members of Universal Preservation Hall’s Rock Camp will open the festivities with a performance at noon, and that’s only one of the musical offerings. Dueling Saxophones will have 50 recorders on site to teach kids how to play, and Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra Arts-in-Education Program will be making its first Kids Arts Fest appearance.
Along with creating butterflies and tie-dye masks, children will be able to make their own drums and do their own street art with the help of Oscar Bogran. Other groups involved in the Kids Arts Fest include the Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady, the Electric City Barn, Electric City Puppets, Hamilton Hill Arts Center and the New York State Folklore Society.
Hatice Erbas-Sorkunlu, an ebru artist originally from Turkey, will be working with the New York State Folklore Society to teach children the Turkish art of cini, also known as “paper marbling.”
The Kids Arts Fest has been held continually since 1994, although last year’s event was a virtual one due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Kids Arts Fest was created by former Schenectady Mayor Karen B. Johnson, along with Janet Hutchison, Joan Gould and Eli I. Taub. Hutchison is owner of the Open Door Bookstore, Gould was director of the Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum and Taub was a local attorney and Schenectady County Family Court Judge.
“This year, we have a great mix of golden-oldie favorite art activities and new ones that let our imaginations soar,” said Sandberg. “Seriously, I never thought we could top the 25th anniversary, but I do think this one is going to be fabulous because of activities the Kelly Center is doing and all the other groups we have involved.”