Happy poster contest

Poster contest winner Rosemary Ottati is seen.

Poster contest winner Rosemary Ottati is seen.

In a time of uncertainty, a Niskayuna middle schooler finds hope in friends.

Eleven-year-old Rosemary Ottati was named as the winner of the Schenectady Kids Art Festival poster competition. 

The theme of this year’s poster competition was “Happiness.” Participants lined up to display their creativity by portraying the theme in a design of their own.  

Ottati was attending the Schenectady Kids’ Art Festival where she learned that the competition was taking place. Spurred by her love of art, she quickly drew a picture to enter for submission. 

“When I was drawing this poster I was thinking about all of the friends that I have now and all the friends I will have in the future,” Ottati said. 

The winning drawing consisted of a picture with three girls smiling and hugging each other. Rays of joyful emotion are seen emitting from the embrace, and the girl in the middle is so elated, her eyes are closed while her smile is wide. 

“I just think that friendship makes you happy to have someone who understands you and likes you,” said Ottati.

Her drawing was unanimously chosen as the winner by a board of three event judges. Each judge individually selected works from each category, without collaborating with the other evaluators.

“When I first saw the drawing I thought ‘she didn’t do this,’ and then I thought ‘If she did do this, this is amazing’. I set the drawing aside to verify the artist, and when I learned she [Rosemary] drew it, I was astonished. She is a very talented young lady,” said Oscar Bogran, Art Festival judge and artist. 

Though the contest win was a pleasant surprise, Ottati’s mother Amanda had no doubts in her daughter’s ability.

“Rosemary has grown up around art her entire life. She’s always drawing and practicing, so she wanted to see what she could come up with. Her drawing was done spontaneously and I was so proud of what she came up with,” said Amanda Ottati.

Amanda works as a graphic designer and has been engrossed in the art world her entire life. In 2007 Amanda opened her gallery named “Bear and Bird Boutique & Gallery” in south Florida. Over a decade later in 2018, she opened a new location for her gallery in downtown Schenectady.

“No matter where we have been, art has always been a constant. I always love seeing her art, when you’re 11 it’s all very pure. As she gets older she’ll be able to use that creativity and ingenuity as a tool in all aspects of her life,” Amanda said.

The Kids’ Art Festival took place in late September at downtown Schenectady’s Jay Street civilian hub. The 2021 occasion marked the 27th anniversary of the event. The festival was founded by prominent Schenectady citizens including the late Karen Johnson and Eli Taub. 

“The Kids Art Festival was an idea my husband Eli was eagerly invested in. In the 1990’s we held meetings dubbed ‘Schenectady 2000’s where individuals would discuss a development plan for Schenectady in the new century. The Kids’ Art Festival was an idea that sparked from these meetings,” said Nancy Bell, the sponsor for the art festival’s poster competition. 

Nancy and her late husband Eli lived in the Stockade for many years. After her husband’s passing, Nancy continued to honor her husband’s legacy by supporting the arts and children’s events in Schenectady. 

“The poster contest came to fruition during a conversation with Karen Johnson over seven years ago. The creation of the competition wasn’t the intended goal of the conversation, but something great came out of it,” Bell said.

“The iteration of the poster competition we have now is incredible. Many schools in the area are cooperating with us in getting the word out. The creativity that goes into every child’s piece of work amazes me. It’s a joy seeing what the kids come up with and their use of colors and form. It goes without saying that the judging process is very difficult,” said Bell.

The Schenectady Kids Arts Festival is now spearheaded by Wisconsin native, Betsy Sandberg. Now living in Schenectady, Sandberg has spent over 20 years volunteering her time to the arts and community initiatives in Schenectady. 

“I was just excited to be able to offer this program to the children in person again. The entire festival was held virtually last year due to the pandemic. This year our planning committee was able to meet and hash out an agreed upon theme. The committee is a diverse group made up of artists, art activists, educators, and business owners. I was delighted to be able to do this again and provide our youth with the much needed arts,” said Sandberg. 

Rosemary’s artwork will be featured in the promotional materials for the upcoming arts festival in the summer of 2022. The artwork will also be displayed on the Kids Arts Festival website and in a Proctors display case. 

“The Kids’ Art Festival will always be special to me, and I am glad to be a part of it. I am grateful for Karen and Eli in laying the first building blocks, and thankful for Betsy in making this a truly marvelous event,” said Bell.

For more information on the Schenectady Kids’ Art Festival, visit

Categories: Art, Life and Arts


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