SCHENECTADY – Downtown Schenectady is going to undergo a transformation of sorts this weekend thanks to the Kids Arts Festival.
Slated to run from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, it’ll give kids a chance to make their mark and participate in several public art projects, including a caterpillar and butterfly mural. Designed by Schenectady artist Oscar Bogran, the mural will be painted on the Franklin Street side of Pizza King and is inspired by “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle and will be about 5 by 6 feet when it’s done.
“You’ll be able to stand in front of it and take selfies and it’ll look like you have wings,” Bogran said. The design has been turned into a large adhesive stencil so that kids of all ages can help paint it.
“We have a color palette that they’ll be dabbing different colors within the stencil so it’ll be a very colorful butterfly,” Bogran said.
To complete the project, he secured a $5,000 grant from the Arts Center of the Capital Region and taught a few workshops in the Schenectady City School District about murals and public art. Several of the students he taught will be helping out with the mural at the Kids Arts Festival.
Bogran aims to have 90% of the mural painted during the festival and to have an unveiling the following weekend. The butterfly mural will be one of relatively few in the Electric City, though Bogran hopes that will soon change.
“[Let’s make] public art become more accessible in Schenectady. I feel like Troy has done a good job, Albany’s done a good job. Schenectady has kind of fallen behind as far as murals and public art goes,” Bogran said. “I’m hoping that this encourages up-and-coming artists or students to go out there and try to put more public art in the Schenectady area.”
Besides the mural, clay artist Kristi Isabella will lead kids in creating tiles that will eventually adorn the interior of the ALCO Tunnel that will connect Erie Boulevard to North Jay Street. Artist Elona Hope Mitchell-Strong will lead kids in creating murals to celebrate summer. Those murals will be unveiled at the July 22 SummerNight in downtown Schenectady.
“The highlight of this festival is the opportunity for kids of any age to interact with professional artists in a wide range of activities, some where the kids get to take what they’ve created home and others where they are contributing to a larger piece of public art,” said Betsy Sandberg, who chairs the volunteer planning committee of the ElectriCity Arts and Entertainment District, which produces the festival.
As part of another public art project that ties in with the recently-opened “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” on view at Armory Studios, kids can help make Vincent van Gogh-inspired fence art along Jay Street in front of City Hall. Volunteers finger-knitted strips of brightly-colored yarn so that kids can create a field of sunflowers, using whichever colors they want. The project was inspired by van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”
The festival‘s schedule is packed with more than a dozen other visual arts activities like pottery, puppet making and chalk art. Kids will also have a chance to meet live birds from the Whispering Willows Wild Care program and learn about bees from Scott Hart in front of the New York Folklore shop and gallery.
Music is another big part of the festival. Alex Torres will give a special arts-in-education program to teach kids percussion and then bring kids onstage to play with his Latin Orchestra. Schenectady musician Tyrell Outlaw (otherwise known as Rell Dolo) will teach kids a rap that they can perform at SummerNight.
Kids can try their hand at DJing with Albany-based Mario Johnson (who goes by DJ Hollyw8d). Johnson will break down the basics in an activity examining beats per minute called “What’s your BPM?”
“By default, we’re increasing the awareness and the vocabulary of the youth . . . Basically, [teaching] them to go from a faster song to maybe a slower song maybe a similar song and just giving them an introduction to basic DJing,” Johnson said.
He’s been teaching students how to DJ for several years and has worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Troy and in the City of Albany and Schenectady on DJing and mentoring programs.
His philosophy – and company name – is “It’s More Than Music.”
“We have no idea the amount of impact music plays on us because whether we are conscious or subconscious to it we listen to music every single day, willingly and unwillingly,” Johnson said.
“It’s the one thing that can connect us all together. It can make you cry; it can make you laugh. It can make you think about an old memory. The power of music is just [amazing]. That’s where that concept comes from – It’s more than music.”
Kids Arts Festival
WHEN: Noon – 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Jay Street and in front of Schenectady City Hall, Schenectady
MORE INFO: kidsartsfestivalschenectady.com
NOTE: Rain location is inside Proctors, 432 State St.