SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s grounds will resound with a joyful noise on Sunday with the fifth annual Festival of Young Artists. More than 500 mostly teenagers who dance, play an instrument, sing, write poetry, paint or create all sorts of visual arts will celebrate in this collaborative event.
The theme for the festival is Interdependence, such as when a poet works side by side with a musician much in the way people in a community depend on each other for hope and happiness particularly during a tragedy or disaster.
“We’ve noticed how this builds a community especially as in a cross discipline,” said Dennis Moench, vice president of education at SPAC. “All art forms are connected.”
That concept has been at the heart of the festival since it was conceived. More than five years ago, Moench, SPAC’s executive director Elizabeth Sobol, and members of the Empire State Youth Organization, which included then-music director Helen Cha-Pyo, met to discuss ways to showcase students from all artistic disciplines. Noting that there were few venues in the Capital District that could handle such a multitude, Cha-Pyo suggested that since SPAC had the largest stage in the area, why not make it a festival, Moench said.
“Everyone thought it a great idea,” he said.
They decided to limit student participation to the 11 counties that made up the Capital Region and the Adirondack Park. Submissions were taken in the fall and anyone was encouraged to apply as long as they could create a piece of work that fit into one of the artistic disciplines.
“The focus was on the process and the student’s enrichment rather than on the end product,” Moench said. “It was for them to discover the joy of the creative process and to come to love the art form even before working toward a higher level of proficiency. There were no limits.”
From the beginning, there were always many dancers and musicians who applied, including those in the ESYO, the Capitol District Youth Chorale, Northeast Ballet, and recently, students from the SPAC School of the Arts. Applications in the visual arts has grown substantially with this year attracting more than 200 students.
“Poetry has been a roller coaster,” Moench said. “Last year with the pandemic, we had the most students writing. But this year there were fewer.”
Despite the numbers, Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco visited SPAC to work with three poets who had virtual workshops over the past many months. One of the students is Lauren Zhu, an eleventh grader from Shaker High School, who was named the Literary Art winner, and will recite her winning poem, “I think better with my eyes closed,” at the event’s finale.
“I had two workshops with Mr. Blanco and he helped me to tighten the language and to be more specific,” Zhu said. “He was great. . . incredible. He taught me about revising and performing.”
While her goal is to write more often, do some summer workshops and refine the process, Zhu noted that she has no friends that write poetry — although she also serves on the school newspaper. But the festival’s theme of interdependence is meaningful to her because many of her friends do other artistic disciplines, she said.
She will also be on stage with Blanco, who will recite his own poem, “Declaration of Interdependence.” This will be at the final event of the day, when about 200 of the students will be on stage performing in some capacity.
Before that, there’s an art show of more than 50 works, games, balloons, workshops, free ice cream from Stewart’s, the ESYO’s CHIME program of 100 kids performing, poetry readings, dances in everything from classical to hip hop and Irish dance, choirs singing, and a special homage to David Janower, who led the Albany Pro Musica until his death, with “Omnia Sol,” which was sung at his memorial.
Moench said the continued support from Adirondack Trust Company and this year CDPHP have made the festival possible.
People must register to attend either at www.spac.org or www.spacfoya.org, or at a table at the venue’s entrance. The event is free with registration.
Masks are optional but required for backstage; no proof of vaccination is necessary.
Festival of Young Artists
WHEN: 2 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: www.spac.org; 518 584-9330