SCHENECTADY – The Hamilton Hill Arts Center has gone through changes and challenges over the last few years, from issues with its building to pandemic-related problems.
Yet, it’s brought about some new opportunities and the arts center will celebrate those with an exhibit and community event set for Saturday at the Sankofa Sculpture Park.
Called “When One Door Closes …” the exhibit brings together the work of 16 artists from throughout the Capital Region who have used recycled doors as canvases for paintings and mixed media work.
The doors will be auctioned off on Saturday to help raise money for the arts center.
“The title of the exhibit ‘When One Door Closes…’ seemed so appropriate for what we are going through at the arts center and in our community,” said Rachel Conn, the center’s executive director. “The combination of COVID and the decline of our building at 409 Schenectady St. caused an end to our old way of functioning but opened so many doors to an even greater future for us.”
In the last few years, the condition of the arts center’s home base has deteriorated. Pipes burst and flooded the basement as well as the bathrooms, and the roof in the library space fell in. Electrical and plumbing issues have also cropped up.
With that, leadership took a step back and reevaluated the building and the center’s programming needs. The arts center serves more than 200 children a year with its Artreach Afterschool program and more than 10,000 children and families a year through community events.
Recently, the arts center has been raising funds to renovate its building and create a cultural campus dedicated to the arts and culture of the African diaspora.
More: Life & Arts | Everything Schenectady
The Sankofa Sculpture Park, which opened earlier this year at 412 Schenectady St., marked the first phase of that plan. Featuring sculpture work by Jerome Meadows, as well as a mural and sidewalk art, the park has become a part of the community. People visit regularly and sometimes even hold birthday parties there.
Beyond the sculpture park, thanks to funding from the Creatives Rebuilding New York Artist Employment Program, the arts center was also able to hire several local artists earlier this year to help teach the arts and culture of the African diaspora to families in Schenectady. The artists have formed several teams, including a craft and visual arts team, a media team and an African dance and drumming team.
The visual arts team came up with the idea for “When One Door Closes …” The exhibit starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday and includes music from DJ Jermaine Wells, food and artists’ booths featuring the work of those who embellished the doors up for auction.
The doors were recycled and donated by Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County.
“They’re being given new life as well,” Conn said.
The doors are a mix of abstract and representational designs. One abstract piece, by artist Jada Belton, features rich shades of orange and red that create fluid vertical lines around eye-like figures.
Another door features a face peering out above the viewer, with hands clasped around the mullions on the door as if the figure is trapped behind bars. The door was painted by Bianca DiLella, whose work focuses on history and mythology.
“We gave them free rein so each artist did what they felt expressed their inspiration in the moment,” Conn said.
Artist Kymberli Gaillard turned to outer space for inspiration, painting a galaxy of brightly-colored planets, and Zoe Harrison, a self-described penguin-obsessed artist, depicted several of the creatures in a cartoon-like style.
Other artists featured in the exhibit include Wells, Jordan McClendon, Obaro Ene, Rae Fraiser, Rachel Conn, Kym Gaillard, Takeyce Walter, Colette Smith, Maya Lewis, Miki Conn, Quill Harrison, Janiah Kum and Jade Warrick.
Conn hopes that even the doors that are purchased on Saturday are exhibited where others can see them.
“We’d like the people that win them to exhibit them either at their place of work or in their homes, places where people can walk by and see the doors,” Conn said.
For any door not purchased on Saturday, the bidding will continue online. Any doors not purchased will be displayed in various locations in Schenectady from June through October 2023. For more information visit hamiltonhillartscenter.org.
More: Life & Arts | Everything Schenectady
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