Papier-maché animals sitting in Schenectady City Hall gave local resident Sarah Sweet a sense that the city is becoming a better place.
“If they have nice things to do in Schenectady our property values might go up,” Sweet said. “Hopefully the reconstruction will bleed up State Street.”
Sweet was one of more than 5,000 people expected to take part in the first annual Schenectady Art Attack, a free weekend event featuring the work of 500 artists scattered at 23 venues throughout the city.
At City Hall, hundreds passed through the doors on Saturday, the first day of spring. Songs from the band Flood Road, performing in City Council chambers, could be heard from outside, while displays and exhibits kept onlookers busy inside.
Sweet said the event was good for her 10-month-old daughter, Olivia. “She likes the music.”
Organizers are hoping the free event, planned to be held each spring, will become an economic driver.
“People come downtown who haven’t been here for years, and they find it’s not a crime-ridden place. It’s very safe,” said City Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard. “So they’re likely to come back, and I hope they’re having lunch.”
The event was estimated to cost around $3,000, but to Don Rittner, city and county historian, the founder and major force behind the event, it’s a necessary cost to enrich the area’s arts and culture. Rittner said he has dreamed of organizing Art Attack since 2001.
Art Attack was also held at locales including the Schenectady County Library at 99 Clinton St. and the Hellenic Center at 548 Liberty St.
Local artist and Union College employee Peggy Bielecki and Maryanne Rappaport, an art teacher at New Covenant School in Albany, helped Rittner put together the event. Other members of the Art Attack Committee included Meghan Murphy and Mikal Mastrioni.
“Artists tend to be geographically challenged, but genetically we’re all from the same spot,” said Rittner, referring to the area’s Dutch foundation. Rittner, as a local historian, has authored more than 30 books about the region.
In May, Rittner plans to expand his efforts by starting up a Schenectady Roundtable that will open up City Hall’s doors once more during Art Night. The first floor will have artwork, while lectures and music will take place in City Council chambers.
“This is a great opportunity for people who’ve never seen City Hall to see it,” Rittner said.
Rachel Edelstein, a volunteer for the event who helped put together exhibits at SACC-TV and other places Friday night said Saturday’s good weather and a wide array of artwork available for people made the event a success.
“A different piece of artwork may draw them in,” Edelstein said. “I’ve seen a lot of people and this looks like they’ve been enjoying it.”
Art Attack continues today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maps for the event are available at Schenectady City Hall.