Third Fridays aren’t what they used to be in Schenectady.
Art Night is dying a slow death, and the new passeggiata isn’t happening at all this month.
Art Night began in May 2007, and was quickly a hit. At the second installment of the monthly event, 500 to 600 people showed up. By 2008, about 1,000 people were regularly showing up on the third Friday to buy art, listen to music and stroll through the downtown.
But then founder and artist Mitch Messmore moved to Beirut, Lebanon. He tried to run it from afar, but it fell into a slow decline.
Today, only two venues are participating in Art Night, according to the event’s website. Ambition is displaying photography. Proctors is also displaying art.
Both locations display art throughout the month, whether it’s Art Night or not.
“It’s definitely not as verbose as it used to be,” said Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Gail Hopper. “I think it kind of lost its oomph.”
But she added that getting monthly events off the ground isn’t easy.
“It’s a project,” she said. “It’s finding someone that’s really passionate about it and is willing to put a lot of time into it. If you don’t have a dedicated core group of volunteers, for one person it can be exhausting.”
She noted that Art Night was entirely a volunteer operation.
“I think it will come back,” she said. “We have a thriving arts community.”
Schenectady County Visitors Agency spokeswoman Leesa Perazzo said Art Night will fall under the “umbrella” of passeggiata — the traditional after-dinner stroll in Italy. But passeggiata isn’t happening this month because everyone is focused on the run of “Wicked” at Proctors, she said.
“For this month we laid low because all of our merchants and restaurants are very, very busy with ‘Wicked,’ ” she said. “Which is a wonderful thing.”
But it killed the plans to have a Dewali-themed event today.
Perazzo had hoped that passeggiata could have an international theme, considering the large Guyanese population this week celebrating Dewali, the Hindu festival of lights. She had also hoped the city could host an Afro-beat dance party.
But she said passeggiata will return next month, on Dec. 21. It will be a “last-minute shopping” event.