Duanesburg Day is an annual celebration of the small town’s local heritage and culture, both past and present.
Nowhere was there a greater display of past meets present Saturday than in a multipurpose room at Duanesburg High School where Kim Balfour demonstrated the old art of timber framing to a small crowd of onlookers who were surrounded by student artwork every which way they looked.
The artwork was vast and impressive, by students from kindergarten up to 12th grade, and took many forms, like umbrellas bearing anti-bullying messages that hung from the ceiling or oversized sculptures propped up on pedestals. There were pencil drawings, oil paintings on vast canvases and ink designs on frayed cloth. The art installations were quirky and unexpected, from deflated hot air balloons to a blown-up roll of duct tape or a lone woman’s pump.
“Isn’t it just beautiful?” said Mary Clifford, a mom who organized Duanesburg Day this year. “I am just blown away by the talent of our students.”
More than 100 students, parents and community members showed up to the Saturday event, which is now in its 11th year. About 70 businesses, crafters and artisans set up booths lining the hallways and gym to sell their wares or give demonstrations. Many of the student booths were to raise money for the senior class. The Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department was handing out free child IDs as part of the Operation SAFE CHILD program. There was a historical re-enactment in the cafeteria and musical and dance performances in the gym. Two alpacas in a pen outside the school were a popular attraction for kids.
“We really try to showcase everything Duanesburg has to offer,” said Clifford. “So we try to bring out everything we’re proud of in our community and show people all the different things we have here. We really try to make the day fun. There’s something for everybody here.”
But her favorite part of the annual celebration is the art show, which grows in size with each passing year.
“I’ve been here for 12 years, and it’s one of my goals that when I leave this place I want to have the whole building covered in art,” said Duanesburg High art teacher Kevin Ditondo.
Every year for Duanesburg Day, he covers the multipurpose room in artwork. It takes an entire week to get it all into the room. Most of it will be down by Monday, but some will remain, like the giant Vincent van Gogh-inspired oil paintings that line the highest part of the walls.
There are outside influences in almost all of the high school art, from Georgia O’Keeffe to Claude Monet to Jackson Pollock to Pablo Picasso.
“I show the kids their paintings and I encourage them to make something similar, but with their own interpretation,” Ditondo said. “There’s one artist, Claes Oldenburg, who takes everyday objects and enlarges them into these big sculptures. I had the kids do the same. I asked them to take an object that is a common, every day type of object but that also defines you as a person and blow it up.”
On display Saturday were a giant brass key, a tall black high-heel shoe, a roll of duct tape, a giant LEGO man and a canister of Old Spice men’s deodorant.
“The kid who made the LEGO, he’s one of those kids who has all the toys and still plays with his old LEGOS,” said Ditondo. “The kid who made the duct tape is a very straightforward guy, an introverted kid, but so smart.”
Students in the elementary school had their artwork — crayon and marker paintings of fish and sea horses and turtles — transferred onto magnets to be sold as part of a fundraiser to aid fellow student Hailey Seamans, who needs a kidney transplant. The money will go toward her family’s transportation costs to get to New York City and back in the coming months.