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'Schenectady and Me': Building creativity and community

'Schenectady and Me': Building creativity and community

'People begin to look a little differently at their community'
'Schenectady and Me': Building creativity and community
A scene from Kids Art Fest 2016 in Schenectady. Schenectady Creative Arts Network will lead an art project there this year.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Public art isn’t just nice to look at.

“It connects people in the community,” Peg Foley said.

Foley is a local artist and a founding member of Schenectady Creative Arts Network, a group of artists, non-profit leaders, creatives and art enthusiasts that is about to embark on its first large-scale project: “Schenectady and Me.”

Members of the group hope to create sculptures for Schenectady neighborhoods with the people who know them best: residents.

At fairs and community events across the Capital Region throughout the summer and fall, SCAN will be inviting kids and adults alike to come and create two-dimensional pieces of art that reflect something about their neighborhood, whether it’s a favorite restaurant, a favorite park, or where they hung out when they were kids, among other possibilities.

“It could be anything that ties them to the area,” Foley said.

Each piece will be collaged using various materials, and there will be at least one professional artist there to help residents with their pieces. The project isn’t dependent on people having the best drawing skills or the most creative ideas; instead, it is contingent on people coming to the project with an open mind and passion for their neighborhood.

Foley is hoping to reach over 2,500 people -- not just kids, but adults who sometimes don’t feel as comfortable being creative.

“There are so many people that don’t have the opportunity to create,” Foley said.  

The pieces of art will eventually be transferred to tiles and SCAN plans to commission artists to create the sculptures for each neighborhood, including Hamilton Hill, Woodlawn, downtown, and as many others as they can get to. Each neighborhood would eventually have a bench or an abstract piece of art made from the tiles.

Before that final stage, hopefully in late 2018 or early 2019, the Network plans to have a few exhibitions of the community artwork. Foley said she’s hoping it will start a dialogue with residents in each neighborhood, especially among people who might not otherwise talk to one another.

Foley and other members of SCAN (like Heather Hutchison of CREATE Community Studios and Kristen Holler of Albany Barn) believe that the finished piece of art, which will be made from the residents’ artwork, can draw neighbors and neighborhoods together.

“People begin to look a little differently at their community,” Foley said. She’s also hoping that residents get excited about finding the sculptures in other neighborhoods besides their own.

The first opportunity for Schenectady residents to work with a professional artist to create a piece that will eventually be a part of the community sculpture will be Kids Art Fest on June 2. SCAN will also be attendance at Juneteenth and the Upper Union Street Fall Festival.

“Schenectady and Me” is partially funded by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts the Arts Center of the Capital Region and through CREATE Community Studios. However, the group is still in need of supplies, volunteers and funds to make the final sculptures and really bring the project to fruition. SCAN needs help staffing tables at events, website creation, and other logistics.

For those who would like to donate to or volunteer with the project, contact CREATE Community Studios at 518-348-9290.

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