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Kids' Arts Fest kicks off Schenectady ArtsWeek

Kids' Arts Fest kicks off Schenectady ArtsWeek

You just might catch a glimpse of a few giant rolling animals and insects
Kids' Arts Fest kicks off Schenectady ArtsWeek
The New York State trout bike is an old Schwinn with a fish design over the top.
Photographer: indiana nash/gazette reporter

If you’re out and about in downtown Schenectady on Saturday, you just might catch a glimpse of a few giant rolling animals and insects. 

They don’t bite or sting; they’re just a creative way to get around. 

“The first one [I worked on] was the beaver bike,” said Julie Potter, the Pattersonville artist and volunteer. She created a tandem butterfly bike, with sweeping wings and long antennae, along with a large trout bike and several other smaller kids’ bikes featuring smaller animals. 

The fantasy bikes are a part of the Schenectady Kids’ Arts Festival, though they’ll be used at other community events throughout the year. The festival runs from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday on Jay Street, just outside of City Hall. 

“They wanted to do something interesting for the 25th year of the Kids’ Arts Fest,” Potter said. 

Taking inspiration from New York State wildlife, Potter started experimenting with the designs just a few months ago. 

“I think that’s what the hardest part was, making sure they’re still rideable and comfortable,” Potter said. 

Using bikes donated from the Electric City Bike Rescue, Potter sculpted, glued, and molded each of the creatures on top of the bike frames. 

“Most of this is spray foam,” Potter said of the beaver fantasy bike. The kingly looking beaver rests on the bike handles, with sticks poking out of his mouth. There’s also a matching kid’s bike to go with it. The kids’ bike has a skateboard attached to it with the beginnings of the beaver’s home piled on top of it. 

Some bike designs took a little more experimenting than others to make. The New York State trout bike was tricky because of the turn radius. The bike itself is an old Schwinn and the fish that goes over it is made of a sculpted bike rack, spray foam and fabric, which Potter hand painted. The matching kids’ bike is modeled after a lure. 

Kids and adults can ride these all throughout the festival, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.  

In its 25th year, the festival is expanding and honoring one of its founders, Eli I. Taub, who died in December. 

“Eli loved making people of all ages laugh and loved clowns,” said Taub’s wife, Nancy Bell. 

Thus, clowns and the circus will be a key component of the festival. Kids can learn to create a wiggle clown, balance a peacock feather and test out their other circus skills. 

It’s not all fun and games though, it’s also about going green. 

Attendees will have a chance to learn about New York State’s plastic bag ban and to make a reusable bag from a t-shirt. 

“It’s an example of upcycling,” said Lesley Cutting, the recycling and composting educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Cutting and other volunteers have been collecting t-shirts over the last few weeks to repurpose. The process of making them into reusable bags is relatively simple, involving no sewing. However, Cutting said it may take a bit of time, somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes. 

Other activities include calligraphy with the University at Albany’s Confucius Institute, fiber art with Ellen La Que and others. Heather Hutchison of CREATE Community Studios will be embarking on a project called “Schenectady: Past, Present and Future,” a 3-D topographical map of Schenectady that represents the city’s history as well as present-day neighborhoods. 

Hutchison invites people to use plaster strips and paper mache to construct buildings, trees, parks and to imagine what the future of the city will look like. The project will be exhibited at the Mabee Farm next June. 

The poster contest is back this year and is taking inspiration from Schenectady-native Arnold Lobel. 

As the author of the classic children’s series “Frog and Toad,” Lobel enchanted many a generation with his comical characters. The Schenectady County Public Library is accepting entries for the poster contest that touch on some of the central themes found in the “Frog and Toad” books. Artists of all ages can turn in their entries by 4 p.m. on June 1 at the SCPL booth. 

The winning entry will be announced on July 11. People’s Choice voting of the winning entries will take place at SummerNight and Comic Con. 

Downtown Schenectady ArtsWeek ‘jam-packed’

This year, the Kids’ Arts Festival kicks off an entire week of performances and arts events around the city. 

“Downtown Schenectady ArtsWeek is jam-packed with a phenomenal amount of arts-related activities that residents and visitors can participate in during the lead-up to summer,” said Jim Salengo, the executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. 

Following Saturday’s Kids’ Arts Fest will be the Schenectady Pride Festival from 2-6 p.m. on Sunday. There will be a march starting at 4 p.m. from Jay Street to Gateway Plaza. A dedication of a new Rainbow Pride Art Sculpture will begin at 5 p.m. at Gateway Plaza on Lower State Street. 

Groovin’ at Gateway, a new event for the city invites community members to contribute to group project art. It runs from 5:30-8 p.m. on Tuesday at Gateway Plaza. 
Electric City Barn, Schenectady’s maker space, will stage “High School Musical” at the facility on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8. 

“We are excited to partner and collaborate with local organizations striving to encourage and support local creatives,” said Erin Eckler, the operations manager at Electric City Barn. 

Other ArtsWeek events include Jazz on Jay from 12-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, featuring the Teresa Broadwell Quintet, Discover Schenectady’s Kick Off to Summer event from 12-7 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at Music Haven, and an outdoor performance by the Albany Symphony Orchestra at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at the Mohawk Harbor Amphitheater. 

New York Folklore invites the community to come out and celebrate its 75th birthday on June 6. Shortly after the Jazz on Jay concert, members of the Kyrgyistan cultural delegation will be at New York Folklore (129 Jay St.) and community members are invited to meet there. 

For more information visit downtownschenectady.org.

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