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Bob Goepfert: Contemporary Art Projects Add To The Historical Beauty Of Troy

Street art in Troy, NY
Hart Cluett Museum
Street art in Troy, NY

TROY – There is little argument that Troy is one of the more architecturally interesting cities in the area, if not in all upstate New York.

Guided by the Troy Master Plan for Public Art, developed by The Arts Center of the Capital Region in 2017, city, community and cultural leaders are developing public art projects to beautify the city.  Several of those projects are now in various stages of development and completion.

They should further enhance Troy’s reputation as a visually splendid and walkable city.

Mayor Patrick Madden recently announced a $25,000 grant from Bloomberg’s Asphalt Art Initiative for “The Uniting Line.”   It’s a public mural project designed to transform and reactivate the cold, barren and neglected area under the Collar City Bridge, (also known as the Hoosick Bridge).

“The Uniting Line,” funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies, will be a collaboration with the Arts Center of the Capital Region, Collar Works Art Gallery and TAP Inc.   Public hearings soliciting community input are planned as soon as next week.  The hope is the project can be completed in a swift and timely manner.

In announcing the grant, Mayor Madden defined the project’s title,  saying, “Public art serves as a catalyst for connecting neighborhoods and creating more active public spaces.”

Elizabeth Reiss, CEO of the Arts Center of the Capital Region, pointed out that when  the bridge was built it cut off some areas from the public at large.   Her hope echoes that of the mayor’s. “The goal is that the project not only beautifies the area but acts as a connecting bridge to those who travel and live in the area.” In a senses, it is a bridge under a bridge.

Another art beautification project is “Franklin Alley,” a planned transformation of the walkway between River Street and Broadway.  According to Reiss, the infrastructure of the project should be complete this month and artist Joe Iurato will begin the creative process of converting an eyesore passageway into a vibrant community space.   

A collaborative project between the Arts Center of the Capital Region and Hart Cluett Museum,  is  to rescue art that was created at the Black Lives Matter March in June.  These works might fall more under the category of “former public art.”   It’s an attempt to save what Reiss calls “pure street art.”

Thankfully, local art institutions recognize that art created in a time of social stress is an important artistic representation of the time in which we live.   They are attempting to preserve the social and political artifacts of today, so the future will more clearly have a visual representation of today’s turbulent times.

The week before the Black Lives Matter March took place in downtown Troy most businesses, in an effort to safeguard their properties, boarded up their store front windows.

Troy looked to many as a city under siege or a town preparing for a hurricane.   Artists, some by request, others by artistic impulse, created art on the plywood.  The parade route and the city were transformed into an outdoor political museum.

It not only made Troy more attractive, it seemed to help keep the peace as the art helped express the intent of the protest.

The Friday before the June 7th march, the Arts Center and Hart Cluett Museum agreed the art should be rescued rather than discarded or destroyed.  The plywood panels, with the permission and support of downtown businesses, are now safely stored at the spacious Arts Center at 265 River Road.   The Hart Cluett Museum is active in finding purpose for the art.

At present, there are many possible uses for the art.  Hart Cluett Museum hopes to add a few pieces to its permanent collection.  There has been talk with several organizations about a major exhibit. Some have talked about using them as fundraisers.  The New York State Museum has also expressed interest in having a couple of pieces of the artwork.

Reiss makes it clear that The Arts Center is not in control of the art, the artists or the outcome of the art.  It is providing space and helping to foster relationships and collaborations for best use of the art.  Nothing, they say, will be done without the approval of the individual artists.  For more information contact Belinda at the Arts Center belinda@artscenteronline.org.

“From Troy To Troy” is another beautification project.  The Arts Center is seeking several mural artists to beautify the walls of buildings and other downtown spaces.

The hope is the art will present an opportunity to draw the residents of Troy together through discussion of the murals.  For this reason, it is preferred that the artists be connected to Troy either through residence or livelihood.

The artist will be given $1,000 but must provide their own paint and materials.   For more details and artist requirements go to the arts center website, or contact belinda@artscenteronline.org.  The deadline to submit is August 21, with a selection made on September 4.  The creation of the murals is scheduled for the fall of 2020.  Specific locations are yet to be determined.

All this activity is a sign that through public art the City of Troy is being extremely active in making the residents of the city understand and appreciate that they are not only living in a historical city, they are living in historical times.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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