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Troy Begins New Public Art Campaign

Lucas Willard

The City of Troy has launched a new community campaign to develop a master plan for the arts. 

At a packed meeting Wednesday evening at the Arts Center of the Capital Region on River Street, art consultant Todd Bressi gave a presentation on how cites across the country have been able to incorporate public art to build community, revitalize neighborhoods, and bring in development.

Slides of public art in cities like Austin and Philadelphia entertained the curious crowd.

Referring to the city’s architecture, Bressi says Troy has “great bones.”

“That helps to create a really good setting and it also helps to create a lively sort of urbanism where people are used to being out in public space,” said Bressi.

Bressi was brought in by the partnership between the city, the Arts Center, the Downtown Troy BID, and Renssealer County Chamber of Commerce. He said when looking at a city, he’s interested in where development is occurring and the city’s plans for investment in infrastructure.

“I’m also interested in learning about how things got to the way they are, about a city’s history, why is the city here? What was its economic strength? How has that affected the way the city is now?”

But this is not Troy’s first foray into searching for new community art. The Breathing Lights project that lit up hundreds of abandoned homes in Troy, Albany, and Schenectady was well received. That project is currently being dismantled and the team that organized it is taking on the Plan for Public Art.

Arts Center CEO Elizabeth Reiss said the work that went into Breathing Lights sets a good foundation for moving forward to new projects.

“Breathing Lights brought the cities together and made a lot of connections. I think we’re just really starting there because Breathing Lights was very much a part of community development, about housing and that field. This could take a very different turn. This could get into environmental work, river work. So I think we’ll take the process of how we worked together but the outcome will most likely be very different,” said Reiss.

Troy is hoping to use an arts master plan as part of the city’s new comprehensive plan.

Deputy Mayor Monica Kurzejeski said it’s up to residents to choose what they’d like to see. She was encouraged by the turnout at Wednesday’s meeting.

“It’s a diverse mix of people, it’s new people we haven’t seen to the table yet, it’s new people that we didn’t see at the comprehensive plan, which is even more exciting too because the more ideas and the more input we get from our residents, it becomes the city’s plan. Not the administration’s plan. It becomes the residents’ plan, and that is what’s so important,” said Kurzejeski.

The work is being supported by a $49,500 state grant through Empire State Development.

A brainstorming meeting is scheduled for Thursday night at the Troy Kitchen at 6 p.m. with Bressi and Project Manager Judie Gilmore.

Reiss said it’s just one of many future public meetings where residents can share ideas.

“Anybody can come in and just start talking to Judie and Todd about a lot of the kind of ideas that came out today, things they did, things they want to do, concerns, whatever that may be. And then we will have really public charrettes and forums where we can document all this,” said Reiss.

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Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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