Art Alley-Oomph

The presence of art in the public eye changes the way one experiences a city. From bold, monumental murals to unexpected moments of whimsy, public art can enliven streetscapes and engage visitors and residents alike.

The Arts Center of the Capital Region (ACCR) has been working with stakeholders from the City of Troy and beyond for years, and in ways large and small, its vision is now becoming reality. A key component of the organization’s Public Art Program is community engagement – so pick a project and get involved!

Breathing New Life into Franklin Alley

Today, Franklin Alley is an underutilized relic of the 19th century alleys that connected Troy’s bustling thoroughfares – Broadway and River Street. But soon, thanks to a major public art project, Franklin Alley will be a downtown destination.

The Franklin Alley Pedestrian Walkway Mural project will connect restaurants and cultural venues and transform a vacant alley into a new gathering space for residents and visitors alike.

“Urban alleyways tell stories,” said ACCR CEO Elizabeth Reiss. “They are living environments inhabited by old fire escapes, boarded windows and graffitied doors, all evoking the lives of those who passed through them. Franklin Alley will help tell Troy’s story – past, present and future.”

Internationally known mural artist Joe Iurato has been chosen for the Franklin Alley project. A multidisciplinary artist whose works are built on a foundation of stencils and aerosol, Iurato’s murals have enlivened neighborhoods along the east coast for years.

More recently, he has become known for the unique placement and photography of miniature painted wood cutouts in public spaces.

The ACCR and Iurato are working to ensure that the mural is informed by a wide variety of experiences and voices. The Franklin Alley team includes elected officials, city employees, building owners, historians, residents, artists and youth program participants.

The Arts Center will host a public forum to discuss the project with the artist on Wednesday, June 26 at 265 River St., Troy at 6:00 p.m.

“Public art is more than paint on a wall or statue on a sidewalk – it’s a way to bring together neighbors, families, and community organizations to enhance the Collar City’s reputation as a cultural and creative hub in the Capital District,” Troy Mayor Patrick Madden said.

“The City of Troy is pleased to partner with the Arts Center of the Capital Region to advance the Troy Master Plan for Public Art, an important effort which will enhance the vibrancy of our community.”

Reiss aims for the Franklin Alley project to be a demonstration of best practices for “placemaking.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen communities install murals without reference to their environment or their neighbors,” she said. “The ACCR is working as a community for the community, and we hope this will serve as a model for other public art programs.”

Once the design is created, Iurato will install the artwork, working with his own crew as well as artists and young people from the planning team. The mural will be unveiled in September in conjunction with the Downtown BID’s Restaurant and Craft Brew week and the launch of a marketing campaign by the Troy Cultural Alliance.

The Franklin Alley Pedestrian Walkway Mural project is just one component of ACCR’s comprehensive public art program. Additional efforts in the pipeline include:

Troy Farmers Market Public Art Series. Participants of all ages are invited to make art for the people, by the people, once a month from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at ACCR’s headquarters at 265 River St. The series began on June 22 with a Flower Garland Installation in the heart of Downtown Troy, as people collaborated with the lead artist to add a unique piece of art to a monumental installation.

Public Art Camps. One-week art camps in August will target youth aged 9-11 and 11-13. Murals & More includes print- and poster-making and the creation of a collaborative mural for display at ACCR. 3D Public Art will take the art-making process outdoors and feature a variety of sculpture materials including paper-mâché, wire armature and textiles to fabricate small-scale sculptures.

MY STREET. A partnership with Troy Architectural Project (TAP) and the Troy Boys and Girls Club, this yearlong program at School 2 will foster the next generation of planners, placemakers and artists. MYSTREET will engage 20 fourth and fifth graders to improve their neighborhood through public safety, events and beautification.

– 15 Middleburgh Avenue Mural. Working with TAP and artist Chip Fasciana, ACCR is involving young people in the creation of a mural on a former electronic supply building in Troy’s emerging North Central Neighborhood, near the Hudson River boat launch and park. HGTV/Sherwin-Williams are sponsoring the paint for the project.

Throughout Troy, public art will support efforts where planning and placemaking come together to create lively community spaces.

“Through this public art program, the Arts Center itself has undergone an institutional transformation,” said Reiss. “Our Public Art Program is a manifestation of connecting community to the arts. We’re so grateful to our sponsors for their support of this project, including: NYSCA; the Troy Savings Bank Charitable Foundation; the Troy Redevelopment Foundation; the Upstate Theater Coalition for a Fairgame and generous members of our community.”

According to the Troy Master Plan for Public Art’s vision statement:

Public art in Troy will not be seen as a simple amenity. Instead, it will be viewed as a vital platform for innovative experimentation and curious exploration that becomes a part of Troy’s creative and civic ecosystem – tapping into and uplifting the perception that Troy is the creative city in the Capital Region.

So, now’s your chance! Head over to Troy and take part in art!

Examples of mural artist Joe Iurato’s work are above. The featured image is the vision for a new-and-improved Franklin Alley. Image courtesy of Chazen Companies and 3t Architects.

Colleen Ryan has always been a storyteller. An innovative communications professional with experience in government, nonprofit and business sectors, she recently launched CMR Communications.

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