By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Artist Maureen Sausa leans through the ticketing window at the historic train station in Lions Park. Where a clerk once sold tickets, Sausa now greets guests. A longtime Niskayuna resident and recent retiree, Sausa saw the historic building’s potential long ago.
Sausa and her daughter, now grown up and an artist herself, used to walk past the building and peer into the windows.
“We always used to say, why don’t they use this building? It would make a wonderful art exhibit space,” Sausa said.
After retiring from her job at The Tailored Tea in Latham, she recalled her vision for the little brick building and sought a license from the town to make it her studio for a while.
The town had held a couple of art events at the old train station before, but Sausa wanted to turn it into a consistent workspace, available for creative types to work all summer long, and even into the fall.
Town Supervisor Joe Landry welcomed her suggestion.
“She’s a very good artist,” he said. “It allows her to display her work, allows the other artists to display their work, and it allows us to have information about the town down there.”
The town cleaned the building and Sausa moved in easels, frames and even a child-sized desk with a sketchbook for smaller visitors.
Each week until Labor Day, Sausa will occupy the train station Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 until 6 p.m., welcoming guests and periodically working on her own art projects.
Sausa occupies what was once the ticketing office. Two rotating resident artists share one room of the building, and a photographic gallery for Warren Lee, also a Niskayuna resident, fills the remaining space.
“We have done exhibits down there in the past, but never anything as regular as she’s doing,” Landry said.
The resident artists are local creators who applied earlier in the year to be a part of Sausa’s project. Jennifer Politano, an ESL teacher who considers art a hobby, hopes the experience will expand her skills.
During her upcoming week in the train station, she’ll be able to set up her workspace next to a window overlooking the scenic Erie Canal, store her supplies in the station, and simply focus on her craft.
Politano said she usually paints in a studio in her basement, but she intends to paint “plein air,” meaning out in the open.
“You stand outside and paint and don’t stop,” she said. “That’s new for me.”
Politano taught herself to work with acrylic and oil paints. She usually uses a studio style that relies on memory or photographs. But outside, “you’re really forced to work quickly because the light changes,” she said.
She also looks forward to the opportunity to take a step back from her canvas and interact with passers-by in the park. “It’s much more freeing,” she said.
Nancy Sylvester Hunt, another resident artist, is using the opportunity to reconnect with her creativity after setting her art aside to care for her sick mother. She converted her studio to a bedroom so she could attend to her more easily.
“She passed away in October, and she told me to get back to painting,” Hunt said.
After spending her first day in the studio touching up older paintings and reacquainting herself with materials and techniques, Hunt said she, too, was excited to try plein air painting during her second session.
In addition to the scenic view, Hunt, who has lived in Niskayuna for 35 years, will have warm memories to inspire her. She recalls visiting the park with her family when her children were young.
“We had a little motor boat and he would launch it right there, so I have memories of boating through those lagoons,” she said.
The experience has inspired Hunt to embrace her creative urges.
“It’s always been more like a hobby because I was doing substitute teaching, raising my children, and volunteer work, so maybe now it’s time to get serious about art,” she said.
Come on down
All are invited to attend a reception for photographer Warren Lee. The reception will take place at the train station from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, July 13.
Resident artist slots are full for the summer, but spaces are still available for the town’s annual plein air art contest, the Art-Out, which will be held at Lions Park on Aug. 8, 9, and 10. The event allows artists to paint, draw or otherwise create out in the park from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. for three consecutive days, followed by a reception and an awards ceremony judged by town officials.
Art created during the weekend will be displayed at Town Hall and the Niskayuna Senior Center. The fee to participate is $15, plus a 20 percent commission on any art sold during the event.
Learn more by calling Town Hall at 386-4503.