By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — As Edie Cannizzo and her daughter McCauley Cannizzo sat across from each other in Lions Park with their paints and brushes, strangers walked up to ask questions about their art, their technique, and often, whether they could join in.
August 8-10 in the park were days filled with outdoor artwork thanks to the town’s fourth annual Art-Out. The friendly competition features “plein air” style art, which means creators must work outside, rain or shine. Town officials judge the final work, awarding gift cards to local businesses and a coveted spot on Town Supervisor Joe Landry’s annual holiday card.
Thankfully, the elements were kind to the competitors, who have faced soaking rains and whipping winds in previous years. The great weather also meant a greater number of passers-by witnessed the hardworking artists, and many stopped to strike up conversation.
“We got nothing done,” McCauley said with a laugh on Saturday morning. She recalled the steady stream of visitors who paused to chat on their way to the bike paths throughout the day Friday.
But that is sort of the point, anyway. McCauley, an undergraduate student at Cazenovia College near Syracuse, NY, is working on her senior thesis and approaching her final year of college. As part of her final project, she will create and frame miniature versions of famous paintings, then hide them in plain sight in public spaces. Her purpose is to study the ways people react to art in public spaces.
During Art-Out, learning went both ways between the artists and their admirers. Cannizzo said one woman stopped by while she was doing a warm-up exercise called a Zentangle, which looks like a doodle but involves special, repetitive steps. Her acquaintance was an expert in the form and had read several books about it.
“I was just making up my own patterns,” she said. “I learned there was more to it.”
There was more to artist Nedra Newby’s acrylic painting than met the untrained eye, as well. As she created a nuanced landscape of the Mohawk River, Newby pointed out areas of light and shadow that were actually filled with elusive color. There were reds and purples in the shadows of trees and tall grasses that only an experienced artist could spot.
“There’s a green reflection from the marsh grass that will be gone this afternoon,” she said. “The water is almost white. You have to keep mixing it.”
Newby said it was important to work quickly, but that she also trusted her intuition. “It’s constantly moving and changing,” she said. “Once you get something that blends with the feel of it, then you keep it.”
Normally, the artist would have painted from a photograph, rather than changeable reality. Regardless, Newby seemed to be enjoying herself. “It [gives] you a chance to get a little bit out into the sun and the air,” she said.
SELECTING A WINNER
On Sunday, Landry joined town employees Lori Peretti and Lisa Stevens to judge the artwork and decide whose creation would adorn his holiday greetings later this year.
“We had quite a bit to choose from,” Landry said. “We’ve very pleased.”
Karen Cummings’ landscape of the Lions Park historic train station will make an appearance on Landry’s holiday cards, along with a statement about her work as an artist on the back. Earlier this summer, she acted as an artist-in-residence at the train station, which has been converted to a studio for the summer by local artist Maureen Sausa.
In addition to working in the station herself, Sausa organized a weekly rotation of other local creators who were invited to use the space as their personal studios for a week each.
“There’s a list now of people that want to come down and participate in our artist-in-residency,” Landry said.
All 10 artists’ works will be displayed for about two weeks in the train station, which is open from 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
It will then move to Town Hall, where it will hang in the Town Board Room until the artists are formally recognized through ceremonial resolutions in the fall.
Finally, the artworks will decorate the senior center.