Local artist creates coloring book filled with Schenectady history

Photo provided: Painting by Schenectady artist Mary Francis Millet, titled #LoveWins. 
Friday, Dec. 2, 2016.Photo provided: Painting by Schenectady artist Mary Francis Millet, titled #LoveWins. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016.

SCHENECTADY- Mary Francis Millet is as much an artist as she is a local historian.

She grew up in Schenectady and her family is deeply rooted in the region.

“I’m the third generation in my family to live here,” Millet said.

This has led her to create the first coloring book on the history of Schenectady.

She has a sense of pride and passion for the city, for how much it’s changed and for where it started.

“I’m so lucky to live here, there’s so much history here,” Millet said.

The coloring book is 60 pages filled with everything Schenectady-related from the past and the present.

There’s a sketch of the Viaport Aquarium and one of the oldest businesses in the area Beyer Fur, which has been in operation since 1837.

Beside the drawings of each historic building, she penned brief descriptions of the building/scene and its historical significance.

“I tried to minimize the text because I wanted it to be fun for all ages,” Millet said.

Millet began the project over a year ago and it was printed up during the last week in November, just in time for holiday shopping.

The coloring books are sold at the Viaport Aquarium, The Open Door Bookstore, Proctors Theater and the Museum of Innovation and Science, among other local businesses.

Millet is hoping they will encourage residents and tourists to share in her passion for the Schenectady area.

Several local nursing homes plan to use the book in occupational therapy sessions with people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“If they grew up in Schenectady, then the images might trigger some memories,” Millet said.

When she isn’t working on coloring book sketches, Millet is an occupational therapist and an instructor of watercolor classes and silk painting classes.

“I had a very unusual childhood. My parents let me paint murals on the walls,” Millet said.

She likens her childhood to Steven Spielberg’s. Growing up, his mother let would allow him to take cans of cherries and spill them all over countertops and cupboards to make it look there was blood in some of his very first ‘film’ experiments.

Similarly, her parents let her paint murals on the walls of their home.

This sort of artistic freedom has served her well, both in created art and teaching.

“People are so afraid to be creative. That fear has never even occurred to me,” Millet said.

During her silk painting classes, which she sometimes conducts at Arlene’s Artist Materials and will be holding at the Saratoga Arts Center in 2017, people sometimes worry that their pieces won’t come out right.

“Part of the process is the fact that it’s imperfect,” Millet said, and that’s one of the reasons she’s attracted to the art form.

Beyond Schenectady history, Millet also loves to paint and create art using horses as subjects.

“If you live in the Capital Region, they’re everywhere. You can’t go anywhere without seeing them it seems,” Millet said.

Thus, she created a series of watercolors and collages with horse subjects.

These were previously on exhibit at the Higgins, Roberts and Suprunowicz, P.C. Law Firm on Balltown Road.

But she’s proud of them not because of where they were hung but what they represent.

“I did this one in celebration of same-sex marriage being legalized,” Millet said.

The piece is an explosion of color, against a completely white background.

It’s called #LoveWins.

The History of Schenectady coloring book is now out of her hands (although she is already contemplating a second printing) she already has loose plans to sketch out another, this one with a humorous edge to it.

“I’ve been thinking of doing this one for awhile,” Millet said, as she pulled out the beginnings of a book on everything one can do with high heels besides wear them.

Millet believes that this will be an interesting addition to the adult coloring book market, which boomed in 2015.

Photo provided: Millet among the first copies of the History of Schenectady Coloring Books.

Photo provided:
Millet among the first copies of the History of Schenectady Coloring Books.