BY KRISTIN SCHULTZ
NISKAYUNA — Area seniors will have more opportunities to expand and refine their artistic palettes in 2018: The Niskayuna Senior Center plans to offer more regular and more varied offerings next year in an effort to involve and introduce more people to the benefits of art.
Assistant Community Programs Director Lisa Stevens is working with local artists Edie Cannizzo and other community members to design a more robust and regular art program. Stevens herself loves art and dabbles in painting.
“Edie and I are both self-taught artists,” Stevens said. “We value art and what it brings to our lives.”
In addition to enriching the lives of individuals, Stevens and Cannizzo hope the expanded programs will instill a sense of community among the participants.
There have been art programs at the senior center for years and the center offers trips to art museums among its activities.
Next year, however, thanks to a $10,000 budget boost, there will be more offerings, including on Fridays and in the evenings for those who want to attend but volunteer or watch grandchildren during the day.
Cannizzo will lead open studio sessions on the first and third Fridays of the month starting in January.
Supplies for the open studio have been donated and collected, and Cannizzo will be on hand to help beginners experiment, give constructive feedback to intermediate artists and encourage advanced artists.
Starting in January there will be monthly evening art projects.
The first project will be glass etching, where participants will learn how to transfer designs from a stencil to a piece of glasswork like a vase or drinking glass.
Museum trips will continue, starting with a visit to the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, as will the senior paint club nights.
It was at a senior paint club that Dorothy Caruso started discovering her inner artist nearly 15 years ago when she went to a watercolor session.
“I liked art in high school,” Caruso said. “[At the time] I was at home with nothing to do, so I thought I would go and fiddle around with watercolor.”
She came back for the polymer clay bead night and has been a regular ever since.
“I could sit home at watch Bette Davis on television,” Caruso said. “But the art is escapism. I can express myself in different ways. Art is in you somewhere.”
In addition to the art itself, Caruso also values the sense of community at the art sessions, and that’s exactly what Stevens is hoping to continue and grow. Town Board member and community programs committee chair Lisa Weber noted that creating art and craft projects is more fun in a group or when there’s a partner to work with. The workshops sometimes focus on many people creating one piece of art.
“Art is very relaxing,” Caruso said. “You don’t realize you’re in pain when you’re doing it. You get lost in it and take your mind off your problems.”
It’s just as enjoyable for Cannizzo, who often will learn a new skill because the community has expressed an interest in a specific craft — like the polymer clay beads or the glass etching.
“We’re all students,” Cannizzo said. “They inspire me to learn.”
Cannizzo will offer her paint club on the last Tuesday of the month and will focus on different artists and styles throughout the year based on people’s interests.
There are three dates set for guided oil painting classes with local artist Peggy Porter, as well as monthly lectures at Town Hall. In February, there will be a how-to session on using a digital camera and another later this year on graffiti.
The final addition to the art calendar will be more opportunities for people to participate in en plein air art activities. En plein air is the process of painting outside, capturing a scene in certain light. Stevens plans to organize trips to Lion’s Park that include a picnic lunch so people can enjoy and paint scenes at the waterfront location, then have a light meal.
Leaders hope to leverage local assets to bring more value to senior programming and increase participation.
“The artistic inclination has brought so much to our programs,” Weber said.
“We want more people to experience art,” Stevens said. “We want people to experience the act of working on art, the process, the relaxation and take that into the world. It’s about building community.”
For a list of upcoming events and news, visit the senior center’s website, niskayuna.org/senior-center.