The Arts Center of the Capital Region has made a lasting impact on the city of Troy.
Located in a city rich with history and diversity, the ACCR welcomes all kinds of visitors and creatives to experience the joys of learning and artistic expression.
This year the ACCR is celebrating their 20th anniversary on River Street. The center has been known to the region as a driving force for community engagement, the continuing development of River Street, and as a source of rejuvenation and renaissance for this great city that has borne witness to centuries of change.
The center has 36,000 square feet of studio space offering dance and movement, digital arts, drawing, mixed media, culinary arts, photography, printmaking, pottery, and much more.
Along with classes and camps, the ACCR operates a gallery and participates in public art initiatives through venues like the popular Troy Waterfront Farmers Market, Franklin Alley and My Street at Troy’s School 2.
This 20th year looks different from years past. Operations at the ACCR have had to change for the health and wellbeing of visitors and staff, while continuing to provide the arts, education and opportunities to the public.
Closing to the public in March, Joseph Mastroianni Director of Programs for the Education Department, had to act without delay.
“I had to act fast to ensure we could still provide arts education to the Capital District”, said Mastroianni.
The ACCR took on the challenge and transitioned their educational programming, gallery exhibitions, and events to a new format. These past few months the center has continuously given the public chances to learn, create, and connect with art and artists through virtual methods. Proving that “art is everywhere”.
Explore the classes and camps online until onsite versions can be held, virtual gallery exhibitions and the archives, and lastly watch and listen to artists through the program “Sessions”.
Since the closing, over 50 classes have been held online with a wide range of mediums. There are more to come throughout the summer and even beyond.
Adapting to the shutdown has not been an easy feat. However, the public has been able to count on the ACCR to help them continue their art practices from the comfort of home.
Mastroianni believes the Arts Center has been able to thrive throughout these tough few months, especially with the ability to continue engaging with the public. “This pandemic has really taken a toll on many aspects of our local organizations and businesses. I am proud that the Arts Center can continue to thrive even during the most difficult times. We may be functioning with a much smaller staff after the pandemic hit, but I feel as though we are as strong as ever and that we will continue to enrich our creative community for years to come.”
Curator Belinda Colón and Director of Programs for Education Joseph Mastroianni give their perspectives on the virtual operations of the Arts Center of the Capital Region.
Joseph Mastroianni | Director of Programs | Education Department
The ACCR offers so many types of classes and camps, how have the operations of these changed?
Since our closure on March 20th I had to act fast to ensure we could still provide arts education to the Capital District. On April 15th, we launched our first set of online classes for teen-adult students who were looking to continue their art practice within their own homes. Since this began, we have run over 50 classes online in a wide variety of different mediums. From a large series of photography classes, calligraphy, painting, drawing, and much more.
This transition was not easy, but now has become the norm since closing our normal operations. The feedback from students in this new online format has been positive across the board and even though we do plan on opening our doors again in August, we will continue offering online programming for those who prefer this format in these dire times.
How has educational programming been made accessible to the creative and artistic community throughout the pandemic? What has community response been like?
Within the arts programming realm and actively ensuring our community can stay creative, we focused on using our social media outlets and online class format to make art accessible to everyone. Within our social media platform, we hosted a variety of Art is Everywhere contests that consisted of weekly projects for the community to create. Each week a winner was selected and received a credit for one free class at the Arts Center.
We also focused on the creation of pre-made video art lessons for families to create together. These lessons consisted of art making projects that anyone could do and could also use household items to create their unique pieces of art.
What do the summer months look like for the center in terms of giving artists and the public a chance to take classes, workshops, look at art exhibits, etc.?
The Arts Center had to cancel its start date for our annual summer art camp programs that usually begin the last week of June due to COVID. To ensure we could still provide art camps for families we are now hosting 8 online camps for children ages 6-17. We have camps pertaining to Graphic Novel Illustration, Photography, Ceramics Arts, Painting, Drawing, and much more. The format is similar to our in-person camps but are online based and short format each day. Online camps run Monday-Friday and each camper who is signed up will obtain 1-hour of lesson time as well as a check-in time later in the day to see how their projects are progressing. All families signed up for these online camps receive an individually packaged Art Kit that contains all supplies needed for the camp and is available for curbside pick-up prior to the camp start.
For programming, we will be focusing on in-person camps for children starting on August 3rd. Camps will function under new protocols due to COVID and we are ensuring that we are taking every precaution to make sure we are creating a safe creative space for families. Camps will function at 25% capacity, masks will be required, and social distancing stations will be set-up in each of our studios to ensure the safety of all campers who are attending.
In what ways has the ACCR itself been an anchor to River Street and the continuing development of the area?
The Arts Center as whole is always paying attention to the consistent growth of our great City of Troy. We are consistently always creating new relationships with our community, local organizations, and businesses to provide new and exciting creative collaborations. When our doors are open, we often become the "Welcome Center" for Troy. Maybe it is due to our location, but during our public events we often have all walks of lives coming to our building to ask questions about the city, to find out where the best place to eat is, and what areas of the city they should explore.
How has the center fostered a space that invites diversity, creativity, and innovation for the surrounding community and visitors.
Within our programming itself, we offer and collaborate with many different local organizations that serve a diverse group of individuals. Throughout my past 6 years at the Arts Center it has been an amazing experience working with Troy Public School District, The ARC of Rensselaer County, The Troy Boys and Girls Club, CEO, Arbor Hill Public Library and many more to focus providing arts programming to underserved individuals within the Capital Region.
Belinda Colón | Curator
How has the gallery been made accessible to the community throughout the pandemic? What has the response been like?
All operational functions of the gallery have been updated with the safety of our staff and the public in mind. With that being said, we placed all of our regular programming online for virtual access. For our annual membership show “Fence” planned for May but rescheduled to September, we needed to transition all details from submission to new memberships online including by appt. drop off protocol. This isn’t the perfect situation since some people still don’t have or have limited access to computers, but we are more than happy to help anyone who needs our support with technical difficulties or accessibility issues.
In order to stay valid and visible, we decided to start a program online for artists called SESSIONS Online. SESSIONS is a program that I started a few years ago in order to meet new artists and to provide them direction on artistic resources within our region. The SESSIONS Online program includes conversations between me, board members, and or our CEO Elizabeth Reiss and artist within the region. This gives the community a chance to continue to follow support and have an opportunity to continue to be inspired by artists in and around this region. The interviews and studio visits are available on our website at artscenteronlinle.org as well as on our social media handles on Facebook and Instagram. We also took our Gallery exhibits and placed them online for review.
There were many artistic programs we converted to an online format with the use of Zoom. Our Artist Initiative Program that includes an Artist Training Certificate program series consisting of 5 modules of artist training workshops with a focus on artist development, marketing, finance, business planning, and teaching. As well as Critical Forum, a professional development opportunity for up to ten emerging and mid-career artists. Join this immersive experience designed to develop and support career training for professional artists interested in taking their practice to the next level. Online meetings at regular times were our best choice to keep these programs valid and thorough.
What are the upcoming plans for the gallery?
The month of July is still a hybrid of what we would normally be offering to people or to the community. When it comes to exhibits, our galleries will not be opening until September. We will be joining the City of Troy’s initiative around Summer Square Live! providing workshops with artists in a socially safe and distant atmosphere to support our business and arts community.
In the public art realm, the Arts Center will be continuing to focus on Franklin Alley as a segue from Summer Square Live as a location to access outdoor public art created by artist Joe Iurato and space for community use. We are hoping to have this location available for use late summer.
We are always looking for public artists for ongoing opportunities in Troy and the surrounding area. I’d just like to announce that if anyone is interested, they should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “public art” in the subject line.
Reading the history of ACCR, it was thought of as a way to bring rejuvenation and renaissance to the city of Troy. In what ways has this been true?
One way that we have been a rejuvenated spirit in Troy is by creating useful opportunities for the community to experience. Opportunities that invite everyone in our community to join the Arts Center and the Troy community as we create opportunities in the public realm for all residents of Troy and artists in the Capital Region. Summer Square is the most recent program that we are supporting with our community and the renaissance of Troy in mind. We are looking forward to supporting all aspects of Troy including but not limited to culinary, cultural and educational opportunities with this program.
As an anchor for the arts, The Arts Center of the Capital Region has provided a central location within the capital region and will continually offer opportunities to all artists and community members in the Capital Region. The accessibility to our building has always been and should always be considered community friendly. We welcome all in our building. We will continue to learn, adjust and create opportunities for all artists and community members interested in working, creating and living with art in their lives. We will support and listen to the needs of our artist and artful community members and fellow business members to partner and collaborate on future Troy and Capital Region focused opportunities.
How has the center fostered a space that invites diversity, creativity, and innovation for the surrounding community and visitors?
The Arts Center continually partners with community members like The Troy Boys and Girls Club, TRIP, TAP, the City of Troy, among many others in order to make sure that the communities that we are reaching out to have access to all the available resources we are able to provide. We will continue to learn and create opportunities through our learned experience with all of our community members in mind.