BALLSTON SPA: Gallery offers a taste of SoHo

Standing outside the new digs for The Strolling Village Artisans at 20 Washington Street in Ballston Spa, you might just think you've stumbled upon New York City's artsy, eclectic SoHo neighborhood.

There's a wide front porch with a waist-high railing, an Art Alley with hand-cast pottery lining the sidewalk, and gleaming picture windows offering glimpses of the treasures indoors.

The site is the result of the collective genius, and just plain hard work, of the group of now 13 artists. They display their work in the gallery, sell their wares in the shop, work in the studios on the second floor, and give classes to those of us who hold paintbrushes the same lopsided way we fumble with chopsticks.

Formerly housed in small quarters on Front Street in downtown Ballston Spa, the co-op was formed in 2003 as the inspiration of artist Madeline Gallo.

"We started as a fledgling group of four to five artists with no place to call home," said Gallo.

The Strolling Village Artisans are making it their mission to bring art to the community, and inspire the artist in everyone.

"We're driven by our commitment to art and our belief in the importance of art in life," said Gallo, standing on the porch the night of Friday, June 1, at the new building's ribbon-cutting ceremony. "The artist in each of us needs a chance to express itself. This is not just a shop and gallery; it's a stake in the community."

The completely refurbished gray house was at one time a problematic location for village police.

"This place was known for drug deals," said village Mayor John Romano. "Let's just say this is a blessing to see it being used in such a positive way. It's an enormous weight off our shoulders."

Property owners Tina Mangino-Coffey, Mike Coffey, and Dick and Kathy Fox worked to transform the dilapidated, five-unit residential site into an appealing, inviting, airy gallery.

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