Spotlight shines on downtown

All the world's a stage, and so too is downtown Schenectady.

The 440 Board, which helps create infrastructure that allows artists to live and work in the city, and city officials celebrated the launch of the Schenectady's ElectriCity Arts and Entertainment District on Thursday, June 19.

The new arts district, which stretches from City Hall, off Jay Street to State Street, will host of exhibitions, concerts and shows and will continue to provide services to local artists.

Most of all, the 440 Board hopes the arts district increases foot traffic in the downtown area.

This takes it to a new level, said Harry Apkarian who founded the 440 Board 14 years ago. "There's a lot more to be done, and it ain't over yet."

Where streets and storefronts were once nearly empty downtown, the lunchtime crowd during Thursday's press conference was full of downtown employees, shoppers and arts lovers who stopped to watch the April Marie Quintet, which performed as part of the weekly Jazz on Jay series, which was launched 13 years ago.

Like Apkarian, board member Eli Taub said he viewed the naming of the district as a celebration of the changes that have occurred in Schenectady.

Taub said that when the board first purchased 440 State Street 14 years ago to create an arts incubator, the building was in terrible shape.

"There were pigeons living in it and it had a leaking roof," said Taub. "Now, it's been fully occupied for years."

A capital campaign several years ago allowed for an update of utilities, the installation of a elevator and other restorations.

A former Odd Fellows hall, the building also benefited from a new faCade and houses Myers Studio, Northeast Ballet and several studios, classrooms and arts galleries.

Michelle Smith-Carrigan and Mark Carrigan, better known as The Puppet People, have called 440 State St. the home to their bright, second-floor studio for 10 years.

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