Spotlight shines on downtown

The Carrigans, who design puppets and put on nearly 180 shows per year, said they've not only seen 440 State St. change during their residency, but the whole tenor of the city.

"I remember when you used to be able to walk across the street without even looking both ways," said Mark Carrigan. "Now it's hard to find a parking spot on State Street, now there are a lot more people down here."

The Carrigans used to run their business out of their basement, but moved to State Street because of the low rent afforded by the 440 Board.

The studio is packed with 12-foot-tall parade puppets, marionettes, paints and a fully dressed puppet stage, where the Carrigans are preparing their newest show, "Puppet Potpourri," which will be on display at Altamont's Old Songs Festival from Saturday, June 28.

The Carrigans said they enjoy working among a community of artists.

"We all know each other," said Michelle Smith-Carrigan. "It's nice if you ever need anything."

Three years ago, the 440 Board also worked with Proctors, the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp., and the Metroplex Development Authority to renovate and open Jay Street Studios.

The studios are home to nine visual artists, rehearsal space for the Mop 'n Bucket Co., an improvisational theater group, and the Schenectady Museum's gift shop, Innovations.

George Seror used to have studio space in Jay Street Studios, where he gave private guitar lessons.

Now, Seror has ventured farther up Jay Street, where he operates Jay Street Music Studios. Seror said the studio has about 50 students.

Seror's latest venture is a collaboration that would bring custom guitar luthiers, Mohawk Valley Guitars and Jay Street Music Studio together. He plans a grand opening in July.

County Legislator Karen Johnson, D-Schenectady, said she hopes to see more artists become tenants downtown.

"Artists are attracted to urban areas," said Johnson. "And they often can occupy space that isn't necessarily commercially viable."

Apkarian said the 440 Board has served hundreds of artists over the years. He now hopes that the formalization of the arts district will help more artists become financially successful.

"You have to have a modicum of financial success," said Apkarian. "So we get to know them, and we find out who needs help."


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