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Colonie artists have a league of their own

Group's meetings foster creativity and camaraderie

Debbie Park-Boussu mixes piant for her artwork in St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Latham, part of the weekly gathering of the Colonie Art League.

Debbie Park-Boussu mixes piant for her artwork in St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Latham, part of the weekly gathering of the Colonie Art League. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— Early Wednesday evening, a small group of local artists claimed a spot among rows of tables in the basement of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Watercolors, pastels and oils soon covered each countertop. A heavyset Golden Retriever waddled from table to table, begging for a head rub. The windows shook as a thunderstorm-turned-tornado began to take down some of the church’s landscape, eventually blocking some of the artists from leaving the driveway.

None of these distractions stopped the passion-driven crowd, however. While a few ventured home in fear of losing power, the rest braved the storm and continued working on their pieces.

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“When I retired in 2000 as a junior high art teacher, I said, ‘Now it’s time for me,’” said Paula Haavind, of Glenville, as she shaded in a bird with colored pencils Wednesday, May 29.

Haavind is one of the more than 250 members of the Colonie Art League, a group that gathers around the Capital District for art workshops, demonstrations and to feature their own work in local exhibits.

All day every Wednesday, members of the group stop by the church to work on any project they’d like, share comments with one another and create a local artistic support system.

“It builds such a sense of camaraderie,” Colonie Art League President Kristin Woodward said. “I think the Art League is pretty tight knit as far as supporting other people. It’s really a wonderful thing, the sense of community that we have.”

From humble beginnings

Developing that community has taken almost 40 years. The Colonie Art League was first established in 1974 by local artist Russ McMahon, who wanted to develop the art world right in Colonie. The league started with only about 20 members and had one of its first exhibits with the Troy Fence Show, which is still continued today with the long-running Troy Night Out.

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