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Bringing new life to cemetery

St. Agnes’ Living Room offers art exhibits and classes

St. Agnes Cemetery Historian, Kelly Grimaldi, stands in front of photographs by Richard L. Endres on exhibit in the cemetery’s Living Room.

St. Agnes Cemetery Historian, Kelly Grimaldi, stands in front of photographs by Richard L. Endres on exhibit in the cemetery’s Living Room. Photo by Billy DeLap.

— A cemetery in Menands has come up with an innovative way to bring more people there.

The Living Room at St. Agnes Cemetery has an art exhibit that changes every 60 days and “sip and paint” art classes so people can enjoy the history of the Victorian era cemetery.

A room in the main building of the cemetery was designed as a chapel but remained unused. The cemetery historian, Kelly Grimaldi, wanted to change that, so she decided to spruce the space up by turning it into an art gallery where visitors could relax and also learn about cemeteries.

“It’s a weird thing. People that don’t know about us say, ‘Wait a minute. It’s a cemetery, it’s depressing and has funerals. It’s morbid and dark.’ It’s not, though, and we call this place the Living Room for a reason,” said Grimaldi.

The cemetery was founded in 1867 as part of a rural cemetery movement. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated by the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area as a site for tourism.

Grimaldi says that old cemeteries are becoming appreciated for their cultural and historical significance. She also came up with the name for the room that opened in March 2013.

“The Living Room is a pun, it’s intended. Since it’s opening it has hosted quite a few successful events. The reason we called it the Living Room is because the dead don’t visit our cemetery; they’re just here. It’s the living that come visit the dead, and we wanted to give them another way of looking at the cemetery as a place for art and history,” said Grimaldi.

Currently on display are pictures by Richard Endres, a former biology teacher from Albany High School. His photographs have been featured in the Conservationist and Adirondack Life Magazine. His exhibit is of photos from all over the country with pictures from the Rockies to the Adirondack Mountains.

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