“You have to think outside the box. You have to think, ‘What is art?’” said Kelley Hamilton, consultant for the Baldwinsville Center for the Arts. Tymeless Tattoo artist Jamie Santos and Utica-based muralist Tony Thompson will paint a mural during the Baldwinsville Canal Arts Festival on July 6. (Photo courtesy of BCA)
This week, the village of Baldwinsville has lots of reasons to celebrate. With Fourth of July festivities wrapping up, B’ville will celebrate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal and the creativity of area crafters and artists.
The Baldwinsville Center for the Arts’ inaugural Baldwinsville Canal Arts Festival takes place Thursday, July 6, at Paper Mill Island and along the Southwest Trail (Water Street to Lock 24).
The festival culminates in a concert by the Albany Symphony on the canal. Baldwinsville is one of the stops on the symphony’s weeklong Water Music NY tour, a joint effort of the New York State Canal Corporation and the Albany Symphony that celebrates the Erie Canal with original music from up-and-coming composers. The Water Music NY tour and its commissioned compositions are funded by a $300,000 grant from Empire State Development’s Division of Tourism.
“The downtown of the village is very accessible and the parks surrounding the river and the canal are perfect for an event like this,” BCA Consultant Kelley Hamilton said in a press release. “Plus, it gives us the opportunity to showcase local artists and collaborate with local businesses.”
Hamilton told the Messenger that the Albany Symphony approached the BCA about Baldwinsville possibly hosting a Water Music NY concert. The timing was just right for the BCA, which was planning to “rebrand itself as the leading arts organization in the greater Baldwinsville area,” according to a release.
Having lived in Rochester and the Finger Lakes, Hamilton said she enjoyed attending arts festivals, many of which were centered around bodies of water.
“This would be the perfect community for an arts festival,” Hamilton recalled thinking.
Leading up to the concert, the festival will host kids’ activities, historical presentations and about three dozen local artisans and crafters hawking their wares along the canal. Local organizations such as the Baldwinsville Public Library and the village will have informational booths on the island. The Red Mill Inn, Dough Boys Pizzeria and JessiCakes will be featured food vendors.
Ted Long from 93Q will host Community Karaoke. Other musical guests include the Brig Juice Drum and Bugle Corps, a local high school student singing the national anthem and the Syracuse Pops Chorus, which will perform with the Albany Symphony.
Notably, Jamie Santos from Tymeless Tattoo and Utica-based mural artist Tony Thompson will paint a 6-by-8-foot mural at the festival throughout the afternoon. Hamilton said she met Santos at a BCA event back in the fall. Upon learning about the Canal Arts Festival, Santos offered her and Thompson’s artistic talents.
“They’re an anchor business in our community,” Hamilton said of Tymeless Tattoo. “They’re right in the Four Corners, and they’re very well known.”
Hamilton said the inclusion of Tymeless Tattoo and muralist Thompson is a step away from traditional arts.
“I’m trying to keep a little bit of a modern edge,” Hamilton said. “You have to think outside the box. You have to think, ‘What is art?’”
Tymeless Tattoo’s involvement in the festival is just one way the arts community is adapting to the times. Baldwinsville Mayor Dick Clarke said Paper Mill Island offerings must be expanded to draw the interest of the public.
“This may be the wave of the future for the island — more of this kind of stuff, less rock and roll,” Clarke said. “There’s so much competition. It seems like every business is throwing up a stage… The [Lakeview] Amphitheater is going great guns.”
Clarke said Paper Mill Island isn’t able to host big-name acts, but it can showcase the talents of people right in B’ville.
“It’s nice to see more emphasis at this kind of stuff,” Clarke said. “We don’t have to worry about getting Bruce Springsteen to come entertain us — we can have this instead. People want to see Bob Dylan? He’s not coming to Baldwinsville.”
Clarke said the setting is perfect for the Canal Arts Festival.
“Getting people on the island, having the sun starting to set and the water all around — you can’t beat it,” he said.
Not only is the BCA hoping to turn the Canal Arts Festival into an annual event, but the organization is using it as a jumping-off point for future BCA events. Hamilton said fall events are already in the works, including a historical ghost walk and a “wings and strings” pub crawl that would feature beer and food tastings at local bars with live music.
“[These are] things that the community is ripe for,” she said. “That keeps it fun and engaging.”
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.