Jennings reaches out to artists

GLOVERSVILLE — Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings is reaching out to the artist community at large to let them know what the city has to offer while gearing up to launch a program that would serve residents and visitors alike.

Jennings reported that she mailed out the second postcard from the city’s Artist in Residence Nicolina Schonfarber on June 26 to members of the “creative economy” as part of a marketing campaign to alert artists and craftspeople to what the city has to offer during Monday’s Fulton County Center for Regional Growth Board of Directors meeting.

Under the Artist in Residence Program, an artist will be selected each year to creatively document the downtown area for a 12-month period through their artwork.

The generated art will then be installed in unused storefronts for public display to demonstrate the future vision for the city while documenting the changes as they take place. The first piece by the 2018 artist, Schonfarber, was installed in the window of the vacant Carriage House at 39 N. Main St. in March.

During last year’s Bacon Jam, visitors and residents got the chance to participate in a community art project through a fill-in-the-blank story describing what they imagine Gloversville to be through words and illustrations. Schonfarber collected the responses, organizing the ideas and images into a window mural titled “Re-Imagine Gloversville.”

In addition to art installations and pop-up shows, the ARP includes a marketing campaign in which the artist writes a postcard describing different aspects or benefits to working and living in the city. The first postcard from Schonfarber sent out in May focused on the freedom of living in an affordable city with turn of the century architecture for inspiration, featuring an image of a downtown building.

“Maybe since your rent’s so low you get to take a step back from working overtime. Maybe even w/ the pay cut you still don’t need a roommate so the spare bedroom become your workspace + you get to use your new found freedom to experiment w/ your art in a way you normally wouldn’t,” Schonfarber wrote.

“Maybe you decide to get involved b/c you can’t figure out why anyone would starve to fit into someone else’s scene when they could be here creating their own,” she continued.

The second postcard focuses on the quality of life in the city and the region, with inspiring locations in your neighborhood or just a 15 minute drive away.

“Doesn’t it feel like you’ve been working too hard lately? I can see you meandering that line between following dreams + the obligations it take to keep yourself on dry land. Don’t you know that if while swimming you begin to feel tired, you’re supposed to lay on your back + let the current take you where it wants you to go,” Schonfarber wrote.

The postcard features an image of three people floating on the Great Sacandaga Lake and reads, “When’s the last time you dipped your feet in these places?”

Jennings said both postcards were mailed out to about 150 artists primarily living outside of Fulton County who have been in contact with the city or Schonfarber in some way. While the postcards were mostly sent to artists in the traditional sense, Jennings noted that the term can include any skilled craftsperson such as an artisan, chef or performer.

Both postcards were also distributed locally by hand and in various locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. There were 1,000 copies of the first postcard printed to launch the campaign and 500 of the second as Jennings looked to narrow down the audience.

Jennings received a $1,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors to help cover the cost of postage and production for the ARP postcard campaign, an amount she said has been met.

Jennings said she received positive feedback from the first postcard, explaining the focus was placed on the creative economy due to growth in the area nationally and the city’s own history in arts and crafts including the glove industry.

“The people that worked here were truly artisans,” Jennings said. “We’re trying to reignite Gloversville in a way that is connected to our past.”

According to Jennings, the creative economy has grown by 19 percent nationally in the last five years and is expected to account for 34 percent of the total U.S. economy within the next 10 years. She also pointed to the already thriving arts community, saying new residents wouldn’t have to be “pioneers,” with an existing social network to support new artists in the city and Fulton County.

“It’s a growing segment of the economy and we want to start paving the way for them to think of Gloversville as a great location to establish themselves,” Jennings said. “It is really affordable for people who are artists or just starting a business and we want them to know that, this is just a creative and convenient way to get that message out.”

In her ongoing downtown revitalization efforts, Jennings is looking to form an exploratory committee to discuss details surrounding a downtown ambassador program, reportedly broaching the subject during the June 21 Downtown Business Owners Roundtable.

“If you go to Schenectady they’ve got the ambassadors that walk around downtown, they are a group of folks who have addiction, joblessness, incarceration in their past and it is a training program for folks so that they can get stability and find a more stable job. It’s a job training program,” Jennings explained.

Downtown ambassadors would serve as a conduit of information between business owners and community members or visitors to downtown. They would probably serve in some sort of maintenance capacity as well, clearing debris or trash from sidewalks, Jennings said.

“It gives the perception of safety downtown and it is a friendly smiling face as people walk up and down the street. They’re good neighbors to business owners,” Jennings said.

She noted that her focus is currently on preparing for the first Twilight Market that will be held downtown Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., planning to form the downtown ambassador committee in August.

Jennings said ideas for the program were still very preliminary, but she has been in contact with the Schenectady ambassador program to learn more about how they operate. She is hoping to launch the program by next summer.

Anyone interested in joining the downtown ambassador exploratory committee can contact Jennifer Jennings at jenniferj@fccrg.org.