Meet some of the artists at the Creative Connections showcase

AMSTERDAM – On the first Saturday of the “Spring Awakening” Art Showcase at the Creative Connections Arts Center, the artists and attendees echoed the sentiments for which the arts center was founded two years ago. The center is intended “to inspire creative connection and spark community arts expression in a collaborative environment for the enrichment and unification of the community at large,” as stated on its Facebook page.

Tina Rodriguez, an art teacher at Amsterdam High School and William H. Barkley MicroSociety Magnet School, came to represent her own work, which she had submitted to the show, and the work of three of her students. With her own work, Rodriguez likes to explore the human experience through expressionism. For her students, she tries to give them the tools to express themselves.

As an art teacher, Rodriguez feels that students are given the chance “to apply all of the educational principles in the classroom. Art is the playground of creation and helps to create a vision for their future.” She tries to inspire her students, and help them find out who they are through their art so that they can ultimately feel happy with who they are and move on to lead fulfilling lives.

She further feels the art showcase is beneficial to her students in that it is “motivating for them to put their hearts into their art, to have the community come out and appreciate their talents and all of their effort and the grasp of the art content. They’re creating their own history in Amsterdam.” She is hoping that three more of her students will have work in the showcase for the second Saturday.

While Tina Rodriguez hopes to enable her students create history through art, Darlene Douglas attempts to preserve it. Douglas is an instructor at the arts center teaching sewing, knitting, and crocheting.

While she has used the techniques for practical purposes for over 60 years, Douglas teaches them in order to pass on what she fears would otherwise be a dying art form, known only to factory workers. She notes, “There were beautiful things done in the past. People might appreciate things more if they know how they are done.”

Carol M Hesselink, another participant in the showcase, had similar beginnings. Sewing her own clothes when she was younger, she began appliqueing in the 70’s and learned how to quilt when her grandchildren were born. Hesselink feels that fabric has always spoken to her. With her creations, she enjoys the challenge of finding fabrics that will complement one another or work within the theme she is trying to create.

Her pieces in the showcase varied from Adirondack quilts, to a patriotic star themed quilt, to a flower patterned quilt. She is a member of the Loving Hands in All Seasons Quilt Guild and started her own online business, C M H Creations. Her works are often inspired by nature, her faith, a certain piece of fabric, or a design she has seen. Often she will start a project as a means of learning a new technique.

For artist Crystal Palmieri, observing the growth of an artist as they learn is a fascinating part of the process, which is why she feels that teaching is her life’s calling. A graduate from The College of Saint Rose, Palmieri is going to be teaching classes at the Kitenkaboodle Arts Studio. For children she will have a dry supply class on the first three Saturdays in April, and for adults she will teach acrylic painting classes on the first three Mondays and Tuesdays.

From the time that she could hold a crayon or colored pencil, Palmieri has been making art. As an adult she has found it to be both therapeutic and relaxing. She works in many mediums; on display she had nature photographs and paintings of flowers in acrylic and oil. She also had on display paintings that she referred to as “tree people.”

The two paintings she said were inspired by magazines that her sister, a hairdresser, always had around. They show trees with expanding branches shooting out as though they were the hair of the tree. She sees art as a way to connect to the earth and to each other.

While the visual artists displayed their works, 14-year-old acoustic guitarist and songwriter, Sawyer Fredericks, entertained for the first two hours of the event. His style is best described as alternative folk, having been greatly inspired by Ray LaMontagne and Credence Clearwater Revival. Offstage a shy teen, onstage Fredericks’ music is expressive and soulful, filling the room. His mother, Kirsten Fredericks, learned early in her child’s life that he was musically inclined, noting that he was singing before he could talk but didn’t realize that it would become his passion.

Sawyer got his first guitar at the age of 10 and took lessons with his mentor, Katy Cole, for approximately 2 years. After that time, he continued to learn through self-teaching and by playing with others. Last June he released a full length album on his own entitled “Out My Window.” The album includes a reworked version of a song that he originally wrote at age 11.

Though young, Fredericks is already finding success locally, having opened for The Kennedys at Caffe Lena last November and performing at First Night Saratoga this past New Year’s Eve. He also has an internet following.

To close out the showcase was the first stage performance of the old-time radio show “Any Good Thing.” The radio show, created, written, produced, and directed by Jay Towne, is a modern drama presented within the format of an old-time radio soap opera, complete with clips of organ music to open and close the show.

The cast included John Salerno, Jessica O’Connell, Loralee Whitlock, Tobin Cash, Cheryl Charbonneau, Cathy Ozug, Dorothy Domkowski, and Homer Charbonneau. The show follows the tumultuous relationship of Derek Hughes and Charity Rodriguez who are celebrating their six month anniversary. The radio show delves into issues of faith, mental illness, and relationship. The group performed episode eleven in the series, recording for later broadcast on local radio station WOPG.

The “Spring Awakening” Art Showcase will continue on Saturday March 22 with live performances by acoustic guitarist and songwriter Emily Smith from 11a.m. to 1p.m., followed by the Boice’s Woodwind Studio Ensemble from 1:15p.m. to 2:30p.m. The event is free to attend and refreshments will be served.

Ashley Onyon

Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.