255 Orange Street Urban Resilience Project & the Creation of Sheridan Hollow Commons
Several years ago, Sheridan Hollow had the dubious distinction of being featured on Jeopardy as an example of blight. With so many boarded-up and abandoned buildings, it’s easy to overlook the rich diversity and vibrancy that this struggling neighborhood has to offer. Sheridan Hollow is home to a number of churches, businesses, parks, community gardens, a library, entertainment venues and public institutions. It’s in close proximity to the Capitol as well as City Hall, as well as the Palace and Capital Rep Theaters.
There are several initiatives that are helping make Sheridan Hollow a great place to live, work and play: including certification as a Brownfield Opportunity Area which will help mediate some of the health hazards, a home building project by Habitat for Humanity which created 27 new homes and a mix-used project by Housing Visions that created 57 apartments as well as retail space. With all of this redevelopment, more people – of various incomes – are living and working in Sheridan Hollow.
Because murals beautify cities and build communities, and because mosaics can incorporate work from many people of all ages, the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region (CLFCR) and the Albany Center for Economic Success (ACES) decided to create a mosaic mural on the side of our building at 255 Orange Street. This mural serves as a visual reminder of the beauty, vibrancy and deep community roots of this neighborhood.
The project began in the summer of 2015 at the Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy’s and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club summer youth program. Guided by Liz Vigoda, a local potter, and Jillian Hirsch, a ceramic muralist, we made tiles with the students. The response was so positive, we were asked to make it a district project. With coordination from Kate Wright, the Art Department Chairperson, we had 16 Albany City schools – and more than 3,000 children – make tiles for this community mural. The schools include: Albany High School, Albany School of Humanities, Alternative Learning Center, Arbor Hill Elementary School, Delaware Community School, Eagle Point Elementary School, Giffen Memorial Elementary School, Montessori Magnet School, New Scotland Elementary School, Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy, Pine Hills Elementary School, Sheridan Preparatory Academy, Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School, Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology, West Hill Middle School, and William Hackett Middle School. For more information about art in the City School District, please check out its Arts Advisory Committee. In addition to the Albany City School District, the Albany Academy for Girls, the Albany Institute of History and Art, Delta Academy, the Greater Albany Chapter of Jack and Jill, St. Anne’s Institute and the Sheridan Hollow Neighborhood Association participated in tile making.
Jillian Hirsch designed the mural and is overseeing the artistic portion of this project. She met with the Sheridan Hollow Neighborhood Association, residents and community advocates to ensure that the community’s vision was included. The theme of the mural is Urban Resilience (resilience of the neighborhood, the community and its residents). The design is a bright depiction of honey bees and monarch butterflies in a wild flower garden.
Thank you to the Capital Fund, the Bender Foundation and the Standish Foundation (Community Foundation of the Greater Capital Region), Assemblymembers Patricia Fahy and John McDonald III, the City of Albany CDBG Program, the Arts Center of the Capital Region, Kinderhook Bank, MVP Health Plan, NBT Bank, SEFCU and the Stewart’s Holiday Match program for their grant support, and to Northeast Ceramic Supply and Laguna Clay Company for their in-kind donations of clay and glazes.
In addition to the mural, LOWES Glenmont, Glenville and Niskayuna took on re-doing our side lot as a Local Heroes Project. They cleared the lot, built raised bed planters, planted flowers and grass seed, and brought in a contractor to repair/replace the perimeter fence. We’re adding post lighting and a water line. The side lot is a beautiful green space that complements the 255 Orange Street Mural and is available for use by community and neighborhood groups. Thank you to all the LOWES volunteers, especially Eamonn Greeran, Glenmont Store Manager, and Meaghan DePaula, Glenmont Installed Sales Manager, for spearheading and overseeing this effort. The transformation of the side lot is amazing!
On September 9, 2016, the community joined together to unveil the mural and dedicate the adjacent lot: Sheridan Hollow Commons. Thank you to all of the individuals and organizations who brought this amazing community development project to fruition. If you are interested in having an event in Sheridan Hollow Commons, please contact Tina Ross at (518) 436-8586 x810.
This project is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Arts Center of the Capital Region.