'Sche-nection' students lead creative projects at Kids Arts Fest

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The 11 students in Lorraine Cox's art history class, The Social Impact of Art and Entrepreneurship, are a close group.

“We have formed a cohesive and dynamic team, proudly calling ourselves Sche-nection,” said Ashley Cirilla ’25, an interdepartmental major in visual arts and political science.

A logo that reads Sche-nectation

The team has been working to support and build community partnerships through creative placemaking, a term that refers to the process of fostering connections and collaboration among local arts and cultural groups, small businesses and non-profits in safe, inclusive spaces.

The overarching aim is to help cities and neighborhoods address key social, economic, environmental and cultural issues.

Cox, associate professor of visual arts, inspires her class to focus on these issues through a combination of case studies, workshops, field research and an entrepreneurial “pop up” event. The students team up with Schenectady businesses, organizations and mentors to enhance community development and environmental sustainability

“This term, we’re thrilled to partner with Habitat for Humanity and its ReStore,” Cirilla said. “To further support and promote this incredible non-profit organization, our team will be participating in the Schenectady Kids Arts Fest on June 1.”

Located at 115 Broadway in downtown Schenectady, ReStore accepts donations and sells a changing inventory of high-quality merchandise to the public at a fraction of retail prices while diverting reusable household items and building materials from area landfills.

“I’m excited about my students’ developing an entrepreneurial mindset and also experiencing first-hand the role of arts and culture in supporting community and economic development,” Cox said. “There are endless fascinating opportunities in the spaces where arts and entrepreneurship meet.”

Now in its 30th year, the Kids Art Fest promotes hands-on visual education for Schenectady residents of all ages. This year’s event will take place noon-4 p.m. outside City Hall on Jay Street.

The Sche-nection team will offer a range of activities, including crafting mini popsicle stick houses and painting furniture that will be for sale in the ReStore.

“Our activities cater to all ages, and we are dedicated to raising awareness about ReStore and Habitat for Humanity building projects in a fun and interactive way,” said Cirilla, the group’s marketing and communications project manager.

A young participant in the arts fair

Ashley Cirilla '25, a member of the Sche-nection team

The partnership between Union students and ReStore, Cox said, “aims to amplify the positive changes in Schenectady, ensuring that more families can access safe, affordable home ownership while promoting the reuse of materials and reducing waste.”

“I have loved learning about creating placemaking,” said Suzanna Wright ’25, an interdepartmental biology and studio fine arts major.

“I work on the design team with two other artists (Caroline Werner '25 and Jane Schreiner ’26) to create logos and graphics for our projects, which has been great experience for possible future career work. The trips to Electric City Barn, The Sycamore Collective and Albany Center Gallery have really gotten me excited about all of the opportunities for artists in the Capital Region.”

Shane Holmes ’24, an economics major, also cited the field trips and hands-on projects as particularly helpful experiences. “This class has given me a deeper understanding of our community and the importance of actively supporting local initiatives,” he said. “It’s shown me the real-world impact we can have.”