Photos: Katie Cusack

Over a dozen community members gathered at 15 Middleburgh St. in Troy Tuesday, Oct. 29 to celebrate the ribbon cutting of visual artist Chip Fasciana’s new mural. It’s strong blue base exhibits an underwater world featuring a rainbow of floral patterns and plants, a massive sturgeon on one side and “perseverance” dominating another. 

“[Chip] was only supposed to paint one wall, but he just couldn’t stop painting,” said Elizabeth Rees, executive director of The Arts Center of the Capital Region, during the ribbon cutting. 

And he had a bit of help. 

“This means so much to the kids around here, I only wish they didn’t do this on a school day” Frank Mayben, CEO of North Central Community Solidarity Group in Troy, said–grinning in a bright, contrasting, head-to-toe red outfit (right down to some fresh, tinted glasses)–as he admired the mural.  

Mayben brought seven children, ages 5 to 14, to come paint the lower part of the wall around the building with Fasciana, after hearing about the artist’s project from building owner Brian McCandless. 

“They own it now. They’re excited about the fact that its theirs. That’s the biggest part of this for us, getting them to buy into the process and become a part of it, with that it lasts so much longer,” he continued. “It was a ‘work ethic’ day and they got excited about it. They were like, ‘Can we paint more walls?’ There’s interaction with not only the paint and the wall but the people. They get a broader respect for what’s happening here in Troy–especially North Central. We need this. We need more public art. We need more kids involved.”

Mayben says he was excited to see the kids not only take ownership of the work they did on the public art piece, but to continue discussing what future projects they can take part in and sharing their experience with their friends who now want a project of their own. 

“I had a bunch of kids tell me they wanted to be artists,” Fasciana told The Collaborative. “That community engagement aspect is really important to me. 

Fasciana (center) cuts the ribbon in front of his Troy mural with Mayor Patrick Madden (right) and community members.

The artist explained that his continued efforts to involve kids in the bits and pieces of his mural work originally stemmed from a painting experience in Mission Beach, California (The artist splits his time between Southern California and the Capital Region) where he was working on a beachside mural a few years back. 

“I turn around and there’s this guy and his little son and the kid was just mesmerized. It was like I was doing magic. So I didn’t even think about it and just asked if he wanted to do a little brushstroke. He couldn’t believe he was doing it, it was like it blew the kid’s mind. The next day, the kid’s mother made a point to come back and thank me. She said he was very introverted and shy and this was so important to him. It makes my hair stand up just telling the story. As an independent freelancer you can feel very self-involved…that changed my whole view of being an artist.”

To Fasciana, this was an eye–and heart–opening experience that reminded him why he chose the career path of the arts after abandoning his corporate career working for Johnson & Johnson a few decades ago. 

Since that experience, he continued to work on murals in downtown Albany for some time, making a point to involve the surrounding neighborhood of his works through community block parties or collaborations. The bubbly floral pieces colored in by the neighborhood kids on the sturgeon mural in Troy, for example, are actually inspired by the bordering pattern of his “Sleepy Hollow” moveable mural, created for the Albany Center Gallery and Boys and Girls Club of the Capital Area this past summer. That element was also completed by kids of the Boys and Girls Club.

“Kids are the most raw, uninhibited, best critics…to me, that proved that the model worked,” Fasciana said of incorporating community into the bits and pieces of his art. “It’s really cool to go in and make people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than the everyday thing they’re doing.” 

Mayben told The Collaborative that he hopes Fasciana’s mural in at the Middleburgh Street building will be the start of further development on the 7th Avenue North Central Park. 

“Really what this community needs is a recreational center so the kids have something to do after school. We can have mentoring and other things. In the back, we could have movies in the summer on the hill there,” he said, also mentioning the need for a more developed splash pad at the park to beat the heat, which he hopes the community will see by 2020. 

“Our goal is to change the culture and the chaos of the streets,” he continued. “Stick with us and this is what you can do in your community.”