Installations part of new Albany Public Library initiative

Two artist groups recently installed public art under the Creative Curbsides banner, a new initiative of Albany Public Library (APL) in partnership with Opalka Gallery as part of the Art at APL program. The art graces the front windows of the Bach Branch and the Arbor Hill/West Hill Branch and is meant to be viewed from outside the buildings.

The Bach installation is “A Beneficent Fluid Bathes Us” by Eight Plums, artist duo Gracelee Lawrence and Ben Seretan, and the Arbor Hill/West Hill Branch installation is  “A New Day” by Dana Sela in collaboration with Kim Tateo of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm. Both exhibitions are viewable by the public now through March 31. 

“Like all other library services and programs, Art at APL had to pivot for the pandemic. We are thrilled to be able to bring some of the beauty that is usually found at our Pine Hills Branch via our collaboration with Opalka Gallery to the big, inviting windows at the Bach and Arbor Hill/West Hill library branches. We hope Creative Curbsides will be like a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us,” said Deanna DiCarlo, head of west branches, which includes Bach and Pine Hills, for APL. 

For APL’s Bach Branch at 455 New Scotland Ave.Eight Plums, the artist duo Gracelee Lawrence and Ben Seretan, created “A Beneficent Fluid Bathes Us.”Lawrence and Seretan’s project responds to the building’s architecture, whose large, front-facing windows offer a wide view of the world from inside and an open view into the library from the outside. 

Eight Plums used dichroic film to create a nature-inspired abstract design spanning the entire width of the front windows, transforming the building’s glass into an aquarium-like field of colors and shapes swimming in space. Dichroic is a term used to describe how crystals change colors based on light, viewing angles, and so on. The colors of the material change depending on where the viewer stands, or as pedestrians walk by. The artists’ abstract design is inspired by local waterways and the natural world, with images of flowers and budding leaves.

“These images of spring remind patrons that the season will come again and, with any luck, will bring with it the containment of the virus that is currently, among other things, requiring curbside pickup. These flowers—blooming on this ‘branch’ of the library—point toward a brighter future,” the duo said about the installation at the Bach Branch.

For APL’s Arbor Hill/West Hill Branch at 148 Henry Johnson Blvd., artist Dana Sela, in collaboration with Kim Tateo of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm, created “A New Day.” Sela’s design is inspired by the Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm, a natural preserve in Arbor Hill committed to urban agriculture and environmental justice through conservation, environmental education, and outdoor recreation. 

Sela designed a natural-themed landscape for the library windows with black tape, augmented by sections of colorful tissue paper, creating a “stained glass” effect across the building’s expansive front windows. Sela applied the tape design, and Tateo added the color sections. Tateo plans to offer a 90-minute online workshop in “Painting with Plants” to engage community members safely from their homes. Sela envisions the piece as “visual escape” from our current pandemic reality.

The Creative Curbsides initiative was created to bring beauty and art into Albany’s urban environment at a time when APL is meeting a large demand for curbside pickups and continues to offer important resources to the public. 

“When we realized that the Pine Hills Branch, which is the regular home of the Art at APL program, was going to have limited opportunities for exhibition viewing this fall due to the pandemic, we knew we had to do some kind of outdoor art installation at the branches that were doing a huge amount of curbside pickups,” said Opalka Gallery Director Judie Gilmore. “We are excited about the two projects chosen. Both projects will add a little color and joy to these neighborhoods in a dark time, and hopefully encourage more people to take advantage of APL’s curbside program. Art has an amazing power to uplift, and we all need a little more uplifting this winter.” 

Eight Plums is a new collaborative studio between two newer Albany-area residents. Gracelee Lawrence is a working sculptor currently serving as the Visiting Assistant Professor of Sculpture at University at Albany. Ben Seretan is a musician, writer, and former art world professional currently living and making work in Troy, NY. As recent transplants, the two have a uniquely enthusiastic view of the area, looking for the best in everything, and have taken immense pleasure in cycling up and down the Hudson River — one afternoon trip bike ride to Cohoes Falls provided the initial spark for the Art at APL project.

Dana Sela is an artist and educator with a BFA from SUNY Purchase and a Masters in Art Education from The College of Saint Rose. When she is not teaching high school art, Sela is busy painting, drawing and block printing from her converted barn studio. Her work reflects her love and great respect for the simple beauties in the living world around us. Kim Tateo is an artist who paints her feelings into worlds of whimsy. A common theme for her work is interconnectedness—to each other and the Earth. She is the Executive Director and Farm Manager for Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm where she is inspired by the natural world.