If an art initiative is needed in the community, especially if it involves children, look no further than Betsy Sandberg, who will spearhead the effort to bring it to life.
“I am partial to bringing art to children of all ages, be it music, graphics, dance or sculpture,” Sandberg said. “I am very good at connecting librarians, gardeners or scientists with photographers or musicians with architects. I enjoy brainstorming and thinking about how people can work together. “
For over 20 years, Sandberg has volunteered, supported financially, wrote grants or directed projects such as Kids Arts Fest, Music Haven concerts, Schenectady & Me projects, Color the Canal, CREATE Community Studios, Creative Connectors. , Jazz on Jay and DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative).
Tangible results include art drawn by local children in nursing homes; giant cardboard heads designed by Fran Giordano for five festivals; sculptural benches – one of which stands in front of the town hall; visual and sculptural art on the Mohawk-Hudson bike trail during the summer festival; and currently in the works: a mural on Erie Boulevard, a music venue called Drums Along the Mohawk on the Mohawk-Hudson bike trail, a train platform on the Alco Heritage Trail, and hundreds of collages installed on the walls of the Alco tunnel that stretches from North Jay Street under the train tracks to Erie Boulevard.
“Betsy is just a powerhouse that succeeds,” said Heather Hutchison, director of CREATE Community Studios. “She is the first person I turn to when I have an idea that needs to be implemented, and she always supports it with enthusiasm.”
With all this involvement in art, one could assume that Sandberg is either the artist herself, or has a strong cultural environment.
“I’m not artistic,” Sandberg said with a laugh. “But I love to write and I have a large vegetable garden. I like to eat. If I can’t eat it, I don’t skip it or water it, but leave it to pollinators and birds. ”
Rather, Sandberg was the third of seven children who grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin, where her father worked at Andersen Window World and her mother was a housewife. After graduating from Hudson School in 1981, she would not have gone to college if she had not won a scholarship from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire – the only one in her family to graduate from college. Her younger sister Mary also received a scholarship, but decided to pursue a one-year professional degree.
“The family doesn’t value education,” she said. “But I didn’t grow up poor. There were some possibilities: I remember that I went to a gymnastics class and for a short time we took piano lessons because we had a piano in our house, but it didn’t last long.
“I know what it’s like as a kid when I don’t have a new box of crayons or fresh blank paper or a notebook or drawing pad or a tool that you own, even if it’s a cardboard container for oatmeal turned into a drum. … Instead, as a teenager, I worked on weekends, cleaned retirement homes or apartments, or made paper routes. ”
But in high school, Sandberg discovered that she loved foreign languages and learned Spanish, German and Swedish, loved theater, and worked for the school newspaper. However, it was in college that she learned how much she lacked culturally.
“I realized how important art is for children. I didn’t have it, ”she said.
Initially, Sandberg thought she would become a teacher, but the “wise Spanish teacher” showed her that she had no patience. Since she loved to write and was good at it, she took a job at an Arizona newspaper.
“It was hot and I hated the heat,” Sandberg said.
When she saw an advertisement for an art writer in the Kingston, New York newspaper Freeman, she applied and got the job. But it didn’t last long because she saw a job in The Daily Gazette in Schenectady for an educational writer. Sandberg was hired in 1987. He was 25 years old.
“I loved being an education writer, and part of that was the occasional coverage of City Hall where I met Mayor Karen Johnson,” Sandberg said.
She was also to cover the New York State Unified Teachers, the state teachers’ union. It was in 1993 when the then governor. Mario Cuomo proposed a Spartan budget that led to drastic layoffs in school staff, resulting in teacher layoffs and cuts in arts and sports programs, which focused Sandberg’s attention.
“I strongly believed and agreed with Karen Johnson that something had to be done for the children. My family had no money for art even if I faced it, ”she said.
By 1994, several things had happened: Sandberg had left the Daily Gazette and joined New York State’s United Teachers; Johnson put her on the newly formed Kids Arts Fest scheduling committee, which Johnson chaired and eventually became chairman of Sandberg; she began volunteering on Mona Golub’s Music Shelter, selling lottery tickets – eventually becoming a volunteer coordinator in 2014. After several years at NYSUT, she retired in 2013.
Meeting with artists, writing grants
As she became more involved with art in society, she learned more about artists and found that she enjoyed working with them.
“Artists who can show you something new, take a fresh look at you, connect with you — that’s what I love about Kids Arts Fest — those connections,” said Sandberg, who lives in Niscayune with her husband Steve.
Applying her writing skills for grants has also proven valuable to several organizations, including the Giordano Giant Head Project.
“Betsy helped me write the NYS Arts Council grant,” Giordano said. “As a result, we got five goals, which we took to five festivals in Schenectady County, and a Kids Arts Fest came in their way.”
This is music to Sandberg’s ears.
“I love getting money for artists and musicians. I don’t get a cent for it, ”she said.
“I wrote a grant for Creative Connectors and am now in charge of these projects. It will be a full-time job. “
As a grant writer, she joined the weekly summer music series Jazz on Jay in 2017.
“I don’t know anything about jazz, but it was about getting money,” she said.
Sandberg loves to see dreams come true. One is about collages made by children and other people that will be turned into tiles and placed in the Alco tunnel, a passage that workers used to get to the old American locomotive company and the Alco site on the Mohawk River.
“From the very beginning, it was my dream to put it on display. There are at least 600 of them, ”Sandberg said. “In twenty years, someone will point to the tile and say to their child, ‘I painted this.’ Schenectady is a great place. My influence on the world is to make it brighter and brighter. It’s about improving our community. “
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Categories: Arts, Life & Art