VOORHEESVILLE — Despite COVID-19, ART on the Rail Trail (ART) announced a new public art project will be located along the Albany County Rail Trail between Main and Grove streets in Voorheesville by early July.
The new project will be called “Crossroads: Transforming Uncertainty” by Mount Tremper-based curator, public and gallery artist Susan Togut who has been involved in art since the 1980s.
“I’m going to make a series of about eight installations on both left and right sides of the trail which will have illuminated panels in different shapes with texts and inspiring messages sprinkled throughout,” she said. “I’ve often made contemplative environments and it’s a journey really. It’s not just a single spot.”
The illuminated panels will be hand-painted and either be free-standing or placed in trees along the trail.
Togut’s public art environment will be inspired by Voorheesville’s origins as a location where two railroads crossed each other in a farm field in the 19th century. It will include imagery and messages that reference both that time period and how uncertain times are today — a reference to how people are at a metaphorical crossroads too due to COVID-19.
Togut said the public can enjoy public art more as more people visit parks and recreational spaces during the pandemic.
“You can’t go to a gallery or museum now and the whole crux of public art is that you happen to come upon them as opposed to consciously having to go to an art spot,” Togut said. “Any person may or may not care about art but when they encounter public art, that’s a beautiful thing. Public art is more holistic and integrates into daily life because it’s extremely accessible to all people. With the pandemic and health precautions now, the fact that it’s outdoors makes it safe and lovely.”
Togut said she had planned on including an on-site workshop for local residents to make rock paintings with her but she dropped the idea because of concerns about people not practicing social distancing and how the Rail Trail continues to be crowded since the pandemic began.
Julie Sasso, the ART Chair, agreed with Togut’s earlier statement. “Public art is free and accessible out there and people come upon it. The timing of this project would be enjoyed by more people in an otherwise bleak time.”
She said Togut’s installations will be the sixth art piece to be featured along the Rail Trail, after five murals were put up since 2017. This year, ART received five proposal submissions by May 1 from artists looking to install their artworks this summer along the trail.
“The submissions were great and it was a really hard choice but we ultimately felt Susan’s proposal best captured the vision we had,” Sasso said. “We wanted to expand to more contemporary art, something different than murals and have something at Voorheesville’s end of the trail.”
Sasso added that Togut will receive help from one or two employees of Voorheesville’s Public Works Department when she installs the project over a few days in June. Togut said she and the employees will continue social distancing and wear masks during the installation process and keep in mind the crowds along the Rail Trail.
Sasso gave a shout out to the Voorheesville Community and School Foundation for providing a $3,000 grant to help make this year’s project possible.
Togut concluded that public art remains relevant in today’s age despite COVID-19. “Public art is a form of community expression that can enhance an environment, ask questions, heighten awareness and reflect values while inspiring aesthetically, conceptually and spiritually,” she said.