There are places we see during our occasional jaunts across the Capital District that could use a coat of paint. Tired, ragged, but not quite rundown. Albany may not be the first of those places that come to mind, but as a city it has certain pockets in need of a little TLC.
Well, that’s exactly what’s happening along the I-787 corridor, off the Clinton Avenue exit. Despite the current urban renewal effort around the Palace Theatre, Clinton Avenue still holds on to that stigma of decay. As motorists drive through the city and read the street name, they don’t recognize the homage paid to the man who brought the Erie Canal to Albany — turning the Capital City into one of the most prosperous in the country for a time. No, DeWitt Clinton’s name is more associated with abandoned buildings, broken glass and one of the few roadways leading into a crime infested Arbor Hill.
Michael Conlin is a part of something that’s going to change all that. The Albany Parking Authority had an idea for a mural. They approached the Albany Barn and Albany Center Gallery, and Conlin’s name came up for the artist.
Motorists turning down to Clinton Avenue from I-787 have noticed some immediate changes before approaching the red light that greets them into the city. There is Conlin, suspended more than a 100-feet in the air a inside a cherry-picker basket. And, then there is his artwork on the facade of the parking garage that abuts the off-ramp. Each day, residents and visitors alike have been presented vignettes of a story unfolding before them, in the seconds it takes a car to travel hundreds of feet a 30 miles per hour.
“Art inspires people to visit and explore communities,” said Tony Iadicicco, Executive Director of Albany Center Gallery. “It is a connector and something that truly benefits everyone. There is no reason Albany can’t have an even more vibrant arts scene. The mural will quite literally paint the picture from the interstate that Albany is a city that has embraced the arts.”
Conlin’s bluebirds, an image of New York state’s bird, not only adds color to a flat surface. To him, he said it serves as a symbol of the positive change that has transpired over the past several years.
Downtown Albany was all but abandoned decades ago during the suburban migration of the 50s and 60s. People are moving back in, whether to reduce one’s carbon footprint, or to live in the same neighborhood one both works and wishes to play. Restaurants, high-end condos and a revitalized craft brewery business are bringing investors and people back to the city.
As Conlin’s bluebirds take flight, hope is once again being associated with the name of DeWitt Clinton.