BETHLEHEM — A new initiative, underway in Bethlehem, hopes to bring public art installations to the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.
Art on the Rail Trail (ART) was conceived of as “a means to enrich the lives of visitors to the Rail Trail and to encourage usage of the trail by local residents as well as regional visitors.” Bethlehem residents Paul and Caroline Barrett, the owners of Our Daily Eats, got the idea after seeing the Philadelphia Mural Arts program while visiting the city, said Town Board member Julie Sasso.
When the Barretts approached Sasso about a similar idea for the new Rail Trail, she leapt at the opportunity to get involved. They formed a loose committee of interested parties and soon realized that the project would be best organized in partnership with, and as a committee of, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC).
“MHLC ‘s work on the Rail Trail includes many subjects: from advocacy to trail maintenance,” said MHLC Executive Director Mark King. “The trail seems to foster creativity, and we receive many suggestions and ideas for improvement – a real indication of a true community endeavor. The possibility of the corridor as an artistic space is one idea that we are pleased to support.”
“While we don’t anticipate a project on the scale of Philadelphia,” said Sasso, “we would love to enhance the Rail Trail with art installations and hope to get business owners along the trail to participate in future projects.”
The ultimate goal of the project, say organizers, is to see various mediums of art up and down the trail, however the pilot project consists of just one mural to be painted this year — on the side wall of the town-owned building located at the intersection of the Rail Trail and Adams St.
ART is seeking funding from residents and local businesses to cover the cost of the project and hopes to raise $10,000 during the next month. Volunteers will be available to answer questions during tomorrow’s Bike Expo, the next two Tuesday Farmers Markets (May 23 and 30 at 428 Kenwood Ave. from 2:30 to 6 p.m.) and the next three Saturday Delmar Farmers Markets at Bethlehem Middle School (332 Kenwood Ave.), May 27, June 3 and June 10 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Calls for artist proposals will go out to the Capital District art community to solicit local muralists in June and there will be community engagement during the selection process, which will take place in July and August, according to Sasso. Residents that live within eyesight of the proposed mural will be contacted specifically and encouraged to become involved. Owners of walls that are used for future murals will also have input and can be as active in the process as they desire, Sasso said.
The inauguratory mural is expected to be installed in the fall and unveiled in mid- to late October.
“With a group of enthusiastic volunteers to help promote the concept, the future of the Rail Trail is only limited by our imagination,” said King. “Bringing art to the trail not only makes the project a stronger part of the community, but furthers our vision of the project as a community and regional source of pride as well as a first-class recreation and transportation amenity for the Capital District. The initial project envisioned by the ART is a mural on a Town-owned building, but future possibilities are limitless. MHLC is excited to support the volunteers that are working with ART to bring local art to the Rail Trail.”