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PHOTO: Shannon DeCelle

First Time Out

Troy’s latest endeavor hopes to highlight the city’s hidden charms

By Chet Hardin


The table is littered with the glossy guts of broken magazines.

“Here we are, by ourselves, making collages,” says Jon Coleman, as he slices scissors along the outline of a naked model’s leg. A group of artists huddle around a pile of glue and construction paper, markers, pens and pencils. Tall space heaters stand about in the room.

“We are so far away from the action, and it’s so cold,” Molly Comstock says, lamenting the evening’s small turnout.

It’s early, a friend points out—Troy Night Out just got started.

With Troy Night Out, the Collar City’s downtown businesses and galleries have jumped onto the bandwagon of other cities whose businesses have banded together to host monthly arts-based outings.

Comstock and Coleman, cofounders of the Great Art, an underground arts collective squatting in the old retail space in the first floor of 83 3rd St., decided to join the fun with the Great Art Make Out. With three tables set up, one for collages, one for exquisite corpses, another for the booze and food, the Great Art Make Out is about coming out and creating art.

“We got wine,” Coleman says. “Let’s just get drunk and make stuff.”

A wooden Ferris wheel, half the height of its builder, lanky RPI grad Fritz Koenig, stands in the corner. Koenig demonstrates it for a nice, curious couple; the wheel spins on an axle powered by a handheld drill. He gets the wheel going so fast that seats go flying off, crashing into the floor, killing (or at least crippling) the tiny imaginary riders.

“All I was really interested in was building it,” Koenig assures the couple after the calamity. “Now it is done, I’d just as rather set it on fire and spin it till it burns down.”

The couple chuckle politely, and wander away to the food table.

It is a cold night, and the wind cuts through my leather jacket. The snow mounds are frozen and the cars are squished into the middle of the streets. But it is a healthy cold, crisp, and the stars are out. And everywhere I go I see people I know, and people I don’t, spilling out of the galleries, stores and restaurants.

I follow a small band of Troy locals into the Movement Lab, the new Pilates studio on 4th Street. Julie Rose, the owner, greets everyone, and shows off her studio. The locals stand in a semicircle, in stocking caps and big heavy scarves, complimenting Rose and planning where to go next. They are the making the rounds and agree with each other that it is exciting to see so much activity in downtown.

A fountain of cascading warm chocolate and the scent of puff pastries lure scores of people into Kismet Gallery on 4th Street. The new gallery opened a few months ago in the longtime home of the Book Outlet, clearing out the homey clutter of books, and replacing it with the homey clutter of a dozen artists’ work.

In the basement, co-owner Michael Fiske’s mom, a Culinary Institute-trained chef, is running a full-blown kitchen, complete with a dishwasher and two assistants.

“His mom’s arm can be twisted to cater for him,” she jokes, obviously busting with pride over her son and the plate of crab Rangoon she shoves under my nose.

The gallery is packed wall-to-wall. It’s warm and welcoming, but I slip back out into the cold with a handful of cookies. This night is about streaming from one destination to another.

“Several people I’ve never seen before have stopped by to see what the place is like,” Nada Rifai says, one of the mamas of Shake Shake Mamas, tucked into the lobby of an old hotel on Broadway. “Royah got interviewed by the news.”

Royah Ansari, fellow Mama, beams. “The reporter, she was like, ‘This is the best shop I’ve ever seen.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, you,’ ” she says, twining on her toes. “And she was like, ‘No, I have interviewed soooo many shop owners all over the country, and this one is the best.’ ”

In one of the latest additions to the River Street antiques scene, Living Room, I find Elizabeth Young, one of the cofounders of Troy Night Out. “I am co-chair, co-owner of this store,” she says, gesturing to the comfortably full antique furniture store. “I am co-everything.”

Young looks exhausted but happy. She has worked alongside Karen Schlesinger with downtown’s shop owners, gallery owners, restaurateurs, and businesses for months, she says, to concert tonight’s event. The hundreds of people filing through the stores on River Street in below-freezing weather is proof to her that all the work was worthwhile.

“It has been such an overwhelmingly good night,” she says. “There are so many people out in Troy tonight that would never be out in Troy. There are 20 people in my store right now. A normal Friday, there wouldn’t be 20 people all day long.”

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