Top Left Photo Caption: A series of one night only art show held over the last year, including one in January in an Albany clothing store, have attracted large, electric crowds.


Bottom Photo Caption: Art-show organizer Tommy Watkins, standing on chair, collaborator J. Smith and others have spiffed up the former Caroselo Bakery on Lark Street for a show next weekend.







JOSEPH DALTON Staff writer

Section: ARTS-EVENTS,  Page: I1

Date: Sunday, February 22, 2004

 The coolest art shows in Albany recently are modeled on concerts rather than traditional visual-art exhibitions. By staging one-night-only art events in unexpected spaces, groups of young artists are short-circuiting the art-world convention of gallery or museum displays that stay for weeks or months. Their efforts not only bring out viewers, they also build community, engender fresh collaborations and even generate income.

 Case in point: two shows next weekend. On Friday, Feb. 27, a mix of paintings and sculptures, videos and installations will go up in a former bakery on Lark Street. And on Saturday, a show of arty lunchboxes will be on view at the otherwise dormant Rathbone Gallery on the Albany campus of the Sage Colleges.

Underground warmth
``All the good things that go on here are underground,'' says Chip Fasciana, an Albany artist and musician. His assertion is not so much a revolutionary declaration as a statement of reality. The cold gray ambience of William Kennedy's novel ``Ironweed,'' Fasciana says, is an apt depiction for his own experience of Albany. As in the novel, the warmth and the magic lie beneath the exterior.

``If you just experience Albany from a surface level, you're going to be bored,'' says Fasciana, who moved here from Syracuse about a decade ago on a corporate transfer but abandoned company life a year later. ``If you find the undercurrent, you're going to have a much better time.''

 Fasciana is something of a leader in the community of young artists, less because of his age -- he's 35 -- than for his industriousness. Over the last three years, he's staged five ``one-off'' gallery nights in various alternative spaces, mostly shuttered storefronts in the Center Square neighborhood.

 ``The Cheesecake Show,'' for example, was in a space on Hamilton Street where a dessert shop is scheduled to open. For one night in early January it was filled with photographs and paintings, all by local artists.

 ``We have an absolute sea of artists who don't have an opportunity to show,'' says Fasciana.

 Also last month was a Thursday night show at ego, the menswear shop on Lark Street, organized by Tommy Watkins, 26. There were works by a dozen or so of his friends and acquaintances, including Fasciana. Nearly 400 people attended.

 ``I wanted to revive the local artists' spirits,'' says Watkins. He cites Changing Spaces Gallery, the 3-year-old Center Square Gallery that is closing, as ``one of the last strongholds.'' The response to his event encouraged him to continue.

 ``Chip has been putting up shows for a while. He's a veteran,'' says Watkins. ``I said, `Why don't we combine our efforts ... so we can keep going?'

Fresh paint
 Their first collaboration, under the new moniker Albany Underground Artists, is Friday's ``Bakery Show.'' In addition to each preparing new pieces for exhibition, Watkins and Fasciana have been putting in long, hard hours cleaning and painting the former Carosello Bakery, which is being loaned by its new owner, Hollis Milark. She says the fresh paint and general buzz about the space should help her find a new commercial tenant while she's busy fixing up the upstairs apartments.

By the time the show opens on Friday, Watkins, Fasciana and friends will have put in an estimated 200 hours of combined time. ``The place was pretty hammered,'' says Watkins. If the turnout equals or exceeds that of the ego show, they say, all their effort will have been worth it.

Apartment as gallery
 ``The gallery was my apartment,'' says Jordan Greenhalgh, a 24-year-old animator, describing an event last March. ``We cleared out everything and had a one-day show.''

 ``Fly By Night,'' as the affair was known, included poetry readings and works by 19 artists.

 ``We figured if we had a huge group (of exhibitors), we'd get more of a crowd,'' says Greenhalgh, who named his collective The Chase Factory. His follow-up show in July, ``State of the Art,'' was more expansive, since he was emptying the place in preparation for a move to Rochester to be with his girlfriend. (Despite living across the state, he remains involved in the Albany arts scene.)

 The two shows' success -- they attracted 200 to 300 people apiece -- proved the viability of one-night-only art events to the organizers and helped give birth to the collective of artists and writers who've come together to publish 200 Proof Magazine, a new quarterly arts journal.

 The upcoming ``Lunchboxed'' show brings together many of the same artists. Proceeds from sales will help pay for the second issue of 200 Proof.

 ``There is a huge outpouring of support from young people like ourselves,'' says artist and printmaker John Dievendorf, 25, an organizer of Saturday's show. Among his goals for the event is ``to have a lot of fun.''

 ``What's great about getting people together into a collective,'' says Greenhalgh, ``is that ideas flourish and people take on different mediums, which they wouldn't have tried if they weren't exposed.''

Finding community
 ``Until Chip asked me to be in one of his shows, there were probably six artists who live in a three-block radius of me who I'd never met,'' says Shana Marron, who lives in Center Square. The 24-year-old photographer now feels part of an artists' community.

 Marron also sold a number of her color photographs through Fasciana's shows. She describes the events as an ``almost punk-rock way of putting up a show and trading resources ... like creating a party and art show all in one night.''

 ``It keeps a vibrancy,'' says Joseph Cunin, director of the Lark Street Neighborhood Association, who has helped Fasciana secure spaces and other resources from local merchants.

 Cunin says there's also ``a great synergy that's possible'' between established Lark Street businesses and the new arts events. Referring to one of the city's most upscale restaurants, located half a block from the former bakery, he says, ``It would be great if the McGuire's customer comes and supports up-and-coming artists.''

 The single shows help solve a perennial problem for struggling arts organizations: real estate. To help pay their rent, Dievendorf notes, ``Most galleries take 50 percent (commission) or so. ... Around here there's not (enough) demand to make that economically viable.'' Using donated spaces for one-night events helps keep art prices down.

 ``When you go to a show and you can afford to buy'' a piece of art, says Marron, ``you do it. ... It helps artists and helps your community.''

 Prices ranged from $15 to $400 at his shows, says Greenhalgh, adding, ``And we didn't take any commission, of course.''

 The spectrum will be even greater at the bakery. Says Fasciana, ``We've got things from $2 to $2,000.''

 Although nobody's earning enough to quit a day job, Albany's young artists are finding a model that works. Art lovers just have to stay attentive for the next showing -- it'll be gone in a flash.

 ``It's going to come together when it comes together,'' Watkins says of his and Fasciana's plans. ``When we find a place, we strike and pop it up.''

 Joseph Dalton can be reached at 454-5478 or



Presented by Albany Underground Artists

What: The former Carosello Bakery will be filled with paintings, photographs, light installations and interactive video.

Where: 197 Lark St., Albany

When: 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday

Admission: Free


Presented by The Chase Factory and 200 Proof Magazine

What: More than two dozen artists showing original lunch-box creations.

Where: Rathbone Gallery, Sage Colleges Albany campus, 140 New Scotland Ave., Albany

When: 5-10 p.m. Saturday

Admission: Free


Top Right Photo Caption: When a Lark Street clothing store became a gallery for one night in January, more than 400 people showed up.


Bottom Left Photo Caption: Chip Fasciana and fellow artists have spent hundreds of hours getting a former bakery into shape for next weekend's art show.