Though Saratoga’s motto is “Health, History and Horses,” dance has always been a major influence on the town, with 50 years of hosting the New York City Ballet for summer residencies under its belt, along with the presence of the National Museum of Dance on South Broadway.
Because of Saratoga’s commitment to honoring the art of dance along with health, history and horses, the National Museum of Dance Board President Michele Riggi came up with the idea earlier this year to create an art project reminiscent of 2002’s “Horses, Saratoga Style” project, which placed horse statues all around downtown.
The Museum decided to call the new project “Saratoga En Pointe” and place five-foot-tall statues of pointe shoes in front of businesses and popular community spots throughout Saratoga Springs. A selection committee picked local artists to design their own shoes and gave business and community leaders the opportunity to sponsor shoes—25, in total.
One of those artists is Judith Aratoli Tully, a local landscape artist who was chosen to design and create not just one, but three different shoes, in the same timespan that other artists were given to design only one or two.
“I did all three shoes in three months, and it took approximately a month apiece for each shoe,” Tully said. “It was very, very busy and at the last minute I was huffing and puffing because I thought I wasn’t going to make the deadline, but fortunately I did.”
Tully is the designer and creator of the ‘Emerging Beauty’ shoe at 81 Washington Street, sponsored by Mary Martin & Co.; ‘Palazzo Riggi Pampered Pups’ at 543 North Broadway, sponsored by Ron and Michele Riggi; and ‘Adirondack Splendor,’ located at Congress Park and sponsored by Turbine Services Ltd.
“Basically I did one shoe at a time,” Tully said of the artistic process. “The second shoe I did, which was the Adirondack shoe, needed to have some Bondo filling work done on it because we were putting a stream in the front and I couldn’t have the edge of the actual shoe showing—it had to be smooth—so while I was filling that, which takes about a week, I worked on the [pampered pups] shoe. So I did those two shoes kind of intermittently with each other and I did Mary Martin’s shoe first.”
Tully added that each of her designs were inspired by the sponsors of her shoes.
“Mary Martin and I have a friendly relationship—I did a mural in her shop, and when she was approached to [sponsor] the shoe she asked me if I would design it for her,” Tully said. “I designed it specifically for her shop and the things she does within her spa, and she loves butterflies so I used a butterfly theme. Michelle Riggi wanted a shoe that depicted her dogs, and then I was commissioned to create another shoe that would use an Adirondack theme so I just came up with the ideas from there.”
Tully added that each of the shoes has a special meaning and significance to her.
“Each one has a different kind of flair or flavor to it so they’re each individually special,” she said. “I love the Adirondacks, so the Adirondack shoe has a special meaning to me, and the Mary Martin shoe—she’s very special in my life and I know her fairly well, so her shoe has significance in that way, and then of course I love Michele’s dogs and I have two of my favorite pups on the shoe.”
But Tully isn’t done creating art for the En Pointe project—she’s currently working on a brand new shoe that will be displayed in front of Hatsational and is inspired by the hats that owner Joyce Locks features in her shop. Tully hopes to have the new shoe done and on display in time for the Travers Stakes, though she admitted the date isn’t concrete—“I always say it’s going to take me less time than it actually does.”
After the Hatsational shoe is finished, Tully will embellish a shoe that has been signed by the New York City Ballet Company dancers and display it at the National Museum of Dance.
Tully said she has received positive feedback from the public on her pieces since they’ve been on display.
“For an artist, when you drop something off and other artists are doing the same, you’re a little apprehensive because you’re thinking ‘How are my creations going to hold up next to everyone else’s?’ but I’ve had very good results and reactions from the shoes, so I’m very pleased,” she said. “This has been a wonderful experience for me and I’m very happy to be able to participate.”
The National Museum of Dance is hosting a photo contest in conjunction with Saratoga En Pointe, asking contestants to simply take pictures with their favorite shoe sculptures and label them with the hashtag #saratogaenpointe on Facebook. The contest will run until the middle of September and the photo with the most likes will win Saratoga En Pointe merchandise and a $100 gift certificate.
For more information about Saratoga En Pointe or the photo contest, visit www.dancemuseum.org.