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Friday, 27 March 2015 11:52

“Success Feels Awesome!”

Saratoga Bridges Client is a Story of Triumph

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Meet Amanda Baillargeon. She’s got a lot of things going for herself: A sunny disposition, stunning artistic talent and a future that is brighter not just because of the assistance she was able to receive, but also because of her own drive. Amanda is an example that shows that people with learning disabilities can do more than just survive – they can thrive and achieve great things. 


As March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month it’s a perfect time to tell her story. A success story that exhibits how important local, not-for-profit social service organizations like Saratoga Bridges are to their client’s lives – enabling them to maximize their potential. How, in a proper nurturing environment, great things are possible. But that’s only half the story. 


The other half is the spirit of people like Amanda Baillargeon. You talk to her and you can’t help but be touched and inspired. 


She is an extremely talented artist, who has maximized her talents since coming to Saratoga Bridges’ Creative Endeavors facility in Ballston Spa in 2004. Amanda’s mentor was Barbara Grey. “I love it! I’m in my own world!” Amanda says with a smile, and given the chance to develop that world, Amanda has received great acclaim. 


Amanda said she gets her primary inspiration from photographs and Beatrix Potter prints. Her pieces have been featured in innumerable shows and exhibits. In particular, she has been recognized as a standout at the prestigious The Arc Otsego’s Voice! Annual juried art exhibition opening, which contains works by artists with developmental disabilities from across New York State.  Amanda’s watercolor painting ‘Love Birds’ was featured in Voice!5.  Her piece “Reflections” was selected for the cover for Voice! 6. She had a piece included in Voice!7.  At the Voice!9 Art Show, Amanda won 1st place for her painting “The Wait” and received a $300 prize. The painting sold during the opening reception for $125. Additionally, at the Creative Endeavors “Through My Eyes” juried art show, her piece “Garden of Wild Flowers” won 3rd Place and received $100.


“I’ve been her instructor for seven years, and Amanda has come incredibly far,” said Darlene Petralia, an instructor at Creative Endeavors. “Not just in her technical artwork abilities, but in how it has made a huge difference in her ability to relate and socialize with others. She has just really blossomed. I can see her developing a great following.” 


Art is a cornerstone of Amanda’s life, but her success is evident in other areas of life as well. She is particularly fond of swimming, receiving two silver and one bronze medal at the Special Olympics. You can find her at the Skidmore pool each week, and participating as a Walking Buddy at Saratoga Bridges, which pairs up an individual with a staff member. Amanda’s partner is Executive Director, Valerie Muratori. 


“Amanda and I have enjoyed being Walking Buddies. We motivate each other with the goal of staying fit even throughout the cold winter.” Muratori said. Amanda stated that they walk three times around the building each possible day, and with great pride noted that she has lost 30 pounds through her commitment to health and wellness. She is now a member of Saratoga Bridges’ wellness committee. 


The programs at Saratoga Bridges have also given Amanda the skill set to work in various capacities. She assists Bridges’ Communications Specialist Pamela Polacsek.


“Amanda truly makes my job rewarding. “It’s a sincere privilege to provide an opportunity for Amanda to fulfill her life’s aspirations, interests and dreams. It is especially rewarding to see her accomplishing some of these goals.” Polacsek said. 


Also, last July Amanda began working at TJMaxx. Since being trained and learning the requirements of the job, she works with a team as a backroom clerk to process new merchandise. “Saratoga Bridges is proud of our relationships with businesses throughout Saratoga County.  We work very hard to understand each of our business partner’s expectations so the best possible employee is placed in that best position. TJ Maxx is an prime example of a longstanding, strong supporter of hiring people with disabilities and for that we are most grateful.” Polacsek comments. “Also, Amanda has been a hostess at our two of our largest fundraisers - The White Party Gala and Travers Day at the Races.”


It doesn’t end there. Amanda is a 2011 graduate of “Bridges to Skidmore,” a modified college experience, and was a student mentor in 2013-14. Participants from Saratoga Bridges are brought to the Skidmore campus on a weekly basis and are paired with a Skidmore student for the duration of the semester. At the end of each semester, a celebratory luncheon is held. Saratoga Bridges participants invite staff and family. They graduate from the program after four continuous semesters of participation. Amanda credits her parents for their support in all these areas, “They’re my best friends!” She said.


Amanda is now living in a community-based home with five women in Saratoga Springs, where she enjoys activities like cooking, going to the library, movies and shopping. But though she has come far, Amanda is not without several goals for the future. 


With five women and three bathrooms in her apartment, it’s no surprise that she has a goal of getting her own apartment. Saratoga Bridges has access to six “supportive apartments” which would afford her more autonomy. Also, her big dream is “to start an art camp for kids with developmental disabilities.” She said. 


Once you get to know Amanda, you learn that you wouldn’t want to bet against her accomplishing anything she has her mind set to. And that’s why the work Saratoga Bridges does is so important. 


“Success feels awesome!” Amanda says.

Published in News
Thursday, 03 July 2014 14:20

More Than Just Clay, Kids Become Artists

Kids & Clay Summer Program Teaches Art Education

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez

For Saratoga TODAY


SCHUYLERVILLE - There’s something about squeezing a ball of clay that releases all creative intuition. Mold, shape and sculpt the clay and suddenly your imagination comes to life. 


Monsters, gargoyles and dragons were taking on a life of their own at the Saratoga Clay Arts Center (167 Hayes Road, Schuylerville) Monday morning. A group of six kids kicked off the first week of the Center’s Kids & Clay Summer Program. With furrowed brows and the musky smell of clay in the air, the young artists worked patiently and confidently to mold their balls of clay into whatever they felt like. 


“I’m making a volcano monster,” whispered 5-year-old Gabe, not wanting to take his eyes off his masterpiece while putting the finishing touches on its head. “I’m painting it green and brown. It’s going in my room.”


Seeing how proud and deeply invested the kids are in their pieces of art reminds SCAC owner, Jill Fishon-Kovachick, of her early days in working with clay. 


“I’ve been working with clay since I was 11,” said Kovachick. “My parents sent me to a camp in Connecticut called Buck’s Rock, which was strictly an art, theatre and music camp. They had many different types of studios, including ceramics, so that’s how I began working with clay. It’s been a passion ever since.” 


After Skidmore College did away with its adult education for ceramics program in 2011, Kovachick founded the Saratoga Clay Arts Center and knew she had to get children involved. She immediately organized the first Kids & Clay program, which only attracted six students its first year. Now in its third year, the summer program has more than 75 kids registered for the 8 different weeklong sessions. 


“It’s growing as we move along,” said Kovachick. “It makes me feel really good. People are learning about us and a lot of the kids hear about us through their friends who have come to a class.” 


The camp is divided into morning and afternoon sessions, each with different courses like hand building and wheel throwing. Kids ages 6 and up can choose which class they’d like to attend, but Kovachick said one thing is certain -- the kids will do everything from scratch. 


“That gives kids a chance to learn about making something all by themselves, with the instruction of a teacher,” said Kovachick. “But they also learn how to glaze and they learn about our kilns and all kinds of things that happen here. It’s not just painting a piece, it’s doing something from start to finish.” 


To help students along the way is local teacher, Rachel Garrison. During the school year, Garrison teaches ceramics and sculpture at Shenendehowa High School East. This is her first year as an instructor for the Kids & Clay Summer Program. 


“We just keep it simple and they all want to be here,” said Garrison. “It’s nice because its students who have a desire to be here and be creative. They’re creative, they’re not afraid. Sometimes you get self-conscious and you’re afraid of what other people think or of making a mistake and this way, they can do whatever they want. It’s inspiring.”


Garrison said this group of six students compared to the 125 she teaches during the course of a regular school day allows her to work more closely with the kids over the four-hour session. 


“At the high school, our classes are a lot shorter,” said Garrison. “They’re only 40 minutes. It’s hard to sink your teeth into things because by the time you get in, set up, and then you have to clean up, you only have about 30 minutes to work.” 


While Shenendehowa is able to offer a variety of arts classes, some area schools don’t have the capability of offering a wide range of art electives. As a result, schools visit the Saratoga Clay Arts Center during the school year. 


“It gives them a little diversity,” said Kovachick. “If they only have electric kilns in the studios at their schools, we have gas kilns that we use here. They can learn the raku process, which is a totally different firing process than what they have at their schools.” 


Both Kovachick and Garrison hope the programs offered at SCAC will keep students interested in clay arts as they continue on to high school and college. So far, it seems to be working. 


“You can make anything you want,” said Gabe. “I’m going to come back and make a turtle.” 


The summer camp wraps up with SCAC’s 3rd annual Kids & Clay Summer Art Exhibition on Sunday, August 31. To sign up for the program, visit www.SaratogaClayArts.org 

Published in News
Friday, 13 June 2014 11:03

It’s ArtsFest Time!

A Full Weekend Of… Everything Awaits

SARATOGA SPRINGS – We are blessed with a vibrant arts scene year-round in this region. But, to paraphrase Emeril, it’s time to kick it up a notch…


BAM! And here we are – the Eighth Annual Saratoga ArtsFest is upon us and there is still plenty of time to get in on the action. Last night’s opening featured the acclaimed Martha Graham Dance Company at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Sponsored by SPAC, the performance included pieces from such classics as Appalachian Spring and The Rite of Spring, as well as other compositions. 


On Friday, June 13’s ArtsFest will present its signature event, “An Evening with Duncan Sheik,” at the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College. Sheik, a Grammy and Tony award winner, launched his musical career in 1996 with the Grammy-nominated hit “Barely Breathing.”


Sheik is more recently known for his role in composing the musical Spring Awakening, which earned two Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Sheik’s December, 2013 debut of the stage production of American Psycho in London opened to rave reviews. Tickets for the Sheik performance at Skidmore are priced at $50, or $25 with an ARTSPASS.


Speaking of the ARTSPASS, it’s not to late to pick one up and it remains an outstanding value. The price for the SaratogaArtsFest admission package is $40 for adults and seniors, and $35 for military members and their dependents. Children under 12 are admitted free. 


Admission packages may be purchased online at SaratogaArtsFest.org or at the ArtsFest Center and Gallery at 385 Broadway. Admission materials must be picked up at the Center. The Center’s hours of operation during June 9-15 are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The Center phone number is (518) 871-1379.


If, however, you prefer to sample ArtsFest a la carte, there are many free events such as the “en plein air Paint Out,” along Broadway on Saturday, June 14, family events such as “Kids do Art” at UPH and the Beekman Street Arts Fair, both on Sunday, June 15. 


Also, here is a listing of premium events that you can purchase admission singly without an ARTSPASS: 


June 14

Saratoga Shakespeare Company presents “Shakespeare: The Remix”

The Remix, performed by two actors, introduces Shakespeare to young audiences. When a hip-hop-loving high school girl on the verge of dropping out meets Shakespeare, a 400-year-old ghost having a mid-death crisis, a pitched battle of wits erupts. 

3–3:45 p.m. 

Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street


Home Made Theater presents “Theatrical Therapy – A Cabaret Performance”

Find out what happened to your favorite musical theater characters after the final curtain. This original piece is filled with laughter and song. Supported by a SaratogaArtsFest program enhancement grant.

5–6 p.m. 

Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street


No. 11 Productions presents “Coosje”

In this whimsical love story two sculptors learn to collaborate in life and art. Meanwhile, a pear falls out of a fruit bowl, gains consciousness, and travels the world.

8–9 p.m.

Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street


June 15

Panel Discussion: “Sport as Art”

Former professional athletes and professionals in the field of collegiate sports will discuss the concept of sport as an art form. Skidmore professor Jeffrey Segrave, a noted expert on the Olympic games and the role of sport in society, will lead the session. Sponsored by the Saratoga National Golf Club.

11 a.m.–noon

Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, ELM Room 117


Heard and Skidmore College present “Spirit of Life: 150(1) Years of Words, Music and Dance”

Choreographer Mary Harney and composer Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius join forces to present original choreography and music, performed live by the jazz group Heard and Skidmore dance and theater students. 

1:15–2:15 p.m.

Skidmore College, Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater 


Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra (SSYO) presents “Neapolitan Renaissance”

SSYO is fresh off a May 30 performance at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Center in New York City, under the direction of Maestro Gioacchino Longobardi. They represented the Saratoga Region in one of a thousand concerts that took place around the world as part of the Thousand Tones Project in tribute to Japanese Tsunami victims.  


Today, journey back to the 18th century with the musicians of SSYO as they explore and present for your listening enjoyment a Neapolitan Renaissance experience.

1:30–2:30 p.m.

Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall


“Fame High”

From Academy Award nominee Scott Hamilton Kennedy comes a documentary exploring the trials and tribulations of talented teens as they reach for their dreams of becoming actors, singers, dancers, and musicians. Kennedy will be on hand to discuss the film.

2–4 p.m.

Dee Sarno Theater at the Arts Center, 320 Broadway


Hubbard Hall Projects presents “Serenata Italiana: Exploring the Music of Italy”

Hubbard Hall Opera Theater presents a concert featuring music ranging from powerful and familiar arias by Verdi and Leoncavallo, to popular songs by Tosti, Donaudy, and others. This concert explores the music of Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries and features the talents of four outstanding opera performers. 

4:30–5:30 p.m.

Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall



Instead of hunting for scarce parking spots for ArtsFest and Flag Day festivities, arts and parade lovers can support free professional theater by parking downtown with Saratoga Shakespeare Company.


The Company will open The Saratogian’s private lot for public parking during ArtsFest on Saturday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to midnight.


The lot, located at Maple Avenue and Caroline Street, has its entrance on Pavilion Row. A $10 donation can be made to Saratoga Shakespeare Company by cash, check or credit card.



For single event admission pricing and more programming information visit the ArtsFest Center and Gallery, 385 Broadway or SaratogaArtsFest.org 


Published in News
Thursday, 08 August 2013 14:54

Saratoga En Pointe

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Residents of Saratoga, along with the thousands of tourists that flock to the race course every summer may be curious why there are dozens of five-foot statues of pointe ballet shoes on display all over town.

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Artisan and Crafters’ Market has received the go-ahead from the City of Saratoga Springs to add Artisan Food Vendors to its weekly market at High Rock Park, every Friday from 1–7 p.m.

Published in News