Albany Art Room

December 2, 2009 at 3:05 am (Uncategorized)

It’s not often that one finds a haven for artists, and art lovers nestled in between an infamous Albany tavern and a Tex-mex joint. However, the Albany Art Room seems to have made itself at home within downtown Albany. On busy MadisonAvenue, your eye can’t help but catch the bright pink and purple trim that surrounds the building. It’s a welcoming and friendly exterior, which not only displays the type of business it is, but the type of people running it.

Owner Karen Schupack is the first to greet you as you walk in the door. Standing behind her bright purple desk in her paint-splattered apron, you instantly sense that you can relax here; even make a mess, and leave with something unique.

How it all started

Schupack, originally from California has an extremely varied background. This includes a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Architecture and Historic Preservation, as well as a Masters degree in Elementary Education from St. Rose. The variation continues with her careers in community development, teaching, and educational administration.

Within her teaching career, Schupack sought out positions within private schools. “It just suited my style of teaching better at the time,” she says “I couldn’t really fit into the restrictions of having to prepare kids for tests, and doing a lot of really standardized curriculum. I needed a more open-ended possibility.

This need for an unrestricted and relaxing environment led Schupack to venture into the entrepreneur lifestyle. In 2008, she realized that there was a void in the connection between people and art. “I wanted to do something on my own, and this was a combination of lots of different things that I thought should exist here,” she says.

After getting help to write her business plan from the Entrepreneur Assistance Program, she used $60,000 worth of her own money, and money from family to open up the Albany Art Room.

The Building

Although the building itself is not historic, it is located in a historic district of Albany. This forces any exterior changes to be approved by a historic committee.

Schupack’s purple and pink paint was up for debate by the committee in August of 2008. “My colors had to get approved, and since they’re kind of wild, that wasn’t the easiest task,” she says.

Inside, the Albany Art Room consists of three rooms, each specific to what kind of art one would like to make. The Open Studio room is where customers can create whichever sort of art they choose.

The second room is dedicated to classes, which are taught at the Albany Art Room for both adults and children. The room is also used for birthday parties, which are also available for all ages.

The third room is the newest, and has become the pottery room. Schupack proudly showed off her new kiln and space during the tour. The room offers six new pottery wheels and the space to work with and paint the pottery.

Within the building there is also a gift shop, as well as a mini gallery, which showcases the work of local artists.

Albany Art Room and the community

The Albany Art Room resides in the downtown area of Albany. This area can present some issues.  “It’s urban, we have homeless people wandering in,” Schupack says. However, departing from the area’s issues is the Albany Art Room, and its attempt to enhance the neighborhood.

“There’s very little for families to do, especially, and there’s very little for adults to do, except for eat and drink. It [this business] provides another thing to do in the neighborhood,” Schupack says.  Her business attracts those urban locals as well as those suburbanites, and uses the area to its full advantage; showcasing artists and hosting local schools for field trips.

Her urban location can have a negative impact on her business, however in terms of the parking situation in downtown Albany. Schupack is able to combat this with the off-street parking that the Albany Art Room provides. “Having off-street parking is key. A ton of our customers come in from the suburbs. They don’t want to drive around an urban neighborhood and have to parallel-park,” she says “when they hear it’s near Lark Street they’re afraid that they’re coming here. When they know there’s parking, it helps them get over some of that fear.”

A local customer, Lisa O’Brien, along with her six children, have frequented the Albany Art Room for the last year. O’Brien, like most customers discovered the Art Room by word of mouth. “I heard about it [The Albany Art Room] from my sister-in-law who has triplets, it was a great place for her to come and safely entertain her children. It’s just a really stimulating environment for children,” O’Brien says, “I think this is just such a good thing for the community.”

Fulfilling a need

Schupack’s Art Room is filled with endless possibilities when it comes to producing art. In many lives, art has not been present. This is especially true in those lives where art has been cut from a school program, or a household budget.

In regards to her business’ ability to provide such art supplies and space, Schupack says: “I think it definitely fulfills a need. Whether it’s that they don’t get enough art, or whether the art is too restrictive, and this is more open-ended…for one reason or another they do say this is fulfilling a need that their children have or that they have.”

In terms of who is coming in to fulfill this need, Schupack’s main customers lie within the children of the area. When asked who is most present within the studio, Schupack says: “I guess if its just a question of numbers of people who come in, I think we have more three to five year-olds than any other age group.”

Although three to five year olds may dominate the Art Room, Schupack does acknowledge the fact that a lot of adults benefit from the business, as well as the ages coming together. “Having people of all those different ages and levels of experience mixing together and appreciating each other’s artwork is really a big art of it too. You’ll have a young child painting at the easel, and an experienced adult artist sitting at the table working, and the adult will be watching the child and learning from the child,” she says.

Everyone an artist

The Albany Art Room’s homey and welcoming feel stems from the idea that art should be for everyone. “It’s the idea of helping everyone understand that they can be an artist,” Schupack says.

For a reasonable $7 for one hour, you can relax and be any type of artist you want. Such sensible pricing has left Schupack with a business that is flourishing during national economic hardship.

Schupack’s business has not only been a financial success, but a success in terms of making art accessible to the people of Albany.

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2 Comments

  1. Randy Gaines said,

    Alexis,

    Very well written and packed with all the information anyone could want to know about this business, you are such a talented writer (and I know I’m your dad and all but you really are very good!) and have a great ability to make anyone reading this a part of the story.

    • well.whatta.ya.gonna.do. said,

      aww thanks dad!

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