Uptown Summer 2014: Environmental Justice for Our Local Community & Beyond

Participants gained hands-on experience gardening in the Collard City Growers lot, fixing bikes and learning bike maintenance at Troy Bike Rescue, cooking and sharing food in “DIY SnackShops” at the garden and in the Sanctuary Kitchen, and documenting their experiences through digital storytelling and media production techniques with Youth Media Sanctuary. Uptown Summer unites resources and connects the sites of these four community programs, all located within one block on 6th Avenue.

Check out WMHT’s documentary AHA A House for Arts: Uptown Summer at The Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The Story of Uptown Summer 2014

Participants in Uptown Summer 2014 started the five-week program with a workshop on the art of journalism, led by Albany Times Union Deputy City Editor Rob Brill.

The youth connected to their neighborhood shores in the workshop “North Troy Eco-Action: Fishing in the Hudson,” part of the series “Bio Art in an Industrial Wasteland” funded by the NEA. Environmental activist and visual artist Brandon Ballengée taught the youth how to collect specimens and look at the aquatic life of the Hudson River; together they created a Hudson River Eco-Displacement sculpture, a beautiful aquarium with fish from the Hudson’s toxic waters. The collected found objects from the desolate beach at Ingalls Ave. Boat Launch were featured creative elements. We had so much fun!

Produced and edited by local media artist, Ethan Seeley;
cinematography by media and bio artist Kathy High and Ethan Seeley.

We had a “Eco-Battle” between Hudson and Troy youth, with visitors from Kites Nest! Cara Benson, from Millay Arts Colony, returned for a workshop looking at language as “the architecture of information.” And, we had a talent show from North Troy youth, in collaboration with the North Troy Community Center and North Central Little League!

Amarie and Danny put on a short freestyle music show with instruments made out of objects found throughout the community, singing about the theme of Uptown Summer, ‘Environmental Justice’ during a journalism workshop with Times Union writer Rob Brill.

Amari and Danny, “Uptown Summer Environmental Justice”

“What changes do you want in North Troy?” Assemblyman John McDonald visited the ‘Youth Change Makers’ to talk with them about the different problems that North Troy faces and the ways in which he can work with them to improve it.

The ‘Youth Change Makers’ of Uptown Summer worked to paint a beautiful mural on the front of the Sanctuary. The teens selected different quotes from some of their role models and people who inspire them, and then painted them on the front of the Sanctuary to be put on display for all of the community to see.

Amarie and Danny waxing eloquent (rapping eloquent, really!) while preparing smoothies with culled fruit donated by the Honest Weight Food Coop in the kitchen at the Sanctuary.

Video by Ellie Markovitch.

Chef Jackie Baldwin was one of the stars of Uptown Summer 2014, part of a group recruited by Lecco Morris of the Chef’s Consortium to feed a large lunchtime crowd… including the famously picky teen eaters! Chef Jackie volunteered and brought a mountain of food one day a week, delighting in delivering a menu that everyone wanted to eat–full of healthful choices mingled with the hits! Here she is speaking at the last meal of Uptown Summer 2014, soaking up the rapped praise of her lunchtime admirers! Chef Jackie passed away suddenly and way too soon, still in her early ’50s, on March 18, 2016.

Continuing on the theme of healthy food, an impromptu youth workshop in the Fermentation Bus added to the excitement…

The youth also explored the history of North Troy. Kathy Sheehan of the Rensselaer County Historical Society conducted a walking tour on July 9, 2014 that peaked with a visit to an abandoned building that was once a bar with a checkered history. It is where the murder occurred that resulted in the trial of Bat Shea!


CEO YouthBuild, a program for young people ages 16 to 24 that have struggled or dropped out of school, offered their expertise and passion in a community collaboration to help transform a dilapidated historic carriage house at Collard City Growers.

Visiting artists:

Oliver Kellhammer, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Debo Band.

Collaborating organizations:

Troy Bike Rescue, Collard City Growers, Troy Alley Action, Rensselaer County Historical Society, TAP (Troy Architecture Project), Millay Colony

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We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

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