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Art group looks to boost local economy

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- A local art group says Utica is going to look very different in the years to come. Sculpture Space has raised $80,000 to revitalize the city with art and is hoping the state will match those funds.

"There's the idea that the arts contribute to cultural revitalization and contribute to quality of life. Obviously retaining skilled and talented workers, attracting skilled and educated workers," said Monika Burczyk, the executive director of Sculpture Space.

This week Sculpture Space applied for a grant through the Regional Economic Development Councils, hoping to bring in an additional $80,000. They are hoping to facilitate the repair of deteriorating murals in Utica and paint three to four new ones.

"There's an empty overpass we're looking to do some work in and the whole stretch along Oriskany along the Arterial we're looking to put in temporary and permanent installations of art," said Burczyk.

They're also planning to line the new Arterial with chain link fence art, nicknaming the project "Chainge is Coming."

"I think it helps the atmosphere. The Arterial is drab. You know, you drive around the city of Utica and it's uh, if someone does a mural or something colorful, it's something new, it's something different. It's exciting, you know, adds a little brightness to the drabness," said Steven Kowalsky, president of Empire Recycling.

Empire Recycling is just one of the local businesses looking to get involved. They're donating scrap to help build the murals and other companies are donating money.

"Anything that would create an artistic atmosphere in Utica would boost morale which consequentially could boost the economy," said Kowalsky.

Burczyk says it's a way to celebrate what makes Utica unique and says art is a great way to boost the local economy by attracting more people and businesses to the area.

"Utica not only has educational institutions and medical facilities, it also has access to water between the Erie Canal and the harbor front. It also has this rich history of immigration. Utica has the fourth largest immigration population in the northeast. That's a recipe for a city that's on the verge of economic revitalization. We're very lucky that the mayor and the governor as well as the local businesses know about how important vital arts and cultural life is," said Burczyk.

If they obtain the grant they hope to build about ten teams of artists with the goal of bettering the community as a community.

"We'd like to target K through 12 school groups, we'd also like to target maybe elderly citizens, we'd like to target different community associations, the refugee center certainly, the Arc of Oneida County, the Kelberman Center. We can really make this a community celebration," said Burczyk.

Sculpture Space will hear back about the grant in January or February. If they don't receive the additional funds, they will move forward with a smaller scale project. They hope to start next summer.

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