Color the Canal highlights artwork along the Canalway Trail

For the past three years, the Friends of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail has partnered with CREATE Community Studios in Schenectady to bring art to the Capital Region section of the Erie Canalway/Empire State Trail.

It’s a partnership a lifetime in the making – Friends president Gillian Scott and CREATE co-founder Heather Hutchison, both Schenectady residents, have been friends since middle school. In 2019, they combined Gillian’s dedication to the trail and Heather’s passion for community art to create Color the Canal, an art project in which community members of all ages and abilities created art on repurposed lawn signs. The art pieces were placed along the trail to welcome cyclists participating in the Cycle the Erie Canal Ride to Schenectady. 

Color the Canal signs welcomed 2019 Cycle the Erie Canal riders

In 2020, with the ride sidelined by COVID-19, Color the Canal focused on using art signs to promote community and lift spirits during a challenging time. The Friends and CREATE also collaborated on a more permanent piece of public art, creating a mural on a small shelter along the trail in the town of Niskayuna. 

In 2021, the organizations expanded their art ambitions, creating a much larger mural on a building near downtown Schenectady. A community paint day in June drew dozens of community members – some of whom arrived by bike. And smaller pieces of community-created art that once again welcomed Cycle the Erie the Canal cyclists to Schenectady. 

In addition to Color the Canal, the Friends also sponsors trail cleanup projects and oversees a cadre of Canalway Trail Ambassadors. 

These project were made possible with funds from Schenectady County’s CIP grant, and the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Arts Center of the Capital Region.

Learn more at www.mhbht.org/ and www.createcommunitystudios.org. Email Gillian Scott if you are interested in joining her dedicated group of volunteers (gvscott07@verizon.net). You can also follow the Friends on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheMohawkHudsonBikeHikeTrail.

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