Schenectady, N.Y. – Today marked the official grand opening and ceremonial ribbon cutting for Schenectady’s newest art space, Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery. Located at 107 State Street in Downtown Schenectady, the gallery is unique to the area with its focus on illustration and representational artwork. In addition to original artwork and prints, the shop offers a mix of unusual curated merchandise, everything of good quality and a certain artistic sensibility. The new business opens amidst a wave of redevelopment on this block, highlighted by the Mill Artisan District/Frog Alley project.
Amanda Magnetta-Ottati, the owner-operator of Bear and Bird, comes from a graphic design background and has always been a collector of unusual objects. Amanda is excited to be among the small businesses contributing to the positive growth in Schenectady and the creative economy of the Capital Region as whole. “I see so much potential here,” she said, adding, “Now that we are open, we are really looking forward to becoming more involved in the community and getting to know the people that make the ‘Electric City’ such a unique, interesting place.”
Amanda also runs a second Bear and Bird location in South Florida, which has been in operation since 2007. Amanda and her husband, Tate, moved to Upstate New York from South Florida just over a year ago with their two school age children. Tate’s side of the family has a long history in Schenectady. His paternal grandfather was a turbine grinder at GE until retirement. On his maternal side, the family owned and operated Garofalo’s Meat Market for over 100 years.
“Coming from South Florida, where the big box stores and strip malls have all but taken over, I really have an appreciation for all the fantastic little ice cream shops and longstanding family run businesses in the Capital Region,” Amanda said. “This is a special place, which is getting better all the time. Get out there and support the places you love. We little guys honestly NEED you more than you know!”
The business is located in a more than 100-year-old building on the outer edge of the Stockade Historic District. Much of the store fixtures were plucked from local garage and estate sales and refinished or restored. The wood plank flooring, which is also more than 100 years old, was salvaged from a nearby Stockade building that was being renovated. The shop features a number of charming details, which come together beautifully to create a truly pleasant & welcoming space.
Jim Salengo, executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation (DSIC) said, “We moved our office to Lower State Street in 2009, and since then we have had a front row seat to the steady progression of improvements in this area of downtown. We are thrilled to welcome a unique new neighbor like Bear and Bird that adds to the ongoing vibrancy of Lower State and downtown overall.”
Caroline Bardwell, owner and visionary behind The Schenectady Trading Company at 609 Union Street, fell in love with Bear and Bird’s store mascot “Barry” and speaks fondly of him. “The decision to salvage an 8-foot tall fiberglass bear from Magic Forest, a treasured Upstate New York amusement park that was frozen in time, shows a commitment to creating a one-of-a-kind shopping experience for the American consumer, where vintage and vintage-inspired art and ephemera, unique products, and quirky merchandise that might otherwise feel out of place or overlooked can have a special and wonderful new home all together.” She added, “Barry the Bear is a symbol of potentially lost Americana that can now be discovered all over again, thanks to Amanda and Tate.”
Another local business owner, Jenn Dugan, boss babe at The Makeup Curio at 510 State Street, felt such an affinity with Bear and Bird’s offerings that she told her boyfriend, when he was holiday shopping, “Just go to Bear and Bird and choose anything from there.” He ended up picking out a light blue silkscreen print of a skull made up of delicate white flowers. Helping people connect with artwork, to assist them in curating their own ‘in-home gallery’ is one of the goals of Bear and Bird. The shop is also on the lookout for Capital Region artists and illustrators, for future projects, and has set up a page on their website asking for submissions. [link: bearandbird.com/unyartists]
Following on the heels of the grand opening/ribbon cutting, the gallery will be hosting an opening reception on Saturday, February 1 from 4-6 pm in celebration of their exhibition “Created to Captivate: Obscure Original Vintage Illustration Art,” which features an assortment of lovely vintage illustration pieces. The work featured runs the gamut, from charming 1950s greeting card art to 1980s Frederick’s of Hollywood shoe catalog illustrations–and a lot of fun stuff in between. The crown jewel of the show is the original artwork for the hardcover book jacket of “It Came From Schenectady,” a science-fiction novel published in 1984. The exhibition will run through March 14, 2020.
For more information on the gallery’s history, please visit: www.bearandbird.com/about
Amanda Magnetta-Ottati | Owner / Gallery & Shop Curator | Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery
firstname.lastname@example.org | 954-560-3660
Jim Salengo | Executive Director | Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp.
email@example.com | 518-377-9430