Our Town: Interpreting the Coeymans Landing Historic District

Artist, Sara Pruiksma set out to capture the character and beauty of the Coeymans Landing Historic District, in a year-long art project, titled Our Town

Throughout 2019, Pruiksma created a series of artwork inspired by the historic buildings and sites throughout the area and exhibited the collection in December at the Ravena Coeymans Historical Society.

Pruiksma and her husband Michael Rizzo bought their first home in Coeymans which quickly became the muse for her new body of work. Shortly after acquiring their home, the couple learned their house was included on the State and National Registers of Historic Places within the Coeymans Landing Historic District, which encompasses the entirety of the historic waterfront hamlet. “It was an exciting time for us” Pruiksma said, “once I painted a portrait of our home, I immediately began thinking about painting other historic properties in the area. The historic buildings give the hamlet the charm that attracted us to buy in Coeymans.”

Using her immediate surroundings as inspiration, Sara incorporates botanical elements to personify architecture and expressive brushstrokes to invoke emotion. Each piece tells a hybrid of stories; combing elements to describe a given places’ current state, history, community input, as well as the artist’s impressions. 

Since 2017, Sara and Michael have been alarmed at the rate in which the footprint of the hamlet has changed… several historic buildings have been knocked down and a few more may meet the same fate if not rehabbed soon. “I hope this project prompts a deeper appreciation of our local history and to look at our community with fresh eyes” Pruiksma says, “I’m concerned about losing the hamlets’ built personality”. 

In 2018, Pruiksma conceived of her Our Town project and began working closely with the Ravena Coeymans Historical Society. President Joseph Boehlke and Trustee John Bonafide were of great assistance to the artist in researching and sourcing historic photographs. “The Ravena Coeymans Historical Society is an incredible asset to our town” said Pruiksma, “John and Joe were gracious in helping me during the infancy of this project, their guidance and assistance was invaluable.”

In February 2019, Pruiksma presented her project at the Historical Society in their lecture series.

Pruiksma began painting “en plein air” as a way of engaging community and raising awareness about the historical significance of the structures, as well as the inherent and often overlooked beauty of the area. 

Pruiksma also partnered with Hakim Jones, Principal, and Art Educator Binnie-Ayn Chriss at Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary School to create an “en plein air” series with its 5th grade Elementary students (right).

To view the Our Town body of work, click Living Architecture and Recorded Architecture.

This project is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Arts Center of the Capital Region.

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