Hey there, Emily Armstrong

emily armstrong 2013

We're trying out a new, semi-regular series in which we ask an interesting person a few questions -- sometimes because they have something specific going on, sometimes just because we figure they'll say something interesting. It'll probably change along the way.

First up: Emily Armstrong -- artist, art teacher, video producer, drink and draw organizer, compulsive creative person. She just a released a new video called This is Troy.

We talked about Troy as fertile ground, sassy figure models, starting something because it doesn't exist, and the desire to be creative.

You've made this film about Troy -- how'd that come about?

In 2009, 2010 I had been making a lot of videos on YouTube because a lot of my friends who had lived in the area had moved away and I hadn't made new friends, yet. I came home from a long road trip and I had bronchitis, so I was just watching videos of cute things, like I just need to zone out. And I eventually stumbled upon some video that was the VlogBrothers, and I was just like, what is this thing? And I watch like 300 of their videos in a very sick, almost coma. And I was like, I want to be able to respond to these people.

So I started making videos in that way, and built sort of a network of friends who were doing the same thing, around the world, around the country. And then I wondered, is there anybody in Troy who's making videos in this way? And so I just put Troy, New York into YouTube and I came up with one result. And it was like this terrible mockumentary, mock travel video -- like RPI students filming back alleys in April. Like (mock narration tone) "Troy is such a safe place to be. It's so welcoming and friendly."

Maybe you are from somewhere far away so you don't realize it, but there's enough hate for Troy in the area. I grew up in Saratoga, and a lot of my family is from Schenectady, my uncles and my family friends are all like, "Oh, you live in Troylet!" I mean, what's that? Schenectady? Come on.

And it's just like... screw you. Maybe you are from somewhere far away so you don't realize it, but there's enough hate for Troy in the area. I grew up in Saratoga, and a lot of my family is from Schenectady, my uncles and my family friends are all like, "Oh, you live in Troylet!" I mean, what's that? Schenectady? Come on.

So, I'm like, there are so many cool things happening in Troy -- and this was 2008, 2009 -- there are so many cool things happening now, but even then there are so many awesome things happening that I need to make a video. And I initially thought I would start out by talking about the criticisms, but this is how I see Troy, and sort of narrate the whole thing and have footage of different cool things that were happening. The I slowly worked on it, and then last summer, the beginning of this summer, I'm like, I should just interview people and have them talk about the cool things they're doing. And I interviewed a bunch of people last summer and this summer. And I asked them three questions:

+ Why Troy?
+ What do you do in Troy?
+ What's your favorite thing about Troy?

And then I just pieced their answers together to create a narrative of what Troy looks like today for people who enjoy living here, being here, playing here.

So what do you hope people take away from this after they watch it?

I'm hoping they'll feel the energy that's in Troy. It's easy to miss if you're just driving through. The sort of creative, entrepreneurial, let's-do-this energy that exists here among the people who are here. And I hope the sort of people who would fit well with that will be like, "Yeah, maybe I want to move there." You know, they could share it friends they've been trying to get to move here. Like, "No, no, seriously, look at all these people, look at how they feel about it, look at what they're doing."

What is it about Troy right now that makes it feel that way?

It's the people -- the people that are here doing all these things. So many of the different people I meet are involved in so many different projects. And no matter their age, their race, their background, these people are just excited about Troy and the cool things we can do here.

There's certain opportunities here. There's cheap rent. It's affordable to live here in ways it's not affordable in other cities. And if you pay less to live, then you have more time to do the things that actually make you happy.

There's certain opportunities here. There's cheap rent. It's affordable to live here in ways it's not affordable in other cities. And if you pay less to live, then you have more time to do the things that actually make you happy.

So, I've been working with Hezzie Johanson, the executive director at the CAC Woodside. We've been working on a tool library. Things that like. We have the space to do these things.

You're one of these people who's involved a lot of different stuff and one of them is Pasties, Pencils, and Pints.

Yes. That's a labor of love for me. I see a lot of people participating in these drink and draws in other areas. And I'm like, "Ooh, I wish I could go to one of those." I like figure drawing. How do you get someone to model for you outside of a class? It's not necessarily cheap. Getting someone to sit for you, finding someone, it's complicated. And the [drink and draws have] interesting performers, like the kind of person you'd maybe want to draw on the bus or something and hope they didn't realize you were doing it.

I looked into it and it's a franchise and you have to give them, like, $200 initially and then you pay them dues each month. And I didn't know that I'd be able swing that. And I talked to a friend who had a business, and he was like, "Why don't you just start your own thing?"

So, OK, how can I get that here? Because the nearest one was in New York City or New Haven, Connecticut. I looked into it and it's a franchise and you have to give them, like, $200 initially and then you pay them dues each month. And I didn't know that I'd be able swing that. And I talked to a friend who had a business, and he was like, "Why don't you just start your own thing?"

So I worked with KC Orcutt and and she helped me come up with a name. And it's Pasties, Pencils, and Pints. And I just sort of took charge. And DJ Heat Machine from WDCB, I had seen her DJ events before and I asked her to DJ, so she's been there every single event and sets the mood with some 90s college jams. And I book different local performers, interesting people. Sometimes people contact me, and they're like, "I've been this figure model for all these times..." And I'm much less likely to book them versus, "I am a burlesque performer, I am a drag queen, I am a roller derby girl." I want a certain sass. It doesn't necessarily come with being a figure model, though sometimes they can go hand in hand.

You do describe it as a "sassy drink and draw."

It needs to be sassy. And it's like, the model is supposed to be sexy and everybody's encouraged to cheer for them. The model's working their sex appeal -- whatever that means for for him and her. And people are supportive of it and people cheer, no matter if that's somebody that they'd be attracted to. That's irrelevant, they're there and they're participating and doing an encouraging, fun thing.

Every now and then I make enough money to be able to pay myself back for flyering. But generally I need to make enough money to make sure my model gets paid a certain base amount, and try to shoot the DJ and the photographer money. We get like 20-40 people depending on the event.

If I wasn't doing it, it wouldn't be here. If it already existed, I wouldn't feel the need to start a competing one. I'd just go to that.

And we've been doing that at 51 3rd [in Troy], which has been a really nice fit. It's a quirky space. And the people that come to Pasties, Pencils, and Pints are not necessarily the people who come to 51 3rd shows. So I get a lot of people who are like, "What is this place? This place is really cool."

A lot of this kind of stuff doesn't make money. So, what is the motivating thing for you?

If I wasn't doing it, it wouldn't be here. If it already existed, I wouldn't feel the need to start a competing one. I'd just go to that.

I have a friend I went to college with, Jack Shafer, has come up alongside me and kind of made himself my righthand man and has been supporting me and helping me find sponsors and help me advertise. And he was like, "I just don't want to see you get burned out by this because I like this so much. This is important to me, so I want to help you continue this in existence."

You make this film, you do the drink and draws, you make comics sometimes, you have a podcast. You seem like a person who can't help but be creative.

Yeah. I really like to make things.

Why is that?

I think it's in my blood. I don't know. My mom likes to make things. We made things to pass the time. I'm an art teacher, I like to teach people to make things -- even if I'm not being paid to do so. I've had get together withs friends where I'm like, I'll teach you how to bind books.

And it's a little bit political. Some of the things I make because I feel like there's a lot of businesses that would rather you buy things and then throw things out. So to be able to fix your things or make your things instead of buying them, it's like, oh, I can make myself a notebook and it costs me like maybe a dollar and it took me an hour and I now have this unique thing that no one else has -- or I can go buy a Moleskine and that's going to cost $12 and it's made in China and they try to excuse that by saying China has nice paper.

So it's something that's always been in my blood, a compulsion of mine. That's like my hobby. Some people like Star Wars -- and I like to make things.

Last thing. Complete the sentence: "Troy is ____"

I don't know... Troy is just really... rad.

Rad? We don't think we've heard anyone use rad in like 15 years (laughing)

(Laughing) Yeah, Troy is rad.

Troy is filled with great opportunities for people to get involved, for people to start things, to make things happen. Abby Lublin, in my video, said that Troy is sort of like an incubator for cool things. I think that's pretty true. Troy is fertile -- Troy is fertile ground.

This interview was edited and condensed.
____

The next Pasties, Pencils, and Pints is November 21 at 51 3rd Street in Troy. The model will be roller derby girl Trixie Firecracker.

Comments

I hope this encourages more people to come Enjoy Troy!

KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

Well done to the both of you. Thanks for sharing.

Go Emily!!

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