par•tic•i•pate: verb. take part in, engage in, join in, get involved in, share in, play a part/role in, be a participant in, partake in, have a hand in, be associated with *ART
While it has been said that we live in a cultural desert, there are many ways to pARTicipate in NNY that will keep you warm inside, help you connect with oTers, and simultaneously bring on the “cool.”
In early January, Snowtown Film Festival President Mark Knapp told me with infectious smile, “It’s gonna be huge for our community!”
The event, held on Jan. 27 – 28 was, as he predicted, a sold out opening night full of enthusiastic people sporting smiles and dressed to impress for the “flannel red carpet.” The 2017 Snowtown Film Festival planning team narrowed an astounding 832 submissions to 26 for the short film competition. Several full length films were run as well.
One of the fine moments of the Festival (and season) was the appearance of well-known artist and Watertown High School graduate, Viggo Mortensen. After the showing of his thought provoking movie, “Captain Fantastic”, the two-time Academy Award nominee took questions from the appreciative home town crowd. Then, Mr. Mortensen was presented with an original metal sculpture of a crow, entitled “Rascal”, by the sculptor Will Salisbury, (also see his large crows next to Interstate 81 near Alexandria Bay) for “his dedication to the North Country and contribution to the arts.”
Also in its third year is the Hammond Barn Quilt Trail. These original, professional looking artworks are popping up all over the north country. They are painted on large boards and affixed to barns, houses, businesses, government buildings. There are at least 50 completed and more to come. The colorful works are lovely year-round, but really stand out against the cool of winter.
Take it to the next step by visiting the barn quilters’ studio, in the basement of the Hammond Free Library. It is open 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, and additional hours by request. The public is welcome to observe, chat, and create. Former art teacher Pam Winchester, along with the others in the group, are excited to help anyone who is interested. They offer “brushes, tools and camaraderie.” Alternatively, barn quilts may be purchased, which helps to defray costs of running the public art program.
Jennifer McGregor recently finished and mounted her piece, “Scottish Pride” on her barn in Hammond. It was designed to reflect her heritage, blending the traditional thistle and tartan. “This is something that is brand new for me. I paint, but not artistically. I had lots of help by people here. There is always someone on hand to help if needed.” As she prepared a board for a new painting, Jen said, “There is teamwork down here!”
The Barn Quilters’ community spirit carries this project into new areas and activities each year. Pam Winchester is working on a piece themed around her mother’s tea set and will welcome the community to a unique kind of tea party upon completion. The group is planning a garden barn quilt project and a fairy house project for this summer. Mrs. Winchester says “You see a need in the community and you do it.” And accompanying artist Nancy Misenko continued, “We know how to get things done!”
Continuing northeast, visit the Frederic Remington Museum, in Odgensburg, NY. It is located in the former home of one of the premier artists of the Westward Expansion. Remington became famous for his action packed sculptures, illustrations and paintings. Melanie Flack, director of development, has been spinning off of the national trend in museums by offering high energy participatory events within the traditionally staid museum setting. One of the Remington galleries has been reconfigured to allow floor space for yoga amongst the art. This “draws people into the galleries and invites them to experience the Remington art in a new way, and they have such an amazing setting in which to enjoy their yoga,” says Executive Director Laura Foster. The Museum has also hosted “Tai Chi. Taste. Tie-Dye.” All of this is in addition to their regular repertoire of tours and lecture series about Remington’s work and life. While an internationally acclaimed collection, this is a particularly accessible art gallery experience for children and art neophytes.
One of the area’s best kept secrets is the Pottery Studio located behind and run by the TI Arts Center. Curriculum-based after school clay classes begin in March for grades K-8. The pottery studio is open year-round for adults who already have experience in clay, during designated hours. Adjacent, on John Street, the main building has a room full of weaving looms available for public use on Wednesdays. Upstairs is a surprisingly comprehensive library on all things related to fabric or textiles. The current show in the main building is called “Art of Winter.” This annual exhibit is traditionally inclusive, featuring work by a range of artists, from children to professional. The exhibit closes on April 1, 2017.
Also in Clayton is the annual Fire and Ice Celebration, February 16-18, at the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel. The celebration features 20,000 pounds of carved ice. Sculptors from The Ice Farm in Auburn, NY, bring in the ice and will begin work on Wednesday, February 15, in the afternoon, finishing in time for the adult only evening event on Thursday. The public is welcome to stop over to watch the process. “I love watching them piece the sculptures together, to take large 300 pound pieces of ice, take a saw and a chisel to make something,” said Todd Buchko, General Manager for Harbor Hotel.
This event is a fundraiser supporting North Country Troopers Assisting Troops. “We are here for a great cause, to get people moving around, see friends that they haven’t seen in a while. We are happy to do it,” said Buchko. The ice sculptures will continue to be on display for public viewing until Mother Nature has her way.
The North Country Arts Council, on Public Square, Watertown, is a non-profit whose mission is to promote all art forms. The organization chartered in 1948 as the North Country Artists Guild, and is arguably the oldest art council in the United States. Today it is run entirely by volunteers. The NCAC works to offer a clearinghouse for arts opportunities, sell local art in the gallery, run educational programming, and produce a variety of events. Towards these goals, the NCAC welcomes anyone with interest in enhancing the cultural climate of Northern New York to join in. Meetings are open to the public.
Participation in Northern New York crosses career paths, religious and political affiliation. It is a great way to celebrate beauty and ideas while building community. Few of us will become Academy Award winners, but for all of us, quality of life can be enriched by getting active at some level and in some aspect of the arts, warming us in this “cool” desert we call home.
Kari Zelson Robertson is a clay artist. Her studio is at 28279 state Route 126, Rutland Center. She makes sculpture to use, hand-built and wheel thrown serving bowls, vases and drinking vessels. Her studio is attached to her farmhouse. She runs a fair weather gallery next door, open by appointment in the fall and winter. Contact her at karizelsonrobertson.com.