Swingin’ Through The Holidays: Rock This Town Orchestra coming to Watertown

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NNY Arts in the Winter


Kari Robertson

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.

“Making” Good in NNY

Garrett McCarthy, Henderson Harbor artist

Garrett McCarthy, Henderson Harbor

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Pollen problem: Extreme NNY weather has seasonal allergies on the rise

WATERTOWN — Days get longer, flowers begin to bloom and temperatures rise — the emergence of spring in the north country is truly a cause for celebration, especially after a record-setting cold winter. [Read more…]

Jennings spearheading dog park efforts, gets NNY foundation involved

Trey Mathis, Watertown, plays with his dogs, Archie, right, and Liberty, on Kite Hill at Thompson Park on Thursday afternoon. Northern New York will experience warm autumn weather reaching into the mid-70s over the next week. Amanda Morrison / Watertown Daily Times

City Councilman Stephen A. Jennings is now leading the charge for the city to donate land for a proposed dog park.

Mr. Jennings has arranged for the Northern New York Community Foundation to be the conduit for any money raised for the proposed park. The nonprofit organization agreed to hold on to the account during fundraising efforts for the project following a meeting with Mr. Jennings on Tuesday night. “I think there’s a lot of support for a dog park,” Mr. Jennings said.

He is working with the foundation and Scott A. Gates, who has been lobbying for a dog park in Watertown for eight years, to get interested people involved in a committee to work on the project. They also are working on how to go about the fundraising campaign.

“Basically, Stephen Jennings has decided to champion our cause,” Mr. Gates said.

At the Sept. 15 meeting, council members informally agreed to support donating city land for the project, warning Mr. Gates that no city money would be used to build or maintain the dog park.

Since then, the city Planning Department has started doing some initial research on what it would take to create a dog park. Planners also took a look at potential sites at Thompson Park, Sewall’s Island, the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds and Waterworks Park, off Huntington Street.

“I’d like to see it at the fairgrounds,” said Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham, adding it would be more centrally located than at Thompson Park, which has been discussed in the past.

City Planner Andrew T. Nichols said a dog park would need about two acres of fenced-in land. Typically, the dog park would be divided into two paddocks, one for large dogs and the other for smaller ones, he said. [Read more…]

Watertown Farm & Craft Market ending on high note with diverse crowds

A crowd wanders through the Watertown Farm & Craft Market in fine weather Wednesday. Norm Johnston / Watertown Daily Times

A family from Seattle on Wednesday sampled flavors of tomato-garlic oil offered by Cheeky Monkey Foods, a Syracuse vendor that made its debut this season at the Watertown Farm & Craft Market.

“It’s different than anything I’ve ever tried before,” Leslie K. Martinis said. The delicacy comes from one of several vendors new this season at the popular Washington Street market, which will end its 37th season next Wednesday.

Vendors, meanwhile, said they have enjoyed business from a stream of new customers each week at the market, hosted by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. This season, the chamber expanded the number of vendor spaces from 53 to 60.

Amos Race, who runs Cheeky Monkey Foods with his wife, Leah, said he has been impressed by the diversity of customers drawn to the market because of its proximity to Fort Drum.

“It’s a good location near the base, because there’s a continuous supply of people circulating here,” Mr. Race said. “Normally at markets you get a splash at the beginning of the summer, and then it levels off. But here there’s been a constant influx of new customers.”

Illustrating that point was the Seattle family who sampled and bought tomato-garlic oil at Mr. Race’s booth on Wednesday. Mrs. Martinis was accompanied by her mother, Kathleen M. Herrin; daughter, Lauren K. Turner, whose husband is a soldier stationed at Fort Drum; and 1-year-old granddaughter, Kaydence L.

Mrs. Herrin, who shops at a farmers market north of Seattle on Whidbey Island, said the Watertown market is “much bigger and better” by comparison. “I’m seeing a lot of different things here,” she said. [Read more…]

Five Things Friday – September 19

TGIF! Welcome to Five Things Friday, the best way to wrap up your workweek and kick off the weekend. We’ve got your all-inclusive list of what’s going on in the north country this weekend!

1) This weekend, there are tons of ways to get outside and enjoy the somewhat warm weather while we still have it. On Saturday at 10 a.m., the Frederic Remington Art Museum is hosting its Color Me Remington 5K Run Walk/Run on the Maple City Trail in Ogdensburg. You can register up to and including the morning of the race for $30; children 6 years old and younger, free. Participants receive a shirt and sunglasses. Wear a white shirt and be prepared to transform into a work of art with color powders! For more info, call the museum at 393-2425. If you’re closer to Lowville, you can take part in the Cheese Chase 5K and Kids’ Fun Run on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Lewis County Fairgrounds! This run, hosted by the USO Fort Drum, is part of the 10th Annual Cream Cheese Festival. Registration is from 7:30 to 8:40 a.m. the morning of the race. The fee is $20; retired or active military, $15. A third race on Saturday is the ACS River Rompers 5K Run/Walk and 1K Fun Run For The Cure, at Alexandria Central School, 34 Bolton Ave., Alexandria Bay. This race will benefit the American Cancer Society. Registration is Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. The 1K Fun Run is at 9:30 a.m. The 5K Run/Walk is at 10 a.m. Registration is $25 on race day, or $20 prior to race day. For more info, call 482-9971 or email tlowe@alexandriacentral.org. Also on Saturday, the Parishville Amvets Ladies Auxiliary Post 265 is holding their 11th annual five mile walk-a-thon at 9:30 a.m. at 5 Catherine St., Parishville. Register at 9 a.m. for $10. Join in for prizes and snacks after the walk. All proceeds will go to Hospice, Potsdam Animal Shelter and Paws with a Cause. For more info, call Michelle at 212-0469 or Diane at 265-4219. If you’re not all 5K-ed out by Sunday, there’s one more! The Greater Massena Ministerial Association will hold their Stamp Out Starvation (SOS) walk/5K Run at 2 p.m. on Sunday at First United Methodist Church, 189 Main St., Massena. This race will benefit the Salvation Army, Massena Neighborhood Center, St. Vincent De Paul and Massena Meals on Wheels. For more info, contact St. Mary’s Rectory at 764-0239. [Read more…]

Annual CMN Baby Photo Contest is this weekend

Calling all cute babies.

Children’s Miracle Network of Northern New York at Samaritan Medical Center is hosting its annual Baby Photo Contest, presented by Creative Imaging Fine Photography, Friday through Sunday in an effort to raise funds for sick and injured children throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

“The great thing about this is it’s $1 per vote,” said Morgan O’Brien Bocciolatt, CMN development manager. “We have many people who participate because it’s just a dollar. It’s really fun to see how supportive family and friends are with kids.”

Last year, there were 22,980 votes cast, spread across 137 contestants. Between entry fees and sponsorship, $24,735 was raised for the nonprofit. Local families, hospitals and health organizations all benefit from CMN fundraisers. This year’s fundraising goal is $20,000.

The 2014 Baby Photo Contest will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday in center court of Salmon Run Mall, 21182 Salmon Run Mall Loop West. The contest will continue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

All participants must be 5 years old or younger. The entry fee is $15 per child, or $10 per child if families enter more than one child. The maximum number of participants is 300; the first 200 will receive a free goodie bag.

While children are waiting, CMN will have family fun activity stations.

Credit for the success of the event goes partially to Creative Imaging Fine Photography owners James H. and Kathy S. Naklick, Miss Bocciolatt said, because “they’ll have a kid not wanting a picture taken and get a smile out of them.”

“It’s inspiring to see,” Miss Bocciolatt said. “I get to be right in the middle of everything.”

Every registrant will receive a 5-by-7 photograph, and parents and guardians have the option to purchase packages from Creative Imaging.

The 2013 first-place winner, who received $2,000 cash, was Lily Kowalcyzk, infant daughter of Elisa Cesario and Jay Kowalcyzk, Black River.

Cash prizes this year again will be $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place.

That will be motivation, Miss Bocciolatt said, for families to campaign for their cause until online voting takes place Oct. 6 to 9. There will be a voting day Oct. 10 in the mall, and the awards ceremony will take place the following day at the mall.

For more information, visit www.cmnbabyphotocontest.com.


By Rebecca Madden, Times Staff Writer