The Art of Weddings: Mennonite traditions and more

Ruthann Roggie (Lowville, NY) shows Camilla Ammirati (TAUNY) and Rosanna Moser (AMHF) the dress she made for her 1962 wedding. Photo by Camilla Ammirati. Courtesy of TAUNY Archives.

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The Art of Barn Quilts

Fancy Basket Weaver Carrie Hill of Chill Baskets (Akwesasne, NY) shows a close-up of her 4’x4’ Barn Quilt-Inspired New Work, “Sewatkátho (Look)”.

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Artful Living: The Art of Home Cooking

Lynn Case Ekfelt, author of the cookbook and Camilla Ammirati, director of research and Programs at TAUNY make Calabrese Turdilli, Italian wine cakes.

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A Fusion of Art And Spirit : Creating and teaching from within

Christine Tisa puts the finishing touches on a painting in her studio located in Clayton.

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Artful Living: The home of handweaving

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Artful Living Profile: Duane Smith

Duane Smith grows fig trees in his own backyard, he has been growing them for years and he liked to incorporate them in his art and in his cooking.

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50 Years STRONG: Thousand Islands Arts Center Celebrates Years of Creative Development

Thousand Islands Arts Center executive director Leslie Rowland.

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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

The fine art of ‘slow gifting’ for the creative souls on your list

Kari Zelson Robertson

Kari Zelson Robertson

Like it says in the song, there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. Diamonds? Puppies? Even food is tastier and better for you when made from materials that are close to the source. In Italy, they call it the “Slow Food” movement. It’s catching on here, too, as we start to appreciate regional traditions and locally available ingredients. We want to know from where, who, and by what processes our consumer items come to us.
In my world, this translates to my manmade surroundings. My home is more than 200 years old. The hand hewn timbers show the marks and some logs still have the bark on them. They tell a story of real people and naturally occurring materials. I also collect and proudly display art and craft work by people who I have met. Their stories are now part of my story and I enjoy their pieces every day.
In Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book, Future Shock, he predicted the stress induced by too much change in too short a time. He wrote about the downside of massive amounts of information piled upon us in our love affair with technology, overwhelming the human spirit. Interestingly, he also predicted a pendulum swing response, in the form of a renewed hunger for craft and art in the everyday.
Here in the north country, we are fortunate to live our own kind of slow movement. We take time to note and celebrate the beauty around us, to take time. This year, as you think about how you would like to embrace the season, I propose Slow Gifting, a movement toward finding authentic instead of mass-produced objects.
Seek out the creative makers in your area, and think about how their pieces can enhance quality of life for you and your friends and family. This is a perfect time to shop with an eye to regional tradition, authentic materials, and your entrepreneurial community. Have fun “slow gifting” this year. It will be memorable.


These are one-stop-shops offering work by multiple artists at each location.


53 Main St., Canton

Bayhouse Artisans

21 James St., Alexandria Bay

Fibonacci 321 Gallery

321 James St., Clayton

North Country Arts Council

52 Public Square, Watertown

Lake St. Lawrence Art Gallery

10 Main St., Waddington



For the more adventurous and curious, here are a few favorites. The following are professionals who also have gallery and studio spaces that are worth investigating. Here, you have the opportunity to talk to the person who made the item, and to get personal assistance in learning about and choosing just the right thing.

Scott Ouderkirk, stained glass, illustration, 291 River Road, Hammond,

Scott and his family run the art studio and sustainable farming project. They also keep bees, goats, and always have great projects in the queue.

Lisa Nortz, jeweler, 8270 Soft Maple Road, Croghan,

A second-generation silversmith, Lisa does all sorts of things with silver. She hammers, bends, braids, solders and sets stones. You will say, “ah” as you wind your way through the woods to her place.

Greg Lago, printmaking and sculpture, 12975 House Road, Clayton,

Greg is a Renaissance Man and knows at least a little bit about everything. He has a ton of information about local history that translates to his prints of scenes, stories, ideas about life. The work is truly magical, unusual in design and perspective. His workspace is off the beaten track, but only a few minutes from the village, and a very interesting location to soak in.

Larry Barone, painter, 115 W. Main St., Sackets Harbor,

Larry has been working as an artist nearly every day since retiring as an art educator. His pastels, mostly local scenery are nuanced, richly dimensional. He is a master. His bright and airy studio is on the main road in Sackets, where he always has a piece on the easel.

Cathie Ellsworth, clay, Paddock Art and Antiques, 1 Public Square, Suite 6, Watertown

Cathie makes lovely and unique hand-built serving bowls, platters and raku. Her daughter, Claire also sells drawings at the shop, with a focus on charcoal. Both women are certified art educators, with years of experience as trained artists. Their space is in the oldest covered mall in the United States, the Paddock Arcade.

Michael Ringer, painting, bronze sculpture and books, 47382 Dingman Point Road, Alexandria Bay,

Michael, another former art educator, has been making art his full-time business since 1990. He has also published books of his work, highlighting life on the river.


In the third and final category, and panning further out, here are links to art trails, mapped overviews of the hotspots. These links throw open the doors to all sorts of local art world connections that are quietly bubbling around us:

NNY ART TRAIL New in 2016, this trail covers studios and galleries in Jefferson-Lewis-St. Lawrence counties.


Sponsored by the St. Lawrence Arts Councilin Potsdam, this trail covers artists in the St. Lawrence County region.


Initiated by the Adirondack North Country Association, this Art Trail covers everything north of Interstate 90 and east of Interstate 81. It is sortable by location, materials, name of artist and/or gallery.


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

Spring 2016 Feature Story: Art

A creative collaboration

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up  the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 brings 11 artists together in Clayton

By Gabrielle Hovendon, NNY Living

When Kari Zelson Robertson first came up with the idea for Clayton’s newest art gallery, she was thinking all in clay.

Ms. Robertson, a local potter and organizer of the Northern New York Art Trail, had wanted to establish a collaborative gallery with multiple artists paying the bills, staffing the exhibits and reaping the rewards of a common space. At first, she planned to include only clay artists, but she later decided that she — and the public — would be more interested in a variety of art media.

And so Fibonacci 321 was born. Opening May 6 at 321 James St. in Clayton, the gallery will feature finely crafted work in wood, metal, clay, textiles, glass, drawing and painting by 11 north country artists.

“I think this is going to be a unique offering because the variety of artists we have is really interesting,” said Ms. Robertson, who manages and is also an exhibiting artist at Fibonacci 321. “We have around two people for each medium, and they’re local artists who are very committed to their craft. These are people who have extensive experience in exhibiting their work. A few of them are or have been teachers, and they’re generally looking for a way, as I am, to stay in the north country. We like it here, we want to continue to live here, and we’re hoping it will make our work even more worthwhile.”

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in  the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 is organized democratically around the premise that the 11 participating artists will share equally in the running of the gallery. Although each artist will keep the proceeds from the sale of their own artwork, they will take turns staffing the gallery and divide up tasks like scheduling, website design and grounds upkeep.

Additionally, each artist is responsible for knowing about their fellows’ background, works and processes so that they can explain all the exhibited pieces to interested visitors. Ms. Robertson said she also envisions future collaborations between the artists, and she’s already had one of her clay “fossil” pieces mounted in a jewelry setting by one of the jewelers.

“What I was really looking for were people who were highly accomplished in their field and who were good team players and hard working,” she said about forming the gallery’s roster. “I’m glad for the chance to be able to do this and collaborate with some really interesting artists.”

One such artist, Mary Knapp, is a local quilter who incorporates mathematical patterns such as tessellations — and, fittingly, the Fibonacci series — into her precise, colorful quilts. She’s been quilting for many years, even having one of her designs grace the cover of a mathematics textbook, but she said she’s never been involved in a collaborative endeavor like Fibonacci 321.

“Part of the appeal of the gallery is that it’s a group of 11 different artists and we’re all bringing a little piece of ourselves into the gallery,” she said. “I think it’s just going to be a lot of fun. There’s nothing else like this gallery in Clayton or anyplace along the river. It’s going to be classy, it’s going to be unique, and it’s going to have items there that you can’t find anywhere else.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the visitors to the gallery,” she continued. “I was a teacher, and I love showing people how to do things, so I will really enjoy showing them how I work and how they can do this.”

Owned by the Thousand Islands Arts Center, the gallery’s James Street site has previously been home to a resident potter, arts classes and, most recently, gift shops. Now, it will continue in that tradition of arts education, at least informally: Ms. Robertson hopes to see not only customers shopping for a special gift but also families bringing in their children to show them handmade work. (To that end, the gallery is also planning to host some demonstrations and outdoor activities.)

According to Leslie Rowland, executive director of the Thousand Islands Arts Center, Fibonacci 321 is ideally situated for visitors: it’s both in a desirable commercial space in downtown Clayton and at the entrance to the TI Arts Center campus.

What’s in a name?

Leonardo Bonacci (1170 – 1250) — known as Fibonacci, and Leonardo of Pisa, Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, Leonardo Fibonacci—was an Italian mathematician, considered to be “the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages.”

fib WEBFibonacci gave his name to a sequence of numbers whose proportions echo throughout the natural world. The Fibonacci sequence, which is formed by adding the previous two numbers in the sequence together (for example, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8), has been found in flower petals, pinecones, hurricanes, shell spirals and even galaxy patterns. The Fibonacci sequence is also the foundation for the “Golden Ratio” or “Divine Proportion,” which can be seen in ancient art and architecture.

“Essentially, the idea is that there’s a natural order and beauty that pervades math and art,” Kari Zelson Robertson said about the gallery’s name choice. “And 321 is a reverse Fibonacci number, so it seems to fit.”

“I think there’ll be an organic pass-through of people between our galleries,” Ms. Rowland said. “We always love to collaborate with fellow artists, and we’re really delighted to have this fine group of artisans located on our campus. I think it’s going to be a win-win for us, and I think it’s going to be really good for Clayton, too.”

Ms. Robertson agreed that the location was ideal, with the back of Fibonacci 321’s seven-room gallery adjacent to the TI Arts Center’s pottery studio. Like Ms. Rowland, she anticipates a good flow of visitors between the two sites.

“One of the things that is exciting about being in Clayton is the growth of activity in the creative sector,” Ms. Robertson said. “This synergy is something that our group appreciates and wants to be a part of. …There is enough arts and lifestyle activity going on there that the village has become an attraction. A visitor can eat a fine meal, go to a concert, watch a sunset, and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art, all in one small village.”

The gallery will participate in the Memorial Day weekend River Open Studio Tour, and it will have its grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. May 6, with free refreshments and classical guitar music by Gary Walts. That night, the artists will be on hand to discuss their work and show visitors around the space, hoping that people will not only purchase the art on display but also learn something about it.

“I think that when people know more about the arts, they’re more interested in owning a piece of art,” Ms. Robertson said. “A lot of times, people might not know what it takes to create something, and when you learn about the process, it makes you appreciate it more. Regardless of whether there’s a sale, we want to be the kind of place where people can come in and they can learn something, enjoy themselves, and have a nice conversation.”

Fibonacci 321 / Who’s who

Meet The Artists

The 11 artist-hosts of Fibonacci 321 are:
Dave Ciechanowski — clay
Peter Curtis — fine furniture
Foster Holcombe — glass
Ginny Hovendon — painting, drawing
Mary Knapp — quilts
Greg Lago — printmaking, sculpture
Brian Lister — painting
Claudia Loomis — textiles, jewelry
Suzan McDermott — photography
Kari Zelson Robertson — clay
Gina Wells — metals, jewelry.

To Learn More

For more information, visit the gallery’s Facebook page at or contact Kari Zelson Robertson at or 777-0612.

Gabrielle Hovendon is a former Watertown Daily Times reporter and a freelance writer studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, Athens. Contact her at