Growing the arts

SARANAC LAKE – Sometimes several heads are better than one.

Last Thursday, representatives of local arts venues got together to share ideas on how to increase the presence of the arts in Saranac Lake.

BluSeed Studios Office Coordinator Michelle Hannon developed the idea with Saranac Lake Artworks President Cris Winters after they attended a New York state Council of the Arts grants meeting in Plattsburgh.

“Cris said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together once a month for lunch, just to collaborate?'” Hannon said. “We’re struggling with the same issues, and working together is better than trying to fight these battles ourselves. It was Cris’ suggestion, and I sent the email out, and here we are.”

While many topics were discussed during the two-hour meeting, the primary theme was how to create an ongoing dialogue between artists to maximize the arts in the community.

“This is about improving the economy,” said local photographer Mark Kurtz. “People come here for hiking or paddling, or whatever they’re going to do, and they’ve also got this funky town that has all of this arts stuff going on. It ratchets it up another significant notch as a place that’s worth going to.”

Kurtz said people who live outside of the area come into his gallery to buy his work. He said appealing to people beyond Saranac Lake would help support other local businesses, too.

“The other thing is, how many more empty storefronts would we have if the artists weren’t here?” Kurtz said. “All of these places generate money in the community. You’ve got rent that’s being paid. Is it the biggest impact? No, but it’s significant. And it’s also another thing that makes Saranac Lake an attractive place to vacation or even live because of the cultural aspects of what we have.”

Attendees also used the meeting as a way to share ideas on obtaining grants. Hannon remarked that there are a lot of sources of grant funding out there, but knowing where to find them can be daunting.

With so many arts venues in such a small area, organizing an event without overlapping with another venue can be tricky. Those in attendance agreed to begin using the monthly meetings as a way to facilitate dialogue to prevent future scheduling conflicts between venues.

The main idea, they agreed, is to cooperate, not compete.

“It’s the mission of all of the arts organizations to make Saranac Lake an arts destination,” said BluSeed Studios board President Larry Poole. “This is another step in that direction. It’s a way to bring the organizations that have the capacity to help that overall concept, and it not only helps the artists. It helps the community.”

Poole praised the Saranac Lake village board for getting behind the growing arts scene in the village.

“The arts are a big economic driver for Saranac Lake,” Poole said. “It already is, and it can be even more. This has been a 20-year journey, so this is another step in the journey. Hopefully we have more synergy with collaborations going than we did five years ago, and hopefully five years from now we have even more going.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or