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August 2012

New View, Old Forge

Art at the heart of an Adirondack hamlet

Sculptor Jason Tennant's exhibition at View, Old Forge

One summer day in 1952, as Miriam “Mirnie” Kashiwa was chatting with a seasonal resident on her Thendara lawn, the gentleman complained about the lack of cultural activities in town. Kashiwa wasn’t about to let that ding to her community pride go unanswered. As a matter of fact, she told him, there’ll be an art show right here in two weeks.

Then she made it happen. Kashiwa, a 20-something with an interior-design degree from Syracuse Uni­versity, solicited artists, lassoed one of her professors into acting as judge and gathered prizes from area businesses. Her husband, Hank, cobbled together an outdoor “gallery” from chicken wire and saplings, then sawed wooden disks for trophies. The event was a hit, and the Old Forge art scene was born.

It took years of nomadic living—at the town gazebo, the firehouse, the Masonic hall—for Kashiwa’s annual show to find a stable home. In the 1970s the newly incorporated Arts Guild of Old Forge scraped together enough cash for its own digs, right on the edge of town, and settled into a steady round of exhibitions, concerts and workshops.

By the ’90s it was clear that the art center’s role as cultural hub re­quired a bit more room than 8,000 square feet. But it wasn’t until 2011, after more than a decade of planning, fundraising and building, that the guild introduced its new 28,000-square-foot art-lover’s playground just across the road.

The space—which cost seven million dollars, all told, from donations big and small—is called View, a brand meant to marry the stunning Adirondack landscapes outside with the stunning creations inside. In fact, the building itself is stunning. It includes five galleries, a studio wing, catering kitchen, conference rooms and a home for the Kinderwood preschool. There’s also a state-of-the-art theater with acoustic paneling and retractable seats. An adjacent courtyard adds the option of outdoor receptions.

The facility is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)–certified: it’s heated and cooled with 48 260-foot-deep geothermic wells and partly powered by photovoltaic panels. The slatelike roof tiles are made from recycled tires and diapers. Executive director Jennifer Potter Hayes says energy costs for last year came in at half what was budgeted. “In 12 years,” she predicts, “we’ll have paid off the cost of the systems with the energy savings.”

The center’s all-season schedule is packed with workshops, per­formances and special events like the pottery-for-a-cause Chili Bowl Luncheon, in February, and the Plein Air Paint Out, in September. The high points of its calendar are three cornerstone shows: the Northeast National Pastel Exhibition, the Central Adirondack Art Show and the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors—an ultra-competitive juried show that draws hundreds of entries from around the country.

The breathtaking view at the top of Route 28 isn’t the only cultural game around. This small hamlet (its year-round population hovers around 1,000) harbors a blossoming community of aesthetically minded folks. “When people think of Old Forge they think snowmobiling and Water Safari,” says Hayes, “but there’s so much more.”

Plenty more: the Old Forge Library hosts monthly art exhibitions, plus concerts and workshops in photography and illustration. The galleries, shops and cafés that line Main Street showcase local creations of all sizes and styles. And art walks dress up the town with masterpieces and music at a dozen businesses every first Friday during the summer. “Everybody does their own thing,” says Deb Burrington, owner of Gallery 3040.

Burrington founded her seasonal gallery—a slick venue for paintings and sculpture as well as woodwork and blown glass—about three years ago. (She says she started it, in part, to have a place to hang her own watercolors.) Since then she’s seen a real arts-based boom around the area.

“At first the arts center and library stood alone,” she says. “But then there were more and more artists in the community and we just decided to pull it together. So there’s recognition now … word has really gotten out that you can find fine art and fine crafts in Old Forge. It can be a destination for an art lover.”

Just down the street photographer Clark Lubbs and jack-of-all-creative-trades Meagan McKee Crimmins teamed up in 2010 to open the Starving Artist Gallery. Their fun and funky building across the way from Old Forge Hardware houses a co-op of about 40 artists, from painters and photographers to potters and jewelery-makers, during the warmer-weather months. Out front, the gallery hosts young musicians and offers up its sidewalk to any chalk-loving children who stroll by. Although the murals are washed away every evening, Lubbs says it’s important for his littlest neighbors to have a canvas all their own.

The newest kid on the block is mixed-media artist Tina Snow, who debuted Dragonfly Cottage—a two-story habitat for artists and antique vendors—in May. (Like the other galleries, the Cottage is a seasonal affair.) Snow, who is returning to the area from Syracuse, has noticed a real shift toward arts and culture in her hometown. “It’s really exciting,” she says.

Miriam Kashiwa enjoys the enthusiasm coloring her community. “Sometimes people lose track of the point that art is everywhere, not just in a painting. But it adds so much to a person’s life—when you have an interest in art, you see everything in a different light.”

Now in her 80s, Kashiwa still tries to make it to View every day to introduce visitors to the place. “I don’t think people realize so much is going on,” she says. “Tell them to come on down. I’ll be glad to give them a tour.”

Check out View at 3273 State Route 28, in Old Forge; for information call (315) 369-6411 or visit www.viewarts.org.

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