125 Years of Inspiration: Arts in the Adirondacks
by Elizabeth Folwell
The Adirondack Park was created in 1892, but this wild, beautiful region has inspired artists and composers since at least the 1840s. Painters such as A. F. Tait depicted the lakes of the central Adirondacks in manly hunting and fishing scenes that were popularized as Currier & Ives lithographs; Hudson River School artists Asher B. Durand, Sanford Robinson Gifford, Frederick Kensett, Thomas Cole and many others all created majestic Adirondack works in the 19th century.
Today at arts centers, galleries and open-air events, you can see how the park inspires contemporary artists and craftspeople in all media.
Fresh Air and Open Studios
1) On July 13-16, on the southeastern edge of the Adirondack Park, 20 Washington County visual artists share their work in open studios and workshops.
2) In Northville, the annual Woodworking and Fine Arts Weekend is July 14-16, with furniture, functional and decorative household items plus paintings.
3) Also that weekend, July 15-16, artists from Keene Valley to Jay and Wilmington have combined forces to present the Au Sable River Valley Studio Tour.
4) It’s a busy weekend for sure: Inlet’s 41st Arts in the Park Festival is July 15-16, featuring dozens of visual artists and artisans in Arrowhead Park.
5) You guessed it—Schroon Lake’s annual arts and crafts fair—is also July 15-16.
6) On the third Thursday of each month—the next is July 20—Saranac Lake Arts Walk highlights the work of landscape painters, sculptors and others throughout the village.
7) The grounds of Adirondack Experience (formerly the Adirondack Museum), in Blue Mountain Lake, will feature a wide variety of painters, potters, jewelers, weavers, artisan food makers and others in the annual Made in the Adirondacks Fair on July 22.
8) Old Forge’s First Friday Arts Walks visit unconventional venues and highlight local talents.
9) Saranac Lake’s Plein Air Festival brings painters from all over the country to work outdoors during the third weekend of August.
10) If you’re still eager to paint in the elements—or watch talented artists at work—Old Forge’s Plein Air Paint Out is August 31-September 2, culminating with an auction of works created that weekend at View, the community’s impressive multi-arts center.
11) At the Wild Center, in Tupper Lake, you can experience the immersive fresh-air arts experience in iForest. As you walk an easy woodland trail music composed by Pete Wyer surrounds you.
Artists, Alive and Otherwise
Across the Adirondack Park multi-arts centers present exhibitions, workshops and performances throughout the summer and beyond. Here is a sampling of places to visit to take the cultural pulse of the region.
12) Lake Placid Center for the Arts has presented creative arts programming for kids and adults for several decades. This year there are performances by the Rebecca Kelly dance group, the Okee Dokee Brothers (free morning children’s program), plus workshops and shows by local artists.
13) Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts offers numerous concerts, exhibitions, informal talks, yoga classes and programs for kids in Blue Mountain Lake all summer. Musical highlights include the high-powered Canadian band Sultans of String on August 5 and ragtime piano played by Scott Joplin expert Richard Dowling on August 26.
14) Always hip, always busy, the Lake George Arts Project sponsors free Wednesday night concerts in Shepard Park as well as shows in the Courthouse Gallery. “Story Time,” the work of three children’s authors and book illustrators is featured through August 11.
15) View, in Old Forge, was launched in the 1950s with a clothesline arts show and now occupies a multi-million-dollar facility with workshops, performance space and several galleries featuring artists from all over the country. A summer highlight is the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors, opening August 5 and filling the downstairs galleries with scores of exceptional work.
16) Westport’s Heritage House serves many purposes, from tourist information to classes and art shows. Spirit of Place is the current art exhibition.
17) Tannery Pond Center, in downtown North Creek, operates year-round. On July 21 the Lake Placid Sinfonietta is the concert; Jane Voorhees is the featured artist through July 30, with pastels, rustic frames and jewelry.
18) Pink House Gallery, in Saranac Lake, is fiber artist Chris Winters’s studio, exhibition and teaching space. Shows change every month and workshops involve all kinds of innovative fiber-arts techniques.
19) BluSeed Studios, also in Saranac Lake, sponsors workshops, shows and other arts events. The featured visual artist from July 21-September 16 is Italo Clemente; check the calendar for classes in paper making, printmaking and pottery.
20) The Sacandaga Valley Arts Network draws on the talents of artists in Northville and the Sacandaga area of the southern Adirondacks. The organization offers exhibitions in a variety of venues plus summer concerts at Northville’s waterfront park (American roots band New Shoes on July 22) as well as classical music in Mayfield’s Presbyterian church.
21) Wiawaka Center for Women, on Lake George, was created more than a century ago as a place for working women to relax and restore in a peaceful setting. For Georgia O’Keeffe Week, July 23-28, the center celebrates her time on Lake George with open houses and even meals from the cookbook published by the painter.
Stories, Authors and Books
22) The Adirondack Center for Writing may be based in Saranac Lake but events happen throughout the Adirondack Park and the St. Lawrence Valley all year. A new series of the hugely popular Howl Story Slam launches in July, traveling from Long Lake to Watertown to North Creek and beyond. This season’s theme is “fear,” and writers and storytellers of all ages are encouraged to step up to the microphone with their five-minute tales of terror.
23) The Old Forge Library bustles all year, offering everything from music at the gazebo to writing workshops, including “Making the Perfect Pitch” on July 21. That day also includes a local authors’ fair on the library lawn, and on Sunday, July 23, is the Adirondack Storytelling Festival with Joe Bruchac, Bill Smith, Susan Trump and more.
24) At Indian Lake Library you can learn Spanish, engage in discussions on climate change with scientists and prepare for the solar eclipse in an informal presentation by a physics and astronomy professor on July 18. The eclipse is August 21, and the library hosts another program to understand and celebrate the event—supplying glasses for safe viewing.
25) Most libraries offer summer reading programs for kids, but Willsboro’s Paine Memorial Free Library takes this standard to new levels at Noblewood Beach, on Lake Champlain, throughout July and August. The library also sponsors music and other community events.