Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dansville's landscape brightens with new gallery


     I have been part of many “firsts” in my lifetime, and in retrospect, each one is a thrilling experience. I never dreamed that I would be part of the only art gallery presently in a Livingston County town, though.
     Typically, spurts of initial activity followed by fizzling disinterest have deterred much happening from the grassroots. Dansville ArtWorks is an exception, and let me tell you why.
     Dansville ArtWorks Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to cultivate and enhance the visual, literary and performing arts opportunities in the greater Dansville community.
     As much as I take delight in art and look forward to browsing galleries and museums, I was as much of a skeptic as the next person when I went to my first Dansville ArtWorks meeting over a year ago. 
     Perhaps too many required work meetings and community exploratory committees over the years have taught me to be wary of start-up groups with BIG ideas that never seem to take off due to lack of vision, leadership, support, or all of the above.
     That said, I am proud that Dansville ArtWorks will be moving into its permanent location at 178 Main Street and will have an open house on September 5 with a grand reception from 10-12 p.m. The gallery will be open until 3 p.m. that day during the NYS Festival of Balloons.
     Dansville ArtWorks will create gallery, consignment, retail and workshop areas. Events showcasing musical and writing talents are planned. September hours will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting September 10.
    All our organizations desperately need commitment to their valuable causes. Women and men equally have more than enough excuses about not getting involved these days. “Let the younger folks take on some of the slack,” or “I am too busy raising my family, working out of town and trying to make ends meet without anything else on my plate.”
     Plus folks have a bad habit of running down their own community and not supporting local businesses and essential organizations. They don’t realize that part of living in a town is making connections and being part of a world outside their own bubble.
      Nurture a town and new people will be attracted to settle there.      
     I take a positive approach, and if it is possible, I will be part of the solution to a problem. I get tired of hearing, “It won’t work here. Where do you think you are living?”
     “Build it and they will come” is a valid statement, and in fact, that is what the Board of Directors for Dansville ArtWorks firmly believes. Salome Farraro, Treasurer, is not shy in saying it either.
      That phrase worked for Kevin Costner's character in Field of Dreams, but such advice can prove disastrous for a startup unless the initial vision of an idea is market-ready and poised for success.
      That's why entrepreneurs must fight the urge to simply put their heads down and build a product to completion without engaging community folks for vital feedback and guidance.
     All year I listened at meetings. Nicole Alioto, President, had an action plan and proved herself a capable leader. I was attracted  to what I heard in theory, but wanted to see what would happen in action. The proof is in the pudding.
     The pop-up gallery in December during Winter in the Village showed that there was more than curiosity from the community. A substantial sum of money was raised through purchases, too. Over 20 artists with excellent credentials were participants.
     I was pleased to see the highly creative work of Jeff Swift, Swift Custom Metals, a former student of mine, and now a nationally recognized craftsman.
     In the spring Art Cents, a penny social and auction, brought more notice to Dansville ArtWorks. Monthly mixers in downtown businesses, such as at Caffe Tazza and Tony’s Pizzeria, gathered artists together and made the group cohesive. The Dansville Chalkwalk Festival was an August family activity.
     At that point I made a decision confident I was doing the right thing: I asked to be on the Board of Directors. Already a lot of the foundational work was in place by a group of dedicated people and response from the community was positive.
     My interest in the arts comes as no surprise to anyone that knows a little about me.
     My mother was artistic in every sense of the word. My younger sister studied Fine Art at Syracuse and spent a lifetime painting themes mostly related to ballet. Of course, my husband’s interest lies in 3-D and taught many high school students in advanced classes. My daughter’s gallery in Chelsea represents well-known artists and has expanded in less than two years.
     The arts in the public schools expose students to cultural experiences and open young eyes beyond the four walls.
     Randy and Susan DeMuth have, for many years, operated Dansville Stationers from 178 Main Street. Their desire to consolidate their business into one building led to discussions with Dansville ArtWorks’ board. Mutual interests have resulted in collaboration between the two entities. The DeMuths will continue to operate Dansville Stationers and Dogwood Trading Company at 176 Main Street.
     It’s a perfect fit in all respects according to the Demuths, and it will bring foot traffic to Main Street for a diverse shopping experience.
     When all is said and done in life, you hope to leave your community a better place. Dansville ArtWorks and its Board of Directors passionately feel that sentiment. May the community and Livingston County agree, and likewise, keep the arts alive and well in the valley with their support.