Over the Buck Moon

JOHNSTOWN – With most students home for the summer, Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s campus on Route 67 is mostly quiet.

But Wednesday inside the Visual Arts and Communications Building, art professor and Perrella Gallery Director Joel Chapin was running between the gallery and the copy room downstairs in preparation for the first Buck Moon Arts Festival, set for July 11, 12 and 13 on campus.

“This is like a typical day, just like 18 things being done,” Chapin said. “Committees have been putting hundreds and hundreds of hours into this. It’s a big project.”

FMCC president Dustin Swanger came up with the idea for the festival and presented it to Chapin and other college employees a little more than a year ago. Other regional arts organizations, including the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network in Northville and the Micropolis Art Collective in Gloversville, soon joined the effort.

“The idea for the Buck Moon Arts Festival came from really recognizing that there are several small arts organizations in our two counties, and they each do a fine job doing, I’m going to say, small arts festivals at different times of the year, particularly in the summer,” Swanger said. “And I wondered if we could get everybody together and – in addition to doing what they are doing; we’re not trying to stop them – could we pool our energies and have a large arts festival that attracted people from not only our area, but outside of our area?”

Initially, the college applied for a grant through the National Endowment for the Arts and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, Swanger said. Although not successful in obtaining that grant, the festival did receive grant support from Saratoga Arts’ Fulton-Montgomery Arts Grants Program, the Fulton County Tourism Department and the Montgomery County Occupancy Tax, according to a news release.

The name was derived from the Native American name for the full moon in July, Swanger said.

“We didn’t want to call it the Fulton-Montgomery regional arts festival; that sounds like we don’t want anybody outside of Fulton and Montgomery counties,” Swanger said. “I had the idea of the Indian moons, where each moon was named by Indian culture depending on what was going on at that time, each full moon.”

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. July 12 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 13, with an opening presentation at 7 p.m. July 11 in the Large Lounge in the Student Union by sculptor John Van Alstine of Wells. Van Alstine, a native of Johnstown who has exhibited in New York City, Chicago and Europe, will speak about his nearly 40 years as an artist, touching on how he markets his work, he said.

“I’ll probably be talking about the development of my work; people see what you’re doing now and they wonder, how did you end up making the work that you do now?” Van Alstine said. “I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years, so it’s kind of fun, especially for students, since this is a university, college setting.”

Van Alstine has lived, studied and worked in Wyoming, New York City and Washington, D.C. He relocated to Wells in the late 1980s after being drawn back by the Adirondack scenery, which serves as a major influence in his sculpture, he said.

“I find that living in nature informs my work in a very positive way,” Van Alstine said.

Other festival highlights include live music on the quad and in Raider’s Cove, nearly 50 local food and craft vendors on the quad and a performance of the play “The Exonerated” in the FM Theatre at 6:30 p.m. July 12 and 4 p.m. July 13.

FMCC theater professor Jason Radalin will direct “The Exonerated,” which features a cast of local performers. The play, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, focuses on the stories of six death row inmates who were eventually exonerated, and is adapted from interviews, letters, transcripts, case files and the public record.

This past week, regional artists and photographers were dropping off pieces for the festival’s juried regional art and photography exhibits, which will hang together in the Perrella Gallery through Sept. 12. Chapin helped oversee the shows, which combined will feature about 50 works.

“We’re giving out $1,200 in award money, so that kind of sweetens the deal,” Chapin said. “That is … actually through our Perrella Gallery, because this show actually is going on to become part of the Perrella Gallery yearly schedule. … So we’re using this as kind of a good way to represent a lot of artists here in the gallery, and then carry it right through for when our students are back and get them good exposure.”

Adirondack photographer Carl Heilman II of Brant Lake, Warren County, will judge the photography side of the exhibit. He will also lead a multimedia presentation titled “I am the Adirondacks” at 3 p.m. July 12 in the FMCC Theater.

The presentation, adapted from a poem by Miriam Davis Kashiwa, combines Heilman’s photographs with music, lyrics and narration.

“I synchronize it all together with a variety of images to help give the feel and perspective of the Adirondacks,” Heilman said. “It becomes a video when this is all done.”

According to Swanger and Chapin, plans are already underway for next year’s festival. The college has once again applied for the National Endowment for the Arts grant, Swanger said.

“We are really kind of hoping for several thousand people, perhaps even more,” Chapin said. “It’s not unheard of to have 10,000 people come; we are kind of slowly building. I’d be happy if we got several thousand to start off, but I would hope that the word would get out.”