On the Trail

Bringing 21 artists together for the first Sacandaga Valley Arts Network Art Trails was “like herding cats,” according to co-coordinator and SVAN member Marilyn Sargant.

The free event, which takes place Aug. 16 and 17, will feature artists opening up their studios to the general public in Benson, Bleecker, Caroga Lake, Northville, Edinburg, Mayfield, Gloversville and Johnstown. Several featured artists also will display their work and give demonstrations at the SVAN Center Gallery in Northville; the Vails Mills Gallery inside the Fulton County Visitors Center in Vails Mills; the Orendaga Studio in Northville; and the Micropolis Gallery inside the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market in Gloversville.

“Getting artists to respond in a timely manner to applications and decisions is very difficult,” Sargant said recently, sitting with Art Trails co-coordinator and SVAN member Constance Dodge in their living room in Edinburg. “I think it’s probably difficult for all groups, but it just seems like we had to pull strings to get the sponsors, and then when people start seeing it’s a real program, then they want to be a part of it. So it kind of all came together very late.”

But according to Dodge, herself an artist and participant in the Art Trails, the slow response from artists wasn’t surprising.

“But I think that is – in certain respects, the creative process is that,” she said. “And if it comes together in this way, then it will grow. It’s kind of the way the Northville Rotary began in those early years, and it has become a much larger venue at this point.”

SVAN has wanted to have an open studio tour in the area for a few years, according to member and Art Trails participant Arlene Rambush. Dodge and Sargant have been working on the event since January, gathering sponsors and coordinating the artists.

The event is modeled after a number of other studio tours that occur annually or biennially in the state, including the open studio tours in Washington County and Saint Lawrence County. According to Dodge, the Washington County tour, which started as an annual event but is now biennial, brought in about $75,000 in tourist dollars to that region last year.

“They have found that it has brought an incredible amount of tourism into the county,” Dodge said.

The event is designed to give attendees a behind-the-scenes look at the artists’ work spaces. In all, 10 artist studios and four galleries are part of the trail. The artists on the trail work in various mediums, including sculpture, photography, oil painting, woodworking and textiles.

“It just acquaints people with the process, and I think it gives them a glimpse at how an artist works,” Dodge said.

Rambush hand-weaves items such as towels, runners, place mats and scarves out of her studio in Benson, and plans to give demonstrations to visitors on her floor looms and table loom.

“I think [it’s an] opportunity to demonstrate a very ancient craft,” Rambush said. “Human beings have been weaving for maybe 20,000 years, and keeping that alive, the history of that, is very important.”

William Coffey, who has built rustic-style furniture in his studio in Northville for the past 14 years, will show a new gallery space still under construction in addition to his furniture. Painter and potter Rhea Haggart Costello will display her work at Coffey’s studio, as well.

“It’s mostly about the community of artists; there seems to be a little buzz of an art community here,” Coffey said. “If I can help it grow by opening up my studio, they’re helping me as much as I’m helping them. And if SVAN grows and prospers, if I’m involved, hopefully some of it will shine on me.”

The Art Trails also have inspired artists to join SVAN, according to Dodge. Corey Pitkin, a painter who moved to Broadalbin from Saratoga Springs about a year ago, will display his work at the Vails Mills Gallery, as well as give a painting demonstration.

“It can be fun to interact with the public and just get out of the studio for a little bit, break out of your habits and shake things up,” Pitkin said.

Dodge said she hopes the event will grow to feature more local artists in future years.

“And it’s very exciting, I think, for people visiting the region to know that there are a lot of arts happening here,” Dodge said. “It makes it a more desirable place to be or to visit, to live, whatever. I mean, when I first came to this area and I saw that Anne Miller was an artist in Northville at the time, it was just nice to know that there was an artist in the next town over, and everything grew from there.”