Arts representatives look to future


By Patsy Nicosia

When a dozen representatives from the Schoharie County arts community gathered to chart their future-and funding needs-for the next three years, their answers were as varied as they are.
Among the group meeting with Renee Nied, grants coordinator for Greene County Council on the Arts, which administers the New York State Council on the Arts Community Arts Grant program locally were artists, writers, musicians, performers, and all-around supporters of the arts.
All agreed what they'd like most was a physical place-or places-for the arts.
And an arts council of their own, something that's been missing here for almost a decade.
The round-table session was held at Cobleskill's Community Library as a way for Ms. Nied to gather input on artists' priorities as she begins planning funding for 2017-2020.
"Every three years, I'm required to take the 'pulse' of the arts community," Ms. Nied said. "What would you like to see? Where are our needs?"
Jack Gosselink, whose main interest is in classical music, pointed to the diversity of the local music scene as something that's under-appreciated.
Drew Taylor, who's spent most of his life working in the theater and is working to establish the Klinkhart Hall Arts Center in Sharon Springs, said local theater also runs the gamut.
And should.
"I'm a huge proponent of involving children and youth in theater," Mr. Taylor said, "and it doesn't always have to be Hansel and Gretel or the Three Pigs. Start with children and then go all the way up to the elderly and you have the whole community."
Lillian Spina-Caza, who helped form the Summer Youth Program at Depot Lane, 15 years ago, said that's been her experience as well.
Ms. Spina-Caza said her program focuses on inclusion and the experience; there are no auditions and often, the performances that wrap up each camp have less of an impact on participants than what they learn during the week, she said.
"We try to involve everyone-not just the child," she said.
"And you don't have to be 'gifted and talented'." You just have to love to sing and perform."
As an example of how insular local arts can be, though-and that was a complaint of many--Mr. Taylor and Ms. Spina-Caza had never met before and neither were aware of what the other was doing.
Quilter Arlene Vrooman said that was also the case when she held a show at Wellington's Herbs.
Despite advertising and publicity before the event, "Hardly anyone came," she said, adding that even when they know what's available in other communities, people are often reluctant to leave 'home.'
Erika Schmid, program director at the Schoharie Free Library, agreed with Ms. Vrooman and said she's been working hard to make the arts more visible there.
Ms. Schmid also said she believes the arts can be important economically "if we as a people can make this a vibrant place to be. We are rich here."
Robyn Sedgwick of SALT said she's working on an interactive tourism website will focus on the arts as an economic tool-though Ms. Nied pointed out half of the county doesn't have internet access, something that underscores the importance of traditional media like newspapers.
Floyd Armlin, who works to promote music events at Minekill and Max V. Shaul State Parks, said there are a lot of "secrets out there"-artists, especially musicians, who "never leave the house...because they don't have a place to take it."
With that in mind, Ms. Nied is working with a group of artists to develop a series of columns for the Times-Journal profiling unknown local artists.
Any artist who's interested in getting involved in that project or who wants to comment on funding for 2017-2020 can contact Ms. Nied at 788-7365 or