Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Turning Ten - Wellsville Creative Arts Center

Turning Ten

The Wellsville Creative Arts Center Celebrates Ten Years of Business with a FREE event for the community on September 17.
By Sheyenne Santas and Hannah Thompsett
Over a decade ago, Andy Glanzman witnessed a wrecking ball destroy a local piece of history: the Fassett Hotel.  “I could have saved it, but I thought somebody else would.”  Upon realizing the importance of action, he set out to find which building could be next scheduled for destruction.  When he found it on the corner of Main Street and Madison, the old Carter’s Hardware building had broken pipes and a leaky roof.  His only known plan was to save the building, and he did, exquisitely.  Soon, he realized that the space had a chance to become a venue for creativity, a school for art, open to the “everyman artist.”  Ideas came flowing from his personal passions, and he played off of them until he discovered his three-legged stool: food, art, and music.  His goal was to enhance economic development and help build the quality of life in the area.

Today, the Wellsville Creative Arts Center is doing just that.  This fall marks the tenth anniversary of its public opening.  To celebrate, the WCAC is hosting a free event on September 17.  The celebration will highlight all that we offer to the community.  In our regular programming, we offer adult art classes in ceramics, drawing, and painting; artist workshops; rotating exhibitions; BOCES classes in cooking, drawing, and ceramics for high school students; live, original music; trivia night; open mic night; a cafĂ© with great food made from fresh, local ingredients; and so much more.  The event on September 17 will include an open studio from 4-8 pm with live demonstrations and hands-on opportunities, an appetizer hour from 4-5 pm with free samplings of our new menu, and a live performance by the Mystic Twangers from 8-11 pm to end the evening.  There is something for everyone, whether they want to come for a specific moment or stay for the whole event.

The WCAC also offers an artist-in-residence program where emerging ceramicists apply for studio space in exchange for helping run our studio.  In the room beside the cafe, we have the Little Gem Local Artisan Store full of handmade gifts, crafts, and artwork of every style from paintings by Amanda Parry Ogelsbee to gorgeous glass pumpkins by Jon Moreno.

The most important part of this journey has been the incredible people we’ve found along the way who have stuck by us since they first found us, some of them only months after we opened in 2006 and others just last week.  In the center of our community lies the Allegany Mud Club, the ceramic artists who spend every day mastering their art and building friendships, who have created priceless memories of camaraderie between bowl throwing contests, Balloon Rally demos, and collaborative mosaics.  Some of its members walked in with no previous experience and now sell their work professionally, like Nancy Alt who spoke to us about a need to find her individuality once again after her youngest son left for college in 2007.  “Off comes the motherhood and caregiver hat… I had no formal art education; I had never even worked with clay.  Nine years later, my passion for ceramics is unyielding.  I am happiest working in the studio alongside friends, artists, and makers of whom share creative expressions nurturing each and every one of us.”  Like Nancy, many of our students have been here for years, but each session, we welcome new beginners to work with our extraordinarily talented and generous instructors, such as Marsha VanVlack, Bill Underhill, and Dick Lang. 

Brian Voorheis, who has played at our open mic practically since it started six months after the Center was established, recounted the day he walked in: “So here I was at last: after years of traversing the desert wasteland of local beer joints, I’d found an oasis of creative activity at which musicians could perform in a free, accepting surrounding.”  Similarly, Adam Stack, a patron of seven years, told me he remembers finding the WCAC on a cold, winter day and being warmed up by excellent coffee, soup, and a cozy ambiance.  Stack said, “I have spent countless afternoons practicing guitar and sipping coffee there, which would be frowned upon at other establishments.”  Danny Sherwood, who elicits a smile from everyone he greets, told me, “I am truly grateful that such a place exists in a small town like this.”

At the tenth anniversary celebration on September 17, we want to share how grateful we are to be serving our community in such a unique way.  In addition to the events listed above, there will also be an art sale to raise funds for a new kiln in which pieces donated by local artists will be sold for only $10.  A preview of the work and drawing numbers will begin at 4 pm.  Those with numbers will be able to purchase one work each beginning at 4:30, and then the sale will be completely open for the rest of the evening beginning at 5:00.  We will also have a photo scavenger hunt of the building with prizes for those who complete; a raffle basket with a beautiful collection of ceramics, coffee, Little Gem items, and two free drop-in ceramics classes; and a special dinner menu served from 6:00-8:30 pm to enjoy before the free concert.

With the exception of the dinner, this event is entirely free—our way of saying thank you for the love and support through the years and our way of letting those who haven’t gotten involved yet get a true taste of our sense of community and the memories and experiences that can be gathered here.  We have left footprints on this town and on its people.

I leave off with a message from one of our own, Corah Lorow, who couldn’t have highlighted our serendipity any better: “I feel incredibly blessed to wake up and go to work to spend my days cultivating an atmosphere that is already enriched by so many beautiful people.  I wish I could come close to giving back to the Arts Center and the community surrounding it, because it has enriched my life exponentially.  I love this place.”

We love you all, too.