SARANAC LAKE - The first in a series of discussions about a new Adirondack Art Trail website took place at BluSeed Studios last Saturday.
About 40 artists filled the seats at BluSeed for a panel-style discussion led by Jill Breit, executive director of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, Melissa Hart, communications specialist with the Adirondack North Country Association and Sandra Hildreth of Saranac Lake ArtWorks. The idea is a collaboration between TAUNY, ANCA, BluSeed and ArtWorks and is funded by a $50,000 New York State Council of the Arts grant.
"This is a total experiment, and we're inventing this as we go," Breit said. "We decided, for pretty obvious reasons, I think, to have this first discussion here in Saranac Lake. After this session we're going to be going around the North Country and meeting with groups like this around the region."
Jill Breit, executive director of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
Hart said the first round of discussions will comprise the first phase of making the art trail happen.
"We want to hear feedback from the artists and artisans who will potentially be using this," Hart said. "The first phase is to collect all of the art resources around the Adirondack region. It's geared toward visitors, so it's places where visitors can experience art."
Those places could include public spaces like art galleries and private spaces like the homes of individual artists who don't mind visitors. Events like Saranac Lake's Artists at Work Studio Tour could also have a presence on the site.
Even though the art trail has four collaborative partners, Hart said the look of the finished product will evolve as people add input.
The central vision is to create a one-stop website that enables visitors to easily plan a route that will take them to destinations of their choosing. If someone traveling from Plattsburgh to North Creek likes pottery, paintings or museums, the website could highlight all of the places he or she can find those things along the way.
"One of the benefits is that this is almost like an art census," Hart said. "At the end of this, we'll have a really good data sampling of how many artists are making a living off their art in the region and how many galleries there are per capita. After we're done, we'll have a really good data set to showcase the economic impact of artists, too."
Once the website is up and running, Hart said phase 2 will begin. That will give the art trail website a physical presence in the form of signage and brochures.
In the future, the art trail might have a membership-based model to make it sustainable, but it will be free to join the first year.
"We're looking for all sorts of feedback from artists, including how much they'd be willing to pay to be a part of something like this," Hart said. "We want to hear from them and figure out what would be doable. We want to make this a very democratic process."
That process began with a lively, open discussion at the first meeting. No one had serious concerns, but some attendees suggested an interactive map that would link to information about each location featured on the map. They also discussed the use of the term "trail," and most agreed that it was good because it tied the website to the Adirondacks, the Scenic Byway program and other art trails around the country.
Pam Merritt, marketing manager for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, works with the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce to help run www.saranaclake.com. After the discussion, Merritt told the Enterprise she often directs people to the Saranac Lake website when they have questions on what to do in the area. She said an art trail website could serve the same purpose.
"I know it works because, after I tell them to check out the website, they don't call me back with more questions," Merritt said. "People would want to connect with these artists, and these artists want their work to get out there. The computer age has given us a very easy way of getting the information out there. Where before you had to be plugged into the scene, now a visitor can easily plan a trip from home."
Anyone interested in becoming part of the Adirondack Art Trail discussion can contact Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518-891-6200.