Tiny Arts Day in tiny West Fulton

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in The Watershed Post

The town of West Fulton may be tiny, but it has a lot of heart—and art.

“West Fulton is a very interesting place, made up of extremely creative people,” said Cornelia McGiver, the artistic director of Panther Creek Arts, a new arts venue in the small Schoharie County town. “And what I find special about that place is that there is a willingness to exchange and complement ideas.”

Panther Creek Arts, which is located in a former grain and feed store from 1919, is all about inspiring this exchange through artistic, recreational and educational events. The building’s upper level, known as The Hall, includes a stage and long, natural-wood picnic tables that can seat 80 to 200 people. Meanwhile, the ground level houses BITE ME, a cafe that serves delicious foods like curried chicken salad over fresh greens, gluten-free sweets, kombucha and more.

“It’s been our mission to bring world-class music and arts to that venue,” McGiver said.

On Saturday, June 4, The Hall will turn into an art gallery for the second annual Tiny Arts Day in a Tiny Town, a mini-festival that, with the help of a community arts grant from the Greene County Council on the Arts, will showcase the work of five artists. Last year’s fest drew upwards of 150 people, and this year’s is expected to draw even more.

“You’ll have someone who is a curator of a museum in Manhattan talking to local farmers, and for me, I’m so warmed by that—so touched,” said McGiver. “There are people who would never see each other—would never meet—but here they are enjoying each other.”

If you go to Tiny Arts Day, you will have the chance to meet Elisa Jensen, an artist from Brooklyn. She is a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts fellow and was a 2012 finalist for the foundation’s Basil Alkazzi Award for Painting. Jensen is also currently a faculty member at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture and is a visiting faculty member in the Foundation Drawing Department at Pratt Institute.

The other artist who will be featured in The Hall is Pamela Salisbury, who lives and works in Kinderhook. She completed her undergraduate studies in sculpture at Bennington College in Vermont and received her MFA in painting from the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.

Copper and stonework by West Fulton’s own Mark Swanberry, whose designs are inspired by nature, will be shown on the ground floor, and there will also be metal sculpture by Mario Bustamante of Brooklyn on display in the park, just a stone’s throw away from the center itself.

“A very big piece of artwork by David Wilson will also be on display across from the park. It’s a surprise,” said McGiver. “And when I say big, it’s big.”

But traditional artwork won’t be the only type of art at this festival. McGiver and Panther Creek’s advisory board and volunteers have also curated a fine list of local craft brewers, distillers and food vendors, including Green Wolf Brewing Company, 1857 Spirits, Kymar Farm Distillery and Sap Bush Hollow Food and Drink. Food and drinks will be available throughout the day.

The festival will start at 3 p.m. with an enchanting origami and handcrafted mask storytelling performance by Kuniko Yamamoto, featuring myths and fables from ancient and modern Japan made fresh. Then, the art gallery will open at 4 p.m., offering guests the opportunity to purchase their favorite pieces.

“I’m very interested in artists being paid for what they do,” said McGiver, “because I think our culture could benefit from understanding and valuing artists to a greater degree.”

The day will conclude with yet more art: a musical performance starting at 8 p.m. by Brooklyn’s Musette Explosion, featuring the accordion, tuba, and guitar.

McGiver is already looking to the future, considering bumping up the musical performances to two, incorporating theatre art and staged readings, and including more local vendors for next year’s festival.

“I do like the idea of incorporating more of the town into the project,” she said, “with people strolling through the town.”

Though Tiny Arts Day in a Tiny Town is only in its second year, it’s clear that it has an important influence.

“We all know what it’s like to be a part of the arts in an urban center like New York City, Albany, or Boston,” McGiver said, “so it’s exceptional for people coming to West Fulton to find that there is such a broad sense of community in such a small place and that they are welcomed into it.”

Volunteers are also welcome. If you would like to help out, contact McGiver at panthercreekarts@gmail.com. You can also contact her if you need ticket sponsorship. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and tickets for the storytelling performance are an additional $5.

Tiny Arts Day in a Tiny Town. Saturday, June 4, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Hall at Panther Creek Arts, 1468 Sawyer Hollow Rd., West Fulton. panthercreekarts.com.

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