On Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the public is invited to take a trip along the Chautauqua - Lake Erie Art Trail. Twenty-four different artists who work in a variety of mediums and styles will be present in their studios, showing their art and also offering it for sale.
Paintings, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, photography, and stained glass works are examples of the art available from the talented artists who live and work in Chautauqua County. A cluster of studios is located in Fredonia, and another along Chautauqua Lake. However, participating artists also live in Brocton, Dunkirk, Westfield, Sherman, Silver Creek, Forestville and South Dayton.
"The Art Trail is the signature event of the North Shore Arts Alliance," explained Lesley Williamson, executive director of the North Shore Arts Alliance. "Many people do not understand or know this. In other words, North Shore Arts is the presenting organization of the Art Trail. We are a year-round organization with a board, not-for-profit status, etc., with many other events. The Art Trail just happens to be the biggest."
Local artists, such as Tom Annear in Fredonia (above) will open their studios to patrons on Saturday and Sunday.
Williamson earned a master's degree in arts management from Carnegie Mellon University. She spent many summers in Chautauqua. Her father played in the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra during the summer. Her husband is a guitarist. She believes that those relationships give her insight into the challenges faced by artists.
"I want to help artists make a living in Chautauqua County," she said.
Indeed, Williamson argues that the arts can make a positive economic impact on this county. The elements are here: professional artists, crafts people, and musicians; an established tourist industry, local foundations, and the willingness of business, government and community groups to work together.
Originally in 2009 the North Shore Arts Alliance received seed money of $4,000 funded by monies set aside from the "bed-tax" for special projects. With this money and other sponsorship from Key Bank, local galleries, bed and breakfasts, restaurants as well as fees from the participating artists, the alliance launched the first Art Trail event.
"It was successful beyond our wildest dreams," according to Thomas Annear, local artist and the alliance's director at the time.
There were more than 500 studio visits. People came in from Cleveland, Rochester, Buffalo and Erie specifically for the event. People from other places, such as North Carolina and Maryland, came with their local friends.
At least $14,000 worth of art was sold. There was also an economic impact on other businesses such as restaurants in the community.
The following year, the numbers more than doubled. There were 1,600 studio visits with visitors coming from the traditional tourist zones of Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Erie as well as Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia. There was at least $26,000 worth of art sold which directly impacts the county since the artists are county residents.
For detailed maps, directions to the studios, and information about the participating artists, visit the website at www.ChautauquaArtTrail.com. Additional information about the North Shore Arts Alliance can be found at www.NorthShoreArtsAlliance.com.
There is a basic map within the brochure which can be found all over the area in local businesses, at the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau and at most if not all of the sponsors. Brochures can also be mailed if people submit their name/address through the website.
The brochure offers information about each artist and how to reach him/her. It also lists sponsors which are divided into attractions, dining and lodging.
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