Sunday, March 14, 2010

Starting Small, show at The Artist Knot

Boats by Molly Dougherty (photo provided)

Amy Brown meant to start small but her first show at the newly remodeled gallery, the Artist Knot in Andover, drew a huge crowd – enormous in enthusiasm and massively impressed.

Among the first guests to walk in were Rick and Sarah Recio from Wellsville. Rick said that several forces nudged them to attend the show. They read articles about the store/gallery in 2 area papers and then their neighbor brought a gift from the Artist Knot. Rick drove past it twice a day for a while – always too early or too late to stop – but the postcard about the show made them set the date for a visit.

Recios found three “favorites” on display in the show as well as in the main gallery: a Salvador Dali print, a painting of elephant tulips and a Dick Lang bowl. They sipped wine, visited friends, snacked on an engaging spread of food and in the end chose the Dali, an intricate design wonderfully framed and matted.

Ann and Rich Hampshire, present, were pleased that there is a place like the Artist Knot to show off all our local artists.

Anthony Lipnicki, proprietor of the Mustard Seed Inn, said, “This is a wonderful addition to the community of Andover. Andover is turning into “the place to be” and this opening gave me the chance to appreciate the talent in our area. It also made me realize the quality of art made by some of my friends.”

Another guest, Ty Houston from Hornell, spent a great deal of time studying Bob Chaffee’s wood carvings as well as an oil painting by Jay Pullman of Hornell. Pullman’s painting, Time for a Rest III showed a pile of logs, large diameter pieces on the bottom and smaller on the top, a blue jacket hanging on one log and a maul leaning against its future task.

Houston works for the Tribune in Hornell. Last week, her job required her to visit a sawmill so the topic in Pullman’s piece caught her eye, surprising her. While working, she had walked past stacks of wood, mundane things unworthy of note, but Pullman had looked at much the same scene and turned it into art. “He took a small part of life and made it bigger. He saw something I would never have seen,” she said as she continued to study the patterns in the wood.

“The title is Time for a Rest III and that makes me want to know the story. Was the jacket still on the person in number one? Was there a number 4? Was it the painter’s jacket?”

Houston left those questions hanging but later Pullman arrived with answers. Before painting this series, he had been living in the south but hurricane Katrina destroyed his home so he moved to the “family homestead” in Hartsville. There he faced that pile of wood, wore that jacket and wielded that maul to turn chunks of tree into winter heat. His wood piles were neatly stacked with an artist’s eye toward pattern - and the pattern came to this series of paintings. The larger logs at the bottom of the stack were those that refused to yield to his maul.

The Artist Knot is filled with the work of 48 artist and artisans but Starting Small has small works created by 12 of them. The show includes drawings by Jerry Brown, paintings by Tom O’Grady and o’bhriuthiann, wood carvings by Alec MacCrea, silver jewelry by Trina Allen and pottery by Mark Corwine. Molly Dougherty, of Richburg, was not only the youngest artist but the most popular among patrons Starting Small opened on Friday, March 12, 2010 and continues on Tuesdays through Saturdays until April 23 during regular hours. In addition to art, the Artist Knot also sells professional art supplies and materials. Visit for hours.

Bob Chaffee's Lonesome Indian (photo provided)

Trina Allen's Free Falling Leaves necklace (photo provided)

Dick Lang's Brown Covered Jar (photo provided)

Monday, March 8, 2010

The CornerStone of Alfred

What if you had to describe the totality of Alfred? How would you do it? How would you present the story of a traffic light celebration or a place where an art show might spend a glorious hour in a public restroom or on a Main Street bench?

How would you introduce or symbolize the people who give Alfred life as an experience and not just an address? How would tuck Alfred, the entity, into a play and send it off to a stage where at least one person in the audience would emit that comforting sigh, slow and steady, that we stream through our bodies after a long or difficult journey?

Those questions and tasks were the topics tackled and mused during a weekend workshop with Cornerstone Theater Company. Cornerstone is a multi-ethnic, ensemble-based theater company that works with communities to help them create new plays or adapt classic plays in order to tell a story in a way that can create, define, strengthen or expand a community. That’s a simple description. Find more if you’d like at

In a list of things that I am not one would surely find “actor” so when Becky Prophet invited me to attend an acting workshop my first response was to look for a hiding place but Becky is a force of nature and her enthusiasm led created interest and curiosity so I braved the snow (and the threat of acting) and came to Alfred to be part of the process.

The workshop was presented by Paula Donnelly and Laurie Woolery from Cornerstone. Donnelly and Woolery both sport a huge list of theatrical involvements listing several theatrical groups, residencies and shows. They came to Alfred to develop their own image of the community through experience with residents and to demonstrate the exercises that Cornerstone employs.

During some early exercises we learned that the 26 participants were life-long residents of Alfred, people who chose to move to Alfred, people who were new to the area and people who expected a short-term (perhaps 4 year) relationship with the town. The group was made up of people with all manner of learning styles and found they could make sub groups with several commonalities such as favorite foods, having performed in groups or thinking that puppies are adorable. These were cultural mapping activities that required interaction and cooperation.

Cornerstone has guidelines for dialogue and we went over some of the elements in establishing a productive dialogue. There was discussion about the elements that define a community and the some of the ways of engaging with a community as well as guidelines for successful community meetings – all of which Donnelly and Woolery followed to make participants feel welcome and to keep everyone engaged.

During an exercise called wagon wheel, rotating pairs answered questions about their lives and their experiences in prejudice and assumptions. The focus moved from participants to the community as ideas built. In another exercise small groups talked about the specific characters that make Alfred come alive. Some of the “people” listed were art students, engineering students, and the town cops. Specific names included John Ninos, John Cunningham and Becky Prophet.

In describing Alfred through the senses people spoke of Nana’s, the Terra Cotta and Kinfolk when considering taste. For sight and smells they spoke of the hills and natural areas. The sound of peacefulness and the bells were commonly mentioned.
There were many small town stories shared from the memories of eating a can of pork and beans while walking down Main Street in the 1950s to the experience of arriving in Alfred just a few months ago and feeling welcomed from the first minute.

On the second day of the workshop a lot of these memories, impressions and details worked into short skits to try to explain the concept of Alfred. Whether or not this process continues and grows into something more the workshop was an interesting process in building a sense of community and learning to establish groups that work well together.