Routes to Art

 

   Imagine a road infused with paintings, photographs, pottery, plush creatures and more, all mapped out for an ultimate artistic adventure. 
   The dream becomes a reality as Routes to Art, an annual open-studio tour, returns to Cattaraugus County, NY and the Seneca Nation of Indians May 18-19.
   “This year marks the sixth year of Routes to Art,” said Anne Conroy-Baiter, Executive Director of the Cattaraugus County Arts Council, noting that the event is built around year-round, self-guided driving tours, culminating with a holiday sale in November and spring open studio weekend in May.  “Routes to Art is designed to increase tourist visits to Cattaraugus County and promote art sales while highlighting the beauty cultural heritage of the area.  It’s a self-guiding tour, so it can be as long or as short as preferred.”
   “Some visitors try to see every artist, and they’ll use all day Saturday and Sunday to do it,” Conroy-Baiter continued. “Others visit one or two artists between soccer games and garage sales. We average around 1,000 visitors each weekend, some from as far away as Pittsburgh and Toronto.”
   This year’s Routes to Art Tour will feature 35 artists with 28 of the participants returning from previous years.
   “We’re very happy to have seven new artists this year,” Conroy-Baiter said, noting that Routes to Art features regional artists working in a variety of mediums and styles, as well as artists from the Seneca Nation of Indians.  “It’s a lot of work to organize each year, but each year the Council walks away knowing we did a good thing for our region and our artists. It brings a new appreciation for the region and the wealth of talent we enjoy here.”
   Routes to Art began in 2007 after two area artists, Elliott Hutten and Sean Huntington, approached the Council and suggested the tour.  Elliott and Sean knew that artist tours worked in other regions and hoped the Cattaraugus County Arts Council would start their own.  They discussed the idea in 2007, a planning committee was organized, and the program was launched in May 2008.
   Conroy-Baiter and her daughters look forward to Routes to Art each year.  They “make a day of it by planning a route, stopping for lunch and enjoying the back roads.”
   “Halfway through my first time hitting the road for Routes to Art, I realized I was enjoying back roads, the blooming trees, visits with the artists, purchasing a few special pieces for myself and the company of my daughters,” she explained.
   Artists participating in Routes to Art are encouraged to offer art at various price-points, and you can bet there is something for everyone at the event.
   “I’d encourage our visitors to pick up a brochure, check out the artist side of the map, and choose an artist whose work strikes a chord, then flip the page over to plan a simple route around the artist,” Conroy-Baiter advised. “Bring a friend, a little mad money and a sense of adventure.  Routes to Art shows off the best of what the region is - beauty, talent, adventure, and people.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a spring day in Western New York.
   This year, tourists of Routes to Art will notice the event is more condensed to Salamanca, Ellicottville, Little Valley, Cattaraugus and Irving. Maps are available region-wide or by requesting the information by emailing info@myartscouncil.com. The event is coordinated by the Cattaraugus County Arts Council and a committee of participating artists. For more details or sponsorship information, visit www.routestoart.com.
 
CATTARAUGUS COUNTY ARTS COUNCIL INSPIRES AND NURTURES ARTISTIC TALENT IN THE REGION
 
It’s more than watercolors and paint brushes, easels and clay.
   “For the Cattaraugus County Arts Council, the goal is to improve the quality of life for the Southern Tier and Northern Pennsylvania,” said Conroy-Baiter.
   With art classes ranging from pottery to water color, art camps for kids and ethnic cooking seminars, as well as a number of events throughout the year, such as Routes to Art, Art in the Park and Fourth Fridays, there’s something for everyone of all ages at CCAC.
   “A large part of what we do is recruit artists to be more involved in the available opportunities,” Conroy-Baiter explained. “At the moment, we’re looking for artists to participate in Works on Wood, Art in the Park, Southern Tier Biennial, Art on the Main Gallery, the Olean Farmers Market, and a special project to beautify Olean’s North Union Street.”
   In fact, CCAC has experienced a period of rapid growth in the past seven years, adding an educational program at their Community Art and Pottery Studio, forming many new community collaborations, using AmeriCorp to build CCAC’s volunteer program, and by producing new events.
   “There is a wide range of opportunities available to artists of all levels, so it’s not hard to believe that the CCAC’s membership doubled within recent years,” MConroy-Baiter said. “The true number is hard to calculate because so many [artists] are involved in classes, worships, events, and collaborations.”
   The programs and events offered by CCAC are funded through grants, donations, memberships, contributions and bed tax monies. However, according to Conroy-Baiter, financing is a challenge, particularly in recent years, and she hopes it receives more attention soon.
   “With the economic downturn, funding is always precarious,” she said. “For two years in a row, Cattaraugus County has decided not to fund us outside the dedicated bed tax funding, which must be program specific.  CCAC plays an integral part in making this county thrive.  The arts deserve a real place on the agenda when funding decisions are made, and we’re hoping that County funding will return in 2014.” 
   In light of a suffering economy and funding deficits, Conroy-Baiter said there’s been a significant increase in public awareness off CCAC.  “I think it’s through our relocation to Allegany’s Main Street, a consistent presence in regional media, word of mouth, and an increased media profile,” she said. “The arts bring vibrancy, relevancy and commerce to the community, and it’s so easy to engage in the CCAC’s many activities and events.”
   The Cattaraugus County Arts Council is located at 100 W. Main Street in Allegany, NY, phone 716-372-7455.  For more information on upcoming events or ways to participate in the CCAC’s opportunities, visit them on the web at www.myartscouncil.net.
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