Routes to Art

America’s got talent - with some of its stellar artists hidden right here in the hills of Western New York.

Cattaraugus County Arts Council will host the 7th Annual Routes to Art, an open studio tour, May 17-18 from 10am-5pm throughout Cattaraugus County and the Seneca Nation of Indians.  This year’s event features 42 artists, including many returning favorites and 10 newcomers.

“Favorites Elliott Hutten, Robin Zefers Clark, and Barbara Fox will again be welcoming visitors,” said Anne Conroy-Baiter, Executive Director of the Cattaraugus County Arts Council. “Our Cattaraugus group of Mike Weishan, Eileen Weishan, Anne Mormile, and Dawn Lombardi will set up on the patio right next to tour sponsor Murphy's Gourmet, and our Salamanca group of Carson Waterman, Penelope Minner, Kristina McLeod, and Chris Stark will also return to share their wares.”

New to Routes to Art this year is Sarah Walker, a young chainsaw artist from Cattaraugus, Tom Militello, a glass artist, and Mikel Wintermantel, C.M., a luminous landscape painter from Western New York. 

“We are very much excited that Mikel has joined Routes to Art this year,” Conroy-Baiter said. “His work is renowned throughout the region … and he’s one of the art’s council’s biggest supporters.”

Wintermantel, who will join Sean Huntington and Pat Eckstrom at their studio in Ellicottville, has attended Routes to Art every year since its inception. This year, however, he’s looking forward to showing alongside his friends and displaying new work for collectors closer to his home territory.”

“There are some truly amazing secrets hidden in these hills,” Wintermantel said of Routes to Art and its talented participants. “My hope is that visitors will come away with a knowledge that there are many more accomplished artists in Cattaraugus County than they previously thought.”

Conroy-Baiter agreed. “Routes to Art is unique in providing personal access to the artists, in its ability to show off our beautiful region - just when the leaves and flowers are emerging - and in showcasing the hidden talents found over hill and dale.”

“We’ve fine-tuned Routes to Art from year to year, based on artist and visitor feedback,” Conroy-Baiter continued. “One of our biggest and most successful changes has been the centralization of the tour weekend around the more easily-drivable area of Ellicottville, Salamanca, Cattaraugus, and Gowanda.”

Another major change for Routes to Art is the addition of a holiday sale, this year to be held on Nov. 16.  As Conroy-Baiter describes it, “The Holiday Sale is a wonderful opportunity to purchase unique and handcrafted holiday gifts at all price points.  It’s such a great event, bringing together all the artists under one roof, at the perfect time of year for shopping and gifting.”

Also highlighting Routes to Art is the pre-event exhibition, which opened April 25 at The Center Gallery on Jamestown Community College’s Olean campus.  The exhibition offers the public a chance to preview a sample of work from all the Routes to Art artists.  As Conroy-Baiter explained, “Many people use the exhibition as a way to plan which artists to visit during the weekend of Routes to Art.”

Routes to Art is a family-friendly event for all ages; Conroy-Baiter said she looks forward to attending with her daughters each year. Conroy-Baiter suggests that anyone attending this year’s event come with a budget in mind, as it “gives you a goal for the day of actively finding something that appeals to your senses and intellect.”

“Ask questions, encourage interaction and explore the region through the fresh eyes of a tourist,” Conroy-Baiter said, noting that the founding goal of the Cattaraugus County Arts Council for Routes to Art focused on creation of a cultural tourism program for the area.  “I truly believe we’ve achieved that goal and beyond. We’ve created a multi-tiered marketing program for artists, providing exposure, selling opportunities, and a network of peers with whom to exchange learning and experience.  We’ve literally put the county on the arts map, raising credibility of arts and culture in Cattaraugus County.  We’ve provided yet another way in which quality of life is enhanced for people living here.”

Conroy-Baiter continued, “The event is at its best when you witness the interaction between artist and visitor. Artists love interacting with people and showing off their talent. The artwork then takes on additional meaning and value, and both people gain insight into what makes the region wonderful.”

For many of the artists, including Wintermantel, the area provides much inspiration for the art they produce.  “We live in a beautiful area, and being outdoors inspires me and allows me to decompress and relax,” he said. “I find inspiration all around me, up every hollow and down every brook.”

Wintermantel also finds inspiration in his family, especially his older brother who is an accomplished artist. He said middle school art class jumpstarted his interest, and he attended painting camps during high school. Later, he studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, Rochester Institute of Technology, and St. Bonaventure University.

“I have always been interested in art since my earliest memories,” Wintermantel said, noting that he is proud of his art and the way in which it’s evolved.

“What has changed the most is my method and materials,” he explained.  “I have refined my technique to a point where my materials are nearly transparent in the process of creating art.  I strive to be unique.  I’m proud of my ability to show the effect of light in a painting, hence the name luminism.”

In addition to creating luminous landscape art, Wintermantel offers workshops on the technique for other artists. More information about his work can be found at www.mikelwintermantel.com.  And of course, be sure to check out his work during Routes to Art.

This year’s Routes to Art is sponsored by seven new business partners, and Conroy-Baiter is thankful for that extra support, as well as the assistance of volunteers and the community.

“Funding is a continuous challenge for Routes to Art,” she said. “People assume there are more people working at the arts council based on the amount of programming and servicing we offer throughout the region.  However, we run a very tight ship.  Through the great teamwork and a commitment to excellence, we accomplish much more than we should!”

For more information on this year’s Routes to Art, including a sneak peek at all the artists on the tour, visit www.routestoart.com, as well as the Cattaraugus County Art Council’s website, www.myartscouncil.net.

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