It’s amazing how quickly 10 years have passed.
While it sometimes seems like yesterday — and sometimes it seems forever — June 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the Yates County Arts Center on Penn Yan’s Main Street.
The group purchased the vacant Maxwell Building in 2010 and, after an extensive renovation, opened the doors of the Frick Gallery and began offering classes at Rosenfield Studios in June 2012.
“One of the most interesting things about opening on Main Street,” said Kris Pearson, executive director of the arts center, “how many people came in and said, ‘It’s time to build an arts center in Penn Yan.’ Frustrated by all the volunteers who built the Arts Center on East Elm Street.”
The Art Center organization is actually 46 years old this year.
Originally known as the Yates County Arts Council, the center was established in 1976 and registered as a non-profit corporation in 1984. Its purpose is (and is) to enrich the lives of Yates County residents and visitors by providing opportunities for active participation in the arts.
Prior to Main Street’s relocation, the group leased space across the county, including a brief stop at Oliver House and a longer stop at Masonic Temple on East Elm Street, Penn Yan, operating under various names, including “Bending Lake Gallery” which was later simply called “gallery”. The dream has always been to build a place on the street for exhibitions, workshops, events and outreach, but for a small, rural, volunteer-driven nonprofit arts organization, it’s a big deal dream.
The catalyst for the new construction came in 2008, when Toronto art history professor Dr. Anne Smith bequeathed her properties, including her property in Lake Kuka, Sunny Point, to the arts centre. Comprising a cottage, barn and houseboat, she directs her gift for “art and therapy”. The Arts Center Board’s decision to invest in a permanent base for the organization was a key part of that vision and began exploring the buildings available on Main Street.
The building at 127 Main St., known as the “Maxwell Building,” was vacant at the time and served as a bank for more than 100 years and as a village for Penn Yan Traffic Court for decades.
Board members saw the potential of the space and appreciated the artistry of the round vault doors installed in 1936. Working with Honeoye architect Rob Wolfe and local contractor Paul Brown, volunteers at the art center came up with a design that prominently displays the work, provides space for projects and staff, and serves as a central location where the organization is visible.
There were a few obstacles along the way – like when the roof was replaced, the back wall of the building collapsed – as well as decisions about color (based on the palette of buildings on Penn Yan’s historic Main Street), floors, lighting and exhibition space. After installing the elevator to reach the second floor and basement, it took another year to be fully accessible. Generous donors have helped support the process and the response to the renovation has been reassuring.
“People are very impressed with the professional look of the gallery,” Pearson said. “But the space is also very popular – it’s really a community arts center. We’ve had conferences, tastings, openings and other events here. This visibility helps the arts center become more integral to the community a part of.”
Since its opening, the Frick Gallery has hosted more than 70 exhibitions, including annual shows highlighting the work of Yates County School students, the Penn Art Society, and artists participating in nationally judged exhibitions.
The Grauer elevator, installed in 2014, makes classes in Rosenfeld’s studio completely accessible. Starting in the summer of 2001 (and growing for a year or so in 2006), the Art Center offered 12 advanced outreach art classes and 25 adult art classes, and since its inception, the Art Center has offered more than 1,000 art programs in different mediums. seminar. Open on Main Street. Annual visitor numbers average three times as many as East Elm Street’s best years, and average annual sales are twice as high.
While the Main Street building is the permanent “home base” for the Arts Center, it serves as the center for organizing activities rather than the periphery. Every summer, Sunny Point is an active community facility that welcomes resident artists and professional art teachers who travel to the area to teach at the art center. The houseboat is now a public pottery studio, and the studio barn has been renovated to allow it to accommodate a variety of workshops and events, including yoga on the porch and the popular ice cream social. Arts Center projects are also taking place in Yates County schools, wineries, and senior living facilities.
The current Arts Center Board of Trustees sees 10 years of growth and achievement as cause for celebration, and they have scheduled a celebration on May 19th at The Seasons on Keuka at the Hampton Inn from 6-9pm. Everyone is welcome — call the Arts Center at 315-536-8226 to reserve your spot. Tickets are $50 per person.
Sunny Point opens its season on June 5 with pig roasts, wine and beer tastings, live music and facility tours. Everyone is invited to enjoy this unique property and tickets can be purchased at the Arts Center.
The Arts Center has come a long way since its inception in 1976 and looks forward to a bright future. It’s definitely something to celebrate.