LAKE SARANAC – Photographers Eleanor Sweeney and Mark Kurtz are the only remaining founding members of the Adirondack Artists Guild, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The others were Ray Jenkins, Ralph Prata, and Corey Pandolph.
Visual artist Tim Fortune recruited artists to sign up for the artist cooperative startup at then 74 Main St. in Saranac Lake in 1997.
To understand the rebirth of the arts at Saranac Lake …
“Tim Fortune is really the guy who was the driving force behind the resurgence of the arts,” Kurtz said.
“He’s the one who recognized the possibilities of something like the Artists Guild, and started it.
“We joke, yes, there were five founding members, but in a way there were six thanks to Tim.”
North Country Artists Guild
Sweeney came to town in ’64.
The Cincinnati native majored in Russian at Middlebury College and lived in New York City before moving to the Adirondack.
His mother liked to paint and encouraged artistic activities.
“My grandparents and my mother had gone to Asia and they brought me things that influenced me, some paintings, objects and things.” she said.
“I always liked it. When my youngest son was in kindergarten, I took pictures at community college and that’s how it started. “
The fledgling cooperative was called the North Country Artists Guild until an existing organization of that name in Watertown challenged them to change their name.
The Adirondack Artists Guild was born. Motto: “Fine arts of five plastic artists”.
Sweeney remembers the dramatic figure of the building’s owner, Countess Alicia Paolozzi, tall and dressed in black, walking in and out of 74, now 77 Main St.
“I have a mental image from the day we opened of her sitting there signing the contract with Mark,” she said.
“It was a beautiful snowy December day.”
At first, the artists thought it would be great to have an art gallery to display their work.
“Sometimes we had guests” Sweeney said.
“So, we started the idea of having a jury show, which attracted other artists and other people, visitors.
“As time went by, we would have featured artists on a monthly basis. The members would take turns. We had receptions with food, sometimes even with music. But now, we don’t do that anymore. We are discussing how to do things now because we cannot have crowds and it is not good to eat sandwiches. “
The guild became popular and is now a fixture in the community.
“People were happy about it”, she said.
“They would come and talk. We sold things. Even now, people stop to chat masked and all. It just helped Saranac Lake become this community known for art and music. “
For Sweeney, it’s hard to believe 25 years have passed.
“We didn’t have a great plan at the beginning,” she said.
“We just wanted to start an art gallery, and it took its own shape. We get more members and more ideas. The good thing about this is that we are all very different, but we get along well. One of the main things is that I think we laughed a lot. “
The guild moved from 77 Main Street to 52 Main Street in 2002.
The member artists are: painter Jacqueline Altman, painter Meg Bernstein, painter Nancy Brossard, painter Jeanne Danforth, painter Sandra Hildreth, Kurtz, painter Suzanne Lebeda, photographer Barry Lobdell, ceramist Karen Morris, collagist / assembler Anastasia Osolin, photographer Burdette Parks, painter Burdette Parks Valerie Patterson, jeweler Toos Roozen-Evans and Sweeney.
The guild will house “Transition,” an art show to benefit High Peaks Hospice during the month of January.
The show will be posted online on the Artists Guild website, adirondackartistsguild.com.
Representatives from High Peaks Hospice will be in the gallery from 4 pm to 6 pm on Friday, January 7, to greet visitors and begin the bidding.
For Sweeney, the gallery has been wonderful.
“It’s a place to always have my stuff on the wall, otherwise it’s basically sitting at your house waiting for some show or something.” she said.
“I really like sitting in the gallery and working. Most of us take turns sitting there. I like for people to come and talk about art from all over the world and just sitting amongst other people’s artwork, I think something leaks out. You get a little inspiration from this and that. It makes you stretch and think a bit. “
Kurtz remembers a large sign, “Christina’s place”, that was about the entrance to the first guild house.
“It is named after his daughter (Countess Paolozzi) because her daughter (Christina Bellin, 1939-1988) passed away.” he said.
“The countess had this little shop in her daughter’s name and in her memory. But it was empty. It was not being used and I was interested in having an art gallery there. “
The guild members repainted the walls.
“Because we wanted it to look really fresh.” he said.
“The ceiling was a medium light blue and we wanted to repaint that white. So we started to paint that white, and we partially went into it and the building manager came in and saw it, gasped and said, ‘Oh no, you can’t paint the ceiling a different color. That was the countess’s daughter’s favorite color and that color had to stay on the ceiling. “So we had to go back and repaint what we had just painted to the original color. The countess, you know, had some eccentricities, but we just worked with it. “
Kurtz also recalls that the guild had a great opening turn.
“We made enough sales that we all felt it was worth it,” he said.
“We quickly expanded to other artists. I think we add three more people probably after spring or summer or something. I can’t remember exactly. “
Kurtz was a member of the guild for the first three years.
“That gave me the courage to open my own gallery (Photograph of Mark Kurtz on Broadway), which I did, and then I left my membership in the guild, although the reality is that all the artists here hang out together anyway.” . he said.
Oldest Member Newest
Four years ago, painter Ken Wiley retired and Kurtz took his vacant position after an 18-year hiatus.
It was a no-brainer for the photographer, whose studio is upstairs in the same building.
“I have to admit, that’s one of the things that made rejoining the guild so attractive because they’re literally walking down the stairs.” he said.
“For me, the advantage is that if someone came in and looked at my stuff and talked and asked about it, the person who was sitting in the gallery could say, ‘Mark, it’s upstairs. You can go up and talk to him. That has been really beneficial. Then people have gone from the gallery to my studio and talked to me about things. I’ve made sales that way. “