Friday, November 4, 2011


On a sunny pleasant November afternoon, we gathered again to explore and refine the emerging intersections of the Arts and Agriculture worlds in Orange County. This has been not unlike the process of developing Night Vision. There's first the undifferentiated darkness, then slowly forms appear and then come to take on details.
A few observations, made earlier, but now clearer:
The "Ag" community is as widely varied and diverse as the "Arts" community. Some farmers/artists want just to be as left alone as possible. They are not interested in "intersections" with each other or other groups. GO AWAY! People at the meeting could name local farmers and local artists who, no matter how you plead, will not join some new group.
This is interesting for us artists who hear rumors of NYC artists with Orange County homes or studios. They come here to stay off the radar, not to become a local celebrity.

Similarly, only some of the 642 Orange County farms are even open to the public. And those that are range from the rough mom and pop "Buy raw milk and eggs here on Saturday" to the well-stocked, year-round farm market with restaurant and maybe a pub.

So what's a next step?

Well, back to night vision. First, try not to bump into anything.
Second find a few familiar landmarks: artists who already have some ag connections and some farmers who already see the value or "value added" of incorporating arts into their mix.

Third Arts and Ag Meeting

It was a wet, dark night. About 30 people gathered to share food and thoughts on how arts and agriculture can grow together in Orange County. We were at The Seligmann Homestead, an old farm, now home to the Orange County Citizens Foundation and the Orange County Arts Council. Tasty, homemade foods were provided by the Rogowski Farm

There were three practicing farmers there: Cheryl Rogowski, Steve Pennings and John Wright. One question was what can arts do to add value to a working farm?
John Wright immediately pointed out that all the agri-tourism is centerd on the autumn. Was there something to do that would extend the traffic throughout more of the year? There were a few dozen suggestions for both short-term and ongoing mutual activities, some costly, some not so much so. (Specifics can be found below)

It was generally agreed that greater ongoing visibility for arts activities on the farms was a start; that there should be some kind of branding of Arts and Ag in Orange County and Steve Pennings suggested that some membership association of artists and farmers be formed to pursue this. In such an organization, the right motivated farmers can meet up with the right artists and develop unique relationships and projects. The Arts Council may be the place to help start such a group as it carries on the planning work of this part of the NEA support into some kind of implementation

It seems that there is a group of farmers who already are involved with arts and they might form the initial core of the next part of this Placemaking process. In my introduction, I pointed out this Blog and the reports on the many, many Ag/Arts projects already underways across the world.

It was about six weeks after Hurricanes Irene and Lee devastated the area and Farmers Rogowski and Pennings were still talking about lingering damage in both the upland and Black Dirt farms. Earlier that evening, Cheryl Rogowski accepted a check for $100,000 from the community. The goal was to raise $25,000 before September 25th. Four times that was raised, with $$ still coming in to an ongoing Farm Community Reflief Fund.

I mention this because one consequence of the Hurricanes was to make the farming and arts communities more porous. Much of the relief money was raised through arts activities. This has super-charged this particular time as an important one for moving along the relationship between arts and agriculture.

Also, this NEA support is about "Placemaking"... how spaces take on meaning in communities. Art is a way that meaning gets made. It can make experiences more memorable.

Notes on Meeting by Megan Tennerman

Orange County Assets Unique to the Arts
• Connection to history; Renaissance Faire, Civil War Re-enactments at
Museum Village, etc.
• NYC—close enough to be a market, far enough to take refuge
• Landscape art
• Nature-based art/drawing inspiration from the landscape
• Storm King/outdoor sculpture
• Stone walls
• Intellectual haven
• Unique museums
• Art movements
• The place to show art
• Varied and diverse
• Growing and becoming renowned in region/increasing tourist draw
• Local food festivals (Applefest, etc.) provide market

County Assets Unique to Agriculture• Black Dirt
• Apple orchards
• Fields/landscapes change seasonally
• Dairy and horse farming still present in Orange County
• Agricultural diversity now present—no longer just onions or apples
• Ethnic contributions to Black Dirt farming
• Preservation effort in Orange County quite strong
• Relative economic strength—impact of bad economy not as bad as it
could be. (Steve Pennings contribution)
• Northeast climate—challenging weather
• Water as double-edged sword (flooding, drought)
• Familiarity as image—old farms, old walls, farm architecture
• Unadulterated by merchandising and other diversions

Assets Common to Agriculture and Arts• Entrepreneurship and creativity necessary to both industries
• Proximity to NYC
• Both industries require commitment and passion for the work
• Family-oriented businesses/lifestyle careers
• Similar needs in terms of funding, materials, specialized tools,
marketing, and other resources
• Cooperative partnering between industries already in place
• Both industries are year-round operations
• Both industries are visual and experiential
• Both industries nourish
• Both industries are spread throughout the County
• Both industries are creative
• Both industries benefit from open space
• Both industries can benefit from trend toward “staycations”

Second Arts and Ag Charrette/Focus Group
On Monday, September 26, about 30 people gathered on a sunny afternoon at Soons Orchards in New Hampton, New York ( where they grow 52, yes 52, varieties of apples) to continue the exploration of the common and developing areas for arts and agriculture. The questions:
How can arts and artists contribute to a more vigorous agricultural economy?
How can the farms and farmers help develop new venues for arts and artists?

The Wallkill River School of Montgomery, NY has been recognized by a National Endowment for the Arts planning grant to pursue these topics with several other Orange County partners. The grant reads this way: To support the development of economic strategies for long-term, sustainable partnerships between the arts and agriculture in Orange County. Project activities include a study on the economic impact of the arts, community workshops, planning meetings, and arts programming to integrate arts into the rural communities of the county.

The three-hour event starts with an inviting table of local foods--indicative of the importance of Orange County in the regional "Food Shed".
The question is asked to people sitting a tables: "What's unique about arts and what's unique about Agriculture in Orange County AND then what do they have in common?" After about 15 minutes of discussion the answers are shared among all and it becomes more clear how arts and agriculture can work together.
This meeting was particularly interesting because of the devastation of so many local farms in Hurricanes Irene and Lee. There was a heightened sense of community and shared concern.
To this observer, it looks like artists and farmers interested in actually developing programs and projects together will be matched up and encouraged to "seed and grow" them. In general, it was agreed that the arts can help draw people to the farms and deepen the experience of how time, space and nature interplay on the farm. Visitors to a Farm/Art partnership will likely have an experience of something very special and memorable. They will feel "connected".

How did others of you there remember these discussions?

Here is Megan Tennerman's summary of the key points of the event:

Orange County Assets Unique to the Arts
• Storm King
• The work itself is individual and unique
• Don’t know what the end product will be
• Some artists (not all) tend to keep to themselves and their work
• Number of people practicing
• Evolving with new people
• A manageable size
• Show art at vegetable markets in the city/culinary arts at a farm
• Hudson River School of painting
• Atypical venues
• Different audiences—arts
• Artist as facilitator/coach
• Artist as mentor
• Frank Stella' studio on Rt 17K

County Assets Unique to Agriculture
• Black Dirt
• Work goes in cycles
• More often passed on in a single family
• New apple trail
• Old/traditional
• Changed use
• Ethics of land
• Understanding ecology
• Many farms/density

Assets Common to Agriculture and Arts
• Hand work
• Hard work
• Nature based
• Largest 4-H program in NYS (verify)
• Proximity to Metro NY
• High risk
• Starts within the person—heart’s passion
• Need to provide experiential learning
• Connection to local history
• Visually gorgeous
• Appreciation of the arts helps you get into your soul
• Work gestates slowly
• Both farmers and artists tend not to want to deal with marketing
• Movement in specific repeating patterns
• Affected by outside forces
• Dependent on consumers/viewers
• Not 9-5 jobs
• Work involves people of all ages
• Artists and farmers both feel isolated
• Both industries need more opportunities to meet and connect and
build a trail (a network, maybe? Or an actual trail?)
• Sculptural trail on farms
• Jazz festival on farms
• Fusion/juxtaposition of art and nature
• Create memorable experiences, making special.
• Use of old silos?

Brainstorming Ideas

1. Weekend where all artists can link up with farms—experience the
farm. Photography at one farm, sculpture at another, etc.
(Received 15 votes)
2. International Center for Photography comes out to farms with
theme (Received 4 votes)
3. Sensory and touch experience at farms, i.e. terrarium play plants
(Received 12 votes)
4. Orange County Farm Market gift shop in each village/town (city too
presumably) (Received no votes)
5. Doing project with local clay using vegetables at farm, can be sold at
markets/farms/info booths, etc. (Received 8 votes)
6. Farmers and artists work together at markets in NYC to connect
people with where the food comes from. (Received 8 votes)
7. Art walks—fill Main Streets. Apples painted by artists, creating a
picture from fruits and vegetables. Promote farms and farm tours.
(Received 13 votes)
8. Bring art schools up from the city (kids and adults)—students can
practice their medium in nature. (Received 18 votes—top 5)
9. Website or literature for Orange County featuring what’s happening
on the farms. Should feature farms and artists, put in magazine also.
Artistic experience. (Received 11 votes)
10. Partner with NY Historical Society discussing farming history. Handson
experiences from yesteryear, equipment demos. (Received 8
11. Create culinary school for 3 days/week, hook up with B & B so
you’re keeping people to learn about local produce. (Received 3
12. When linking artists to farm in #1, have a show to have artists share
experiences in a multidisciplinary exhibition and show. (8 votes)
13. Artist paints on side of trucks—advertisement for artists as well.
Add in groups of children and amateur artists. (Received 16 votes—
top 5)
14. Go to markets everywhere with literature and message to visit
(Received no votes)
15. Create a logo so people associate Black Dirt and Orange County—
Agarts in Orange County (Received 8 votes)
16. Get a celebrity that transcends, that all know, that feels a real
connection to area, like Morgan Freeman. (Received 12 votes)
17. Book of stories of farm workers (we have something like this—
collection of photo essays, maybe. Check w/Tourism) (Received 10
18. Farms doing theme weekends e.g. Christmas, Easter, Halloween; get
artists involved. (Received 4 votes)
19. Flash mobs on the farms (Received no votes)
20. Develop artist-type tourist maps, showing farms open to visit,
restaurants, etc. (Received 21 votes—top 5)
21. Get road signs for farms like they have in wine country (Received 14
22. Tie in to #10—Children’s theater program, create and act out plays
about farming history told by older farmers. Farmers’ wives stories,
too, and sense of community. (Received 11 votes)
23. Have farmers tell about environmental issues, e.g. bugs education—
draw bugs, have costume contest (Received 3 votes)
24. Orange County Farmers calendar and paintings (Received 16 votes—
top 5)
25. Educate people on how to survive off the land (Received 3 votes)
26. Create a database for interested farmers and artists that are willing
to work together. (Received 24 votes—top 5)
27. Farmers can participate in American Crafts Week (October 7-16,
2011—always second week of October?) (Received no votes)
28. When planning events, be aware of farmer’s seasonal demands
(Received no votes) (Likely intended as reminder rather than idea)
29. Have a program of be with an artist for the day (Received 1 vote)

First Arts and Ag Meeting
The first of four brainstorming meeting was held last night at the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, NY. Despite closed roads and overbooked fall schedules, 30 people turned out to explore the common area between Arts and Agriculture in Orange County... and begin to develop some actions to make both more visible and viable.

The Wallkill River School with several County partners got an NEA Our Town grant to explore and develop the relationshiop of arts and agriculture:
Using arts to create greater awareness of the importance of Orange County in the NYC FoodShed.
How can arts and artists contribute to a more vigorous agricultural economy?
How can the farms and farmers help develop new venues for arts and artists?

One major agreement was that an arts and agriculture tourism push has to party of a larger "web" or matrix of activities in Orange County. Comparisons were made to the area wine trails... where visiting the wineries was just a part of the experience of coming to the County. The restaurants, stores, B&Bs all benefit and contribute to the feeling of excitement, discovery and satisfaction visitors get-- and want more of

Other art/ag initiatives included:
*More Open Houses on the Farms... which include some local arts presence
*Develop highly visible Land Art projects on the farms
Use Google Earth to promote.Look at what "black Dirt" looks like from Google Earth!
*Develop a simple Logo and Slogan to brand arts and Ag of Orange County and try
to streamline how easy it might be to get information...
* Offer in-depth Farm-to-Finish days... where people can learn how farm-grown
products get made and used.

The next event, like this, is September 26 at Soons Orchard in New Hampton.

To those other 39 of you who were there. Did I remember well enough??

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