Focus Groups Underway Today, Thursday
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Whether they were painters, metalworkers, glassblowers or sculptors, many of the 31 gathered at the first Artspace focus group had one thing in common.
They were all using their own homes as their creative space.
“I do wood-burning at my dining room table,” said Anne Vrooman.
“I practice my dance and music in my living room,” said Elizabeth Raphaelson, owner of the Underground Attic.
“I’m trying to record music while the garbage trucks are driving around,” said James McIlroy.
Artspace, the Minneapolis-based not-for-profit, is in the city for three days, meeting with focus groups, touring sites and assessing whether or not one of their buildings – which offers low-cost live/work space for artists, community rooms and storefronts – would be a welcome addition to Oneonta’s downtown.
“We’re embarking on an adventure of creativity,” said Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig. “Part of this initiative is to explore how providing a facility that supports artists would revitalize our downtown.”
Prior to the meeting, the group toured potential sites for the project, including the Westcott Lot, the Old City Hall (now a county office building), the Oneonta Ford building on Market Street and the space above the Latte Lounge, as well as CANO, The Main View Gallery and Artware.
“You’ve got a lot of really stunning buildings,” said Wendy Holmes, Artspace senior VP/consulting & strategic partnerships.
Anna Growcott, director/consulting & strategic partnerships, outlined some of the spaces Artspace is known for, including their combined live/work spaces, community spaces where artists can host events, collaborative workshops where artists can pay a membership to use the workshop tools, and retail space.
The visitors were then asked what they would like to see in the project.
In reply, they suggested open studios where the public could interact with the artists, soundproof spaces where artists could give music lessons or conduct art-intensive therapy, rehearsal spaces for theater and music performance, storage space outside of the live/work spaces, as well as “dirty” studios for industrial arts, such as welding or blacksmithing, and “clean” studios for graphic design and 3D printing, and weekend rentals for out-of-town visitors to the artist community.
“They need to be well-lit studios,” said McIlroy. “I’ve done a lot of work in basements, under bridges, some pretty dingy places.”
“We need it to be centrally located, have a visible storefront and parking,” said Caitlin Davey.
When paired down by voting, the top three uses of the Artspace project were community space, live/work space and gallery spaces.
But what Oneonta needs most of all, said artist Charlie Bremmer, is enthusiasm. “We need to increase public excitement for the arts,” he said. “We want it so where you walk down the street and you see artists working. It’s just not happening in the western world. We want people to see art being worked on.”
The meetings continue today with a focus group on funding and finance, as well as a public comment meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Foothills. For a full schedule, click here.
“We usually only get about 15 people at these focus group meetings,” said Growcott. “But the artist group is always one of our favorite moments.”