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Lake George Arts Project: Reimagining the Village’s Summer Favorites
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The Courthouse Gallery
The Courthouse Gallery.
Courtesy: Lake George Arts Project

Lake George is a hot spot for New Yorkers and Northeasterners alike during the summer months. This year, however, will be different compared to summers past.

Escaping to the Adirondack region for its famed activities; a boat ride on the pristine water, epic ice cream tastings, watching live entertainment on the water’s edge, swimming at Million Dollar beach, and, of course, mini golf, may be slow in getting back to normal.

For the art and music enthusiasts out there, the Lake George Arts Project (LGAP) has been hard at work, reimagining their programming.

Established in 1977, the LGAP has been an influential part of the area for many decades. Offering art and music programs to the community and its many visitors while giving one of a kind exposure to professional and emerging artists. The LGAP has been providing the artistic community opportunities to thrive in this picturesque town and offers never-ending support to all kinds of artists.

The LGAP has established art and music programs like Jazz Weekend, The Summer Concert Series, the Courthouse Gallery, The Collector’s Club, and more.

Tanya Tobias-Tomis, Executive Director of the Lake George Arts Project, gave insight into the LGAP, how operations have changed, and how LGAP has reimagined its annual programs for the public to still enjoy.

What exactly is the LGAP and what does it offer the creative and artistic community?

For nearly forty years, the Lake George Arts Project has presented high-quality music programs, visual art exhibitions, events, and workshops for our local and regional communities. Popular programs like our Summer Concert Series, Lake George Jazz Weekend and exhibitions in our Courthouse Gallery are always free and open to all.

Can you describe the music and art programs, and how each support professional and emerging artist? Also, how can this community get involved and showcase their talents?

Our Visual Arts Programs:

The Courthouse Gallery: The mission of the Courthouse Gallery is to provide exhibition opportunities to emerging and professional artists, with preference given to work created within the last 2 years, and to experimental or non-traditional work. The Gallery plays a vital role in the region as one of the few visual arts galleries dedicated to showing recent work by established and emerging contemporary visual artists in all media.

The Collector’s Club: The Collector’s Club is an artwork sale and fundraiser designed to introduce regional artists to the individuals and businesses in their communities. Anybody, and everybody, is invited to look at the catalog and online store, find a work they love, and make it part of their collection – if they don’t have a collection, work purchased through this program can help them start one! When individuals and businesses buy an original work from The Collector’s Club, they are supporting regional artists, as well as supporting The Lake George Arts Project and our mission to provide exposure and income opportunities to professional and emerging artists, and to provide quality arts programming for the residents and visitors of the Lake George region. We are always adding new works to the catalog and store and purchasers to check back often. Artists who are interested in participating can submit work anytime (details are on our website).

Our Presenting Season:

Our Presenting Season is made up of two major components; our Summer Concert Series which features free concerts every Wednesday evening in July and August and our Jazz at the Lake program which presents 7 concerts, by world-renowned Jazz musicians, over the course of one weekend in September (for 2021, our Jazz Weekend will take place September 18 - 19).

Our Summer Concert Series offers a diverse mix of music, from blues to rock, folk, reggae, bluegrass, choral, Cajun, country and world beat. It has also been an international showcase, with bands from South America, Canada, and the British Isles being well represented over the years.

Jazz at the Lake, considered one of the premier festivals of its kind nationally, features a diverse program of internationally acclaimed musicians with a goal of introducing Jazz to those who don’t know it, and expanding the range and experiences for those that do. We strive to ensure our programming is not just diverse in the sub-genres, styles and types of Jazz we’re presenting, but that we are also featuring artists at different points in their careers, from emerging to established professional artists.

Annually, over 10,000 people attend concerts in our presenting season and both our Summer Concert Series and our Jazz at the Lake are always free and are open to all.

Special Events:

We don’t want to brag, but the Lake George Arts Project puts the “FUN” in fundraiser! We have four fundraising events a year that often sell out - including our popular Bands and Beans event, two golf tournaments, and a themed Summer Solstice Cruise. We also offer professional development and other special events.

What has the response been like from residents and visitors of the Lake George region as they interact with the art community and participate in programs?

The Lake George Community is one of the most supportive communities I’ve ever worked in. Our Jazz at the Lake program often sees 800+ people attend each concert; our Summer Concerts series performances often see attendance around 500. Our gallery sees attendance in the thousands and combined, we have over 1000 people attend our special events, annually. Since the impact of Covid-19, dozens of friends of the Arts Project have reached out to show their support and to see how we are doing - we are so lucky to be located in Lake George!

How have operations of LGAP changed in recent months?

There is not a non-profit in the world that was prepared for the past few months. Non-profits are really adept at managing predictable impacts (such as increased competition, decreased attendance, etc...) but there is no model for a complete closure and cancellation of all events. Like most of our friends in the non-profit arts world, we needed to reimagine our whole approach to programming. We quickly pulled together a model to present our exhibitions (in full) online and started brainstorming programs that could thrive within unpredictable circumstances and would still be engaging and fit within our mission. Throughout all of this, we also wanted to use this time to our benefit, so we developed plans for growing our audiences through increasing participation opportunities and more fully developing our website which wasn’t quite ready to host things like streaming, virtual exhibitions and new programming.

In what ways has LGAP been made accessible to the public throughout the pandemic?

We’ve made our exhibitions accessible by hosting online artist talks and uploading exhibitions in their entirety to our website in both gallery and video formats. We’ve made artist participation in LGAP programs more accessible by developing and launching a new program, the Collector’s Club: Artwork Sale and Fundraiser, that invites all artists to submit work for sale and everybody who would like to, to visit the Collector’s Club store, learn about the artists and purchase work. We have also developed a virtual version of our Jazz at the Lake program, Jazz at the Lake: Reimagined, a series of four performances and discussion with renown Jazz musicians that will be streamed via all of our outlets (our website, Facebook and Instagram pages and our YouTube Channel). Artists will also stream the performances through their channels - which will reach a wider audience than we’ve ever engaged before!

Has LGAP been able to make any plans for upcoming events and exhibitions now that NYS is slowly reopening?

We are a Phase 4 organization, so we would be allowed to open on July 1st. The timing is strange for us because the gallery is dark while we prepare and install our next exhibition, Work by Jenny Kemp. (Jenny's work was also featuredon WMHT's showAHA! A House for Arts) So, we will open our gallery on July 11th, which will be the first day of Jenny’s show. The gallery will be open during our regular hours (Wednesday - Friday, 12pm - 5pm and Saturdays, 12pm - 4pm) and we encourage people who can’t come during those times to set up a time with us to see the show.

We will present our artist talk for this show virtually, though, to allow more people than we can safely allow in the gallery to participate. Like many other organizations we decided that in order to ensure the safety of our participating artists, staff, volunteers, and attendees we wouldn’t attempt a live, on-site, program this year.

Our Jazz at the Lake: Reimagined program will be offered online, too. For us that was a difficult decision because it had to be made in April / May, when we really have no idea what September will be like

Jazz at the Lake and the Summer Concert Series programs have been canceled. How have these specific programs been reimagined?

Much of what we’ve been doing for the past few months is thinking about how we can best devote our limited resources (staff, time, money). In this, we’ve decided to forgo our summer concert series - there are lots of amazing musicians streaming concerts on a regular basis right now - and instead focus on the development of a virtual version of our Jazz at the Lake program. In reimagining the program, we really looked at every aspect of what we could take from the goals of our traditional presentation and what new goals we could incorporate by going virtual. We saw the biggest opportunity for us, besides continuing to fulfill our mission, was building new audiences - people who might not normally be able to visit Lake George to attend Jazz at the Lake could potentially tune into a show for our virtual series. All of a sudden, the whole world became a potential audience for our program. We did a lot of research into what the most popular times for streaming are, how best to stream to ensure the program is accessible to those who are savvy with the internet, as well as those who aren’t as savvy.

Our Jazz Curator, Daniel Kelly, watched dozens of performances online to get a sense of how artists were engaging attendees (taking requests, answering questions, communicating directly with people who were watching), which artists had the best audio and visual quality, and what structures and formats for performances seemed to work the best. He then, with the programs goal of presenting a diverse selection of artists and genres, selected artists who were doing amazing, and different, things online and developed our schedule. We are so happy that we have Daniel, and the support of sponsors like the Gruskin Group, who helped make the virtual series a reality - it will be amazing!

Lake George is a hot spot for visitors during the summer months, how different will this summer be for the area and for the arts community?

Lake George is an area that will always bring people to visit - not only is it beautiful, there are so many recreational opportunities, amazing restaurants and hotel options. The Lake George Chamber of Commerce and the town and village have worked really hard to inform and prepare businesses for reopening, while at the same time prepare visitors for what they can expect. I imagine less people may visit, but those who do will find many of the things they enjoy about Lake George are still available. While NYS was on Pause, artists experienced unprecedented challenges - businesses weren’t hiring performers, concerts had been cancelled, galleries closed their doors... I hope that artists and musicians will find their options to participate and perform expand as things start to open back up.

How can the public and artistic community support LGAP, especially now?

Support comes in many forms and all forms of support matter! The public can...

1. Be our advocate in the community by talking to your family friends and neighbors about what we do!
2. Become a member of The Arts Project
3. Make a one-time contribution
4. Purchase artwork from the Collector's Club Catalog. Funds raised through artwork sales support regional artists and The Lake George Arts Project
5. Help us spread the word! By joining our mailing list, following us on Facebook and Instagram and sharing what we do - you help us reach and build new audiences!

Especially now, as we move through uncharted territory, every dollar donated makes a difference. During this time, we are working twice as hard - imagining new ways to bring our visual arts and music-based programs to you - all while trying to think of some uniquely Lake George Arts Project ways to make up for some of what we’ve lost.

We encourage all artists to reach out to us about performance and exhibition opportunities - we are happy to talk about all of the options!

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about The Lake George Arts Project and what we do! For news and information about all of our programming, please visit our website: www.lakegeorgearts.org.