By Dan McClelland
Publisher's note: Two weeks ago we carried a story about the creation of a new arts and cultural organization in Tupper Lake which is called Tupper Arts. The key promoter of the group is Louise McNally, who has directed the Tupper Lake Art Show for the past two years and who organized last summer's Street Festival in the uptown business district. The new group comes on the heels of a rich legacy of the promotion of the arts here with at least two different organizations. Donna Sloan, who was instrumental in the work of the Tupper Lake Arts Council for decades, this week put together something of a brief history of those groups from old scrapbooks kept, from the minutes of meetings she kept as the council secretary and with conversations with key people who still live here. We offer our thanks to Donna for that work.
On February 6, 1979 “Tupper Lake Presents...,” a new arts group in town was formed. It was incorporated as a federal not for profit organization in 1979 and the designation was renewed five years later.
Some of the instrumental people were Fran Collier, who was the principle founder, Ray and Dickie Jenkins, Molly Sherry, Chrys Dudbridge, the name a few.
On November 1980 a new “Tupper Lake Presents...” office established above Free Press building and there was no rent charged by the newspaper company. The group remained there for several years.
In November 1982 the arts council volunteers, along with community supporters purchased the long idle State Theater along with the leaders and board of Project PRIDE, the principle mission of which was to clean-up and energize the community. The group leased to Jeff Szot (JS Cinemas) of Canton. Theater had been abandoned since 1975. Years later the building was later sold to Mr. Szot and many of the initial investments were repaid. Muriel Ginsberg and Mary Mercurio were part of the driving force behind Project PRIDE (People Really Interested in Donating Energy?), as were co-chairs Bruce VanVranken and Judy McCartney, who both became involved with arts council through PRIDE.
For the arts council and the community the years 1979 to 1993 were extremely active with many concerts, plays, workshops, musical groups, movies, dances, poetry readings, storytellers, instrumental and dance classes, children’s events, etc.
The files of the arts council during the years of 1993 to a decade later are missing, so information about its work would only be found after copious research in the annals of the hometown weekly.
From conversations she had with past members Mrs. Sloan found that bother Elaine Yabroudy and Newton Greiner were very involved in leadership roles.
Julia Gagnier and Erin Dangler took over at one point. They added dance lessons and violin lessons.
Their dream was to open a community arts center, but it never became a reality. That goal remains today in the new mission of Tupper Arts, according to Mrs. McNally.
The name “Tupper Lake Presents...” was changed to Tupper Lake Arts Council in 1997.
The years 2003 to 2014 saw a resurgence of activities by the arts council. It was at one point re-named Tupper Lake Arts Council (TLAC). Eileen Hayes and Seth McGowan were the first co-chairs. In many ways, through the hard work of volunteers, the arts and cultural group was re-energized. Others involved in those years were Beth Johnson, Karen Greiner, Randy Jones, Dan Bower, Trish Anrig, Meredith Warwick, Elise LaBrake, Sue Svoboda and Donna Sloan.
Events include New Years Eve galas at the Wild Center, Celebrate TL Street fairs, Big Band dinner/dances, Pendragon plays, Shakespeare in the Park, Cabin Fever Art Classes, Opera Night at Little Italy, Mystery Dinner Theater, Night at the Races, scholarships given out for dance, instrumentals, and drama study, etc., etc.,
When Eileen and Seth stepped down, Beth Gagnier took over for a short while and soon after Trish and Meredith stepped up with Donna remaining as secretary
In 2013 the Tupper Lake Arts Council leaders contributed $10,000 to theater toward about $80,000 in new digital equipment, necessary to keep up the transformation to digital films in the industry.
The next year group leaders tried to energize and regroup, but there was not enough interest from people in the community.
In 2015, a much smaller group at the arts council took over annual art show from Goff Nelson Memorial Library staffers, who had run it for nearly a half century.
Later that year the board fell apart through lack of interest in events and only a handful of people doing it all.
In 2016 Louise McNally and Susan Lawson took over art show and moved it to train station for the first time. The number of artists increased as the organizers looked to people from across the region.
Last year Louise took over completely, and moved the show again to the former Ginsberg's Department Store building on Park Street. It was highlighted by the creation of what was called the “Celebrate Tupper Lake Street Festival,” which marked the completion of the state refurbishment of Park Street. That was a big Saturday last August.
“Tupper Arts” will sponsor this year's August art show and a street festival, which is expected to run down the length of Mill Street from Park to the lake.
The new group and the two before it share a common thread: the willingness of local folks to work hard and volunteer their time to bring first-class entertainment through a variety of creative endeavors to Tupper Lake, its residents and its visitors. Watch for reports and advertisements of “Tupper Arts” activities to come in upcoming issues.
By Dan McClelland