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Q & A

New headquarters brings Sacandaga Valley artists together

Monday, September 23, 2013
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Q & A


John Spaeth, president of the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network, stands in the group’s new headquarters and gallery in Northville.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
John Spaeth, president of the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network, stands in the group’s new headquarters and gallery in Northville.

The Sacandaga Valley Arts Network has been around for 16 years, but now, for the first time, the arts organization has a home.

In July, the SVAN Arts Center opened in a storefront in downtown Northville, next to the Village Scoop ice cream shop.

“We’re on the web, we have brochures, we try to do as much publicity as we can, but the storefront has really brought it all together. People are now understanding that we are here,” says John Spaeth, president of SVAN.

Founded in 1997, SVAN is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization that supports the arts and artists of the Sacandaga watershed, a 1,000-square-mile area that includes parts of Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga and Warren counties.

The group counts more than 250 memberships, although the actual people count is about 400, Spaeth says, because many are couple or family memberships.

SVAN Arts Center

WHAT: Sacandaga Valley Arts Network's new headquarters and gallery

WHERE: 132 S. Main St., Northville

WHEN: Arts Center is open 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The current exhibit runs through October.

MORE INFO: www.svanarts.org or 863-8047

SVAN’s annual menu of events and programs include a summer concert series, a classical concert series, a winter coffeehouse series, art exhibits and about 30 workshops. Every year, as a fund-raiser, SVAN raffles a handmade quilt made by its members.

A Gloversville native, Spaeth is a retired IT manager who worked at Knolls Atomic Power Lab in Niskayuna. He and his wife, Barbara, a quilter and SVAN board member, live in Northville. Their son, Philip Spaeth, is the music minister at the Church of Saint Peter in Saratoga Springs.

The Gazette talked with Spaeth by phone a few weeks ago:

Q: Why did SVAN decide to open the Arts Center?

A: There’s been a vision out there for five or six years to have a space of our own. It gives us a presence, a place to hold events, a place to hold meetings, a place to store equipment. Bruce Brownell (the owner) is allowing us to use it rent-free. We’re paying the utilities.

Q: What is the space like?

A: It’s got one main room, which is what we are using currently as a gallery. It’s got two smaller rooms, one that kind of our work room, and the other is a little bit of a boardroom, a meeting space.

Q: What will happen in the SVAN Arts Center?

A: Right now we’re using it primarily as a gallery for visual arts. We’re trying to become a general information space within the village of Northville. So we have information from the Northville merchants. We’re working with the Fulton County Chamber.

Q: How does an artist exhibit in the new space?

A: Artists need to be members of our organization. Artists put in an application, show us samples of their work. And then we have a jury committee that determines what artists and what works will get shown.

Q: How long will your exhibits be?

A: Right now we’re working on a two-month rotation.

Q: Who curates the shows?

A: A: We have our jury team. We also have a group of folks that have generally always hung most of our shows. We have a gallery at the Vail Mills Visitors Center. (Fulton County Visitors Center in Vail Mills, at routes 29 and 30) We have another gallery here in Northville at the library.

Q: Three galleries? That’s a lot of artwork.

A: It is. We have quite a few artists … probably 50 or 60.

Q: Has membership grown over the years?

A: Yes, it has. We do have a number of folks who are starting to re-locate to our area when they retire, and a number of those are artists.

Q: SVAN is looking for volunteers for the new Arts Center. What kind of volunteers?

A: We’re really just looking for people to put in a couple of hours so we can stay open the hours that we want to stay open. Just being in the gallery to greet people as they come in, to answer any questions.

Q: Is finding volunteers a challenge?

A: Yes it is, but the opening of the Arts Center has energized our organization. We’ve been struggling for probably two years with a dwindling number of people on our board of directors. And suddenly, with the opening of the Arts Center, we’re getting new people. Our board of directors is going to be welcoming two new members this week.

Q: Your workshops are held in different places. How many places?

A: Eight or 10. A lot of them are people’s home studios. For example, Connie Dodge, who does a lot of our painting classes, does it right in her home studio.

Q: The SVAN music events have become quite popular, especially the summer concert series.

A: Yes, we get anywhere from 200 to 250 people in the parks. Our winter series, we try to do that as a more intimate coffeehouse. We get 50 to 60 people there.

Q: What’s happening this fall?

A: We’re somewhat quiet, although we do have a lot of workshops that we continue to do. We usually take the fall to write grants, to plan for 2014, because we hit the ground running in January, with a whole new set of workshops and our coffeehouse series.

Q: When can people look at your web site and see what’s coming up next year?

A: Probably the beginning of October.

Q: How’s the gallery in Vail Mills?

A: It’s going very well. We continue to do rotations there every three months. We sell a bit of art out of there. Last year, they stayed open all year.

Q: How did you get to be president of SVAN? Are you an artsy guy?

A: No, far from it. But I’m interested in the arts. I’ve been involved with SVAN pretty much from the start, as either a member or attending things. I do a lot of sound tech for shows or plays or musical concerts. Through that, I got more and more involved.

Q: What is the next goal for SVAN?

A: Right now, we’re just trying to figure out how to pay the heating bill so we can stay there for the winter.

Q: SVAN has been around for 16 years. What’s the secret to your success?

A: Our diversity. We do our concert series, we now have our three galleries. We do our workshops. We also have the advantage of having a large number of active artists that are right here in our region and help us to keep promoting our organization. And the quality. We’ve heard people say that they know that if it’s a SVAN event, it’s going to be a quality event.

Q: And your events are low-cost.

A: Absolutely. This year, we got $8,000 in grant funding for our music programs. That helps us keep the price down, or in the summer, it’s free, with a free-will donation.

 
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