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Photo: Catskill Mountain Foundation
Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Doctorow Center for the Arts provides cultural opportunities in a rural area.

The arts are important everywhere, not just in cities. But sometimes it’s a challenge to attract to rural areas the kind of philanthropy that keeps urban cultural institutions alive.

Through the lens of a rural New York foundation, Mike Scutari of Inside Philanthropy considers the issue.

“In 1998, [Peter and Sarah Finn] founded the Hunter, New York-based Catskill Mountain Foundation, an organization committed to transforming rural communities through the arts. …

“The genesis of the CMF dates back to the early 1990s, when the Finns took over a family property in the town of Hunter. ‘The community had gone through a long decline,’ Peter said, and ‘many buildings on Main Street were for sale, and some buildings were in a serious state of disrepair and collapsing.’ …

“Peter and Sarah grew up in families that were very involved with the arts and had read stories about communities that were transformed through arts-based economic revitalization. …

“In 2018, the CMF will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Its program offerings include over 20 performances and 200 films a year, artist residencies, education programs, a piano performance museum, gallery and bookstore, and, for good measure, an operating farm.

“Its success is all the more startling when you realize that Hunter, New York has 2,732 residents.

“The problems facing rural communities are deep and complex. Yet we generally don’t see rural areas receive a proportionate amount of support from large institutional funders. … Funders, quite understandably, want the most bang for their buck, and more people live in urban areas. …

“Finn’s smaller-is-more-impactful approach flips conventional wisdom on its head: Funders can move the dial more effectively by operating in more concentrated communities. …

“[One] important form of engagement is ‘attracting others to invest in the community. Others who have invested significant amounts into the community have stated outright that they were inspired to do so by the work of the Catskill Mountain Foundation.’ …

” ‘Historically,’ Finn said, ‘the Town of Hunter was once known as a bar town. Today, it is known as a family arts community.’ ”

Read more at Inside Philanthropy, here.

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2017-Nancy-Whelan-cat-sculpture-Catskill-NY

Sculpture: Nancy Whelan
Cat sculpture “Henry VIII — Six Wives, Nine Lives,” Catskill, New York.  See and hear the artist’s description, here.

Sandy and Pat attended a family wedding at Lettterbox Farm in upstate New York recently and took a little time to check out the local sights. They loved the cat sculptures in the town of Catskill and the owl sculptures in Coxsackie, whose name is thought to come from an Indian word for “owl.”

Ariél Zangla wrote at the Daily Freeman, ” ‘Cat’n Around Catskill’ is celebrating its 10th anniversary. …

“Visitors come from local communities, but also from out of state. [Catskill Association President Tina Annese] said she knows of at least one family that has visited the cats each year as part of their summer vacation. She said people come to see the cats, get their pictures taken with them, and then visit area businesses.

“ ‘It brings tourism into the area, without a doubt,’ Annese said. She added that with neighboring communities doing their own art displays, visitors can stop in multiple areas. Annese said she loves that — and the more public art displays, the merrier.

“Locally, Saugerties once again has its decorated horse statues on display, while Greenville will have its ducks for the second year.”

More about the cats at the Daily Freeman, here. And if you are on Facebook, you will want to check the Cat’n Around Catskill page, here.

As for owls, it was last September that Coxsackie decided to get into the act.

Melanie Lekocevic of Columbia-Greene Media wrote about the effort at the Daily Mail: “Catskill has its cats, Cairo has bears, and Ravena had trains. Now, it’s Coxsackie’s turn.

“A volunteer committee has been working for several months to get a new project off the ground – ‘Hoot of the Owl,’ a public art exhibit that will bring sculptures of creatively decorated owls to the community.

“Owls have long been the symbol of Coxsackie; indeed, some translations of the name ‘Coxsackie’ – said to be of Native American extraction – are thought to reference owls, according to an article by Coxsackie Town Historian Michael Rausch on the town website. …

“Like the Catskill cats, once completed each owl will be posted at locations around the village for several months, and later auctioned off at an extravagant gala.

“Visitors to [the early September] Coxsackie Farmers Market got a taste of what is possible in creating an owl when local artist Ellen DeLucia put on display an owl she created just to get the creative juices flowing around town.

“ ‘When we started, we decided to buy one owl prototype and have Ellen DeLucia paint it to give people an idea of what it would look like,’ said Committee Chair Joseph Ellis, also a village trustee.” More at the Daily Mail, here.

Horses, ducks, owls, bears, cats. Dragons, Anyone? I’d definitely go out of my way to see dragons.

Photo: Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media
Artist Ellen DeLucia created the owl “Freedom” to give artists an idea of what a finished owl can look like.

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