Community Arts of Elmira doesn’t just reside in a building on Lake Street, but in all the local artists and volunteers who contribute to the organization’s well-being. My name is Stefanie Hotaling and I am graduating from Elmira College this year with my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. I didn’t expect to come to Elmira and partake in any local art events, but partake I did, and my experience with Community Arts is one I’ll bring with me when I leave.
I’m from a small town in Western Massachusetts where art is alive, but it rarely exists outside of the polished museums of the big cities or the attics of old antique shops. The art in Elmira is not Grecian statues or oil paintings from the 16th century, but local artists who keep their art alive and thriving. Community Arts is a non-profit organization that is re-purposing an historic site for a community arts center, simultaneously programming exhibitions, classes and events. While volunteering at Community Arts of Elmira, I have learned that art is more than just paint on a brush or words on a page or fingers on an instrument. The creative experience of art is about the personal flair you put into your art, whether it is culinary, musical, sculpture, drawing, dancing, writing . . . and about how we gather to support each other.
I met Community Arts of Elmira Board Members Lynne Rusinko and Joe Caparulo at the Community Service Fair held in the Elmira College Campus Center in the fall of 2014. After talking with them for a bit, I knew I’d choose their organization to complete my 60 hours of community service. Lynne also attended Elmira College as an English Literature major and both are writers and dedicated to the arts. Once I met and began working with the entire Board, artists, educators, students and other volunteers at Community Arts, I quickly felt part of the team. Community Arts is an all-volunteer organization, and each Board member is an essential part of the organization’s success. In future articles I will profile the other Board members, including Carol Ayers, Bob Butcher, Bart Curtis, Ron Dixon, Carol Erickson, Dave Higgins and Diane Tremaine, as well as Trustees Francis Przygoda and Brent Stermer, all of whom have helped to establish a creative center for community engagement.
My service time with Community Arts went by far too fast, culminating in an Open Mic & Performance Night that was my Service Project, featuring Elmira College students and Elmira community members. One of the most attractive features of Community Arts is that it partners with other organizations and community groups, attracting a wide array of people. In addition to Elmira College, Community Arts collaborates with the local schools, Friends of the Chemung County Library District, Elmira Downtown, the City of Elmira, the Southside Community Center, animal shelters, numerous arts and cultural organizations and service groups, as well as serves as an incubator for creativity and innovation. For example, Community Arts helps to foster Roots & Wings Performing Arts Academy, a developing nonprofit led by local artist Marianna Raho.
After completing my Community Service contract, I continued working with Community Arts, helping to shape, plan, promote and execute events such as Crescendo, Cézanne and this very blog. Together, Lynne and I have conceptualized a site of creative community that will give voice to local artists and non-artist community members, informing its audience not only about local artists and art happenings in Elmira and surrounding art communities, but also to foster an open, accessible, continuing dialogue among community members about creative communities and the arts. I am very excited to write for this blog and look forward to furthering the conversation!
To learn more visit www.communityartsofelmira.com and like us on Facebook.