It's an art tour, a scenic drive, and a shopping opportunity, all in one. It's an Adirondack Art Tour!
When it comes to scenic routes, Saranac Lake and the surrounding area has some of the loveliest. Whether we drive or bike, in any season, for any reason, our quiet wilderness roads access some of our finest vistas. Every year a local arts guild, Saranac Lake ArtWorks, organizes a tour of art studios where artists open their doors to visitors to see them where they work. Traditionally, this has been during the height of our beautiful foliage season. This year, they have added one day in the summer, as well. My companion and I leaped on the opportunity.
Options at every turn
Because there are so many places to choose from, we decided to start from my friend's home in Lake Clear. From there we went to the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center, which was hosting a juried art show - "Life on the Lakes." There were many delightful examples of "lake living" in all seasons, and like many art museums, the VIC has lovely grounds to visit... acres and acres of hiking trails through an incredible variety of eco-systems.
The VIC always offers multiple reasons to visit, as it puts new art on the walls every month or so, just as it updates and rearranges its natural history displays. The great room has floor to ceiling windows, the better to enjoy the bird feeders outside, which can alse be viewed from its huge deck, angled to look out over a stunning bit of scenery.
We could easily spend the day there, but we tore ourselves away to get to our next destination, the working farm that is the studio of Stephanie DeJoseph of La Mia Designs. This eco- conscious business uses "repurposed textiles" from many sources to create handcrafted items of artwork, photographic images, handbags, jewelry, and totes, among other items, including goat milk soap. And, we met the goat!
It was a lot of fun to tour her shop space and workroom, and view pieces halfway between their old life and their new one. She keeps two sewing machines and a big cutting table full and busy. Visiting her studio is the only way to see the full scope and variety of her work. We were only disappointed by the fact that by being so early, the pies she was baking for her visitors were not yet done. But they smelled heavenly.
Beauty inside and out
Another reason to choose the section we did is the wonderful views. State Route 60 (Onchiota Road) is a popular bike route because of the many lakes seen through the trees and the peaceful wilderness which surrounds it. Further down this road we find the studio of Adirondack Rockworks, so named because the potter, Peter Shrope, makes his own glazes from the native rock of the Adirondacks.
I had always been intrigued by the thought of ceramic glazes made from rock, and Peter is glad to explain the process. He visits a local quarry which washes down the machines they use to cut the rock, which collects the dust. He takes this raw material, sifts and sorts and grinds, until he has many different glazes. As he showed us, the color of the raw material can be very different from the colors the glaze becomes in the kiln. So, at first, every piece is a surprise!
I had told myself I would Be Strong amid all the temptation we'd be facing, but a charming little lidded pot, with a glaze I hadn't seen before, called to me. I had to have it.
Further down the road, we find the charming studio of Edith Urban, landscape painter, handbag maker, quilter, and Teddy Aficionado. (Teddy Bears were named after Theodore Roosevelt, an early, and great, conservationist.) To get there, we walk through a beautiful garden. There are wonderful landscapes, bird houses, and bags on display. (Edith has cookies, cheese, and crackers.)
Many of our artists work in multiple mediums. So we always reserve the right to be surprised by what we might find. We can go for a painting, and be swept away by a handbag. As we left, one couple declared they must have one of her delightful bird houses.
A place for every taste
We were now hungry enough to head for Saranac Lake for lunch. There are many Art Tour venues in the walkable downtown area. In fact, ArtWorks headquarters, so to speak, is in a gallery downtown. We saw the bright yellow "Artist at Work" signs all over, just as their presence on the Onchiota Road had alerted us to local studios.
After a great meal at a downtown restaurant, we made our way to the ArtWorks gallery, where there is always an artist on hand to answer questions and discuss perspectives. There are new shows, and fresh work, throughout the year. Many a fine art gift has come from here.
There's pottery, jewelry, and posters as well as the fine art, and there's always some "frame it yourself" gems in the flip racks. It's also a good location to pick up a guide and map to the many places featured on the Art Tour. This handy brochure can also be found at many local businesses and at the Visitor Center.
There was an ample crowd enjoying the nibbles and festive atmosphere. Today, Suzanne Lebeda was sketching one of her beautifully detailed drawings, while hosting. I've always admired the shadings and subjects of her nature art. Items we see all the time, like the gnarled roots of trees or the twigs weaving a bird's nest, become so much clearer when seen through her eyes.
It was a short walk to other studios from here. We enjoyed some of the wonderful photography of Mark Kurtz, the intricate oil paintings of Tim Fortune, and the lively textures of Beth Gallagher's quilts. Each of these studios are usually open to the public, letting a visitor enjoy a mini-Art Tour downtown almost any time of year.
We finished our day at a nearby ice cream stand. Ice cream for dinner is a festive summer tradition in the Adirondacks, and each of our ice cream outlets have their fierce fans. Start visiting them, and you too can choose a "team." Looking for something more substantial? We have many fine dining options in our historic downtown. Find out more about the Artist at Work Studio Tours.
While exploring our Adirondack Park in search of art, be sure to print out a map from the Internet, get an atlas, or otherwise bring a backup to any GPS device we might be used to using. Cell phone service, and GPS information, can turn out to be unreliable in our more remote areas. We don't want to lose anyone!