How to have fun at the Art Opening
Martha Reben: staring down the Great White Plague
Dog Days of Summer aka Beach Time!

One of the best ways to enjoy our Saranac Lake galleries is to attend an art opening. A gallery opening might sound intimidating, but don’t worry… our gallery openings are just like the Adirondacks:  easygoing, welcoming, and fun!

They generally happen on Friday evenings, near the beginning of the month. I've put together four "insider" tips that will help everyone have a good time.

#1: Don't be afraid of the artists

One of the best things about our gallery openings is how easy it is to chat with the artists whose work is being featured.  Most of them are happy to socialize, having spent much of their time alone in their studios, working on their artwork! 

Movies and television shows often portray artists as snobbish or overbearing, but that's an exaggeration for comic effect. This leads to misconceptions about what artists are trying to accomplish with their work. Our galleries and artist cooperatives want the art to speak for itself. 

artist Sandra Hildreth (right) shares some interesting stories about the paintings

Our artists are easily recognizable, because they will either introduce themselves as the opening kicks off, or the hosting gallery will call people's attention to them, often providing a short bio so we can get to know them a little bit. They do this to help visitors feel comfortable enough to initiate a conversation, and to find common interests to share. Perhaps they taught at a certain University, and we have some connection there. Perhaps they love to paint certain places or things, and we love those places or things.

The point is, we can find a way to chat with the artist, if we want to. If we'd like to go over and look at the work, and the artist is in the area, we can feel free to chat about it, even if we feel we aren't being clever or knowledgeable.

Our artists are completely tame, so you never need to be worried about being clever or knowledgeable when you come to one of our gallery openings!

#2: Don't be afraid of the atmosphere

Don't worry about showing up properly dressed. This is the Adirondacks. We don't make you wear a tie to eat dinner, and we don't make you wear one to the art opening, either.

A happy crowd, because there's not a tuxedo in sight.

In this laid-back atmosphere, you can see that liking something is the most important part of art appreciation. We don't even have to have a reason we can articulate. We aren't defending our doctoral thesis here. No one is going to challenge us to a duel over how those trilliums are shaded. All we have to do for a piece we like is just like it.

We can enjoy the opening without talking to the artist at all, but there's no reason to feel shy about approaching them. I have compiled some helpful conversational openers that will work with many common subjects.

When discussing a landscape: "Was that a difficult place to get to?"

When discussing a building: "That's some interesting architecture."

When discussing a barn in a state of disrepair: "Looks like you got to it just in time!"  

Because an important part of enjoying our art opening is realizing that we don't have to know anything about art to discuss art.

Artists are happy to talk about technical aspects if someone shows interest, but there are other, equally important, parts of the paintings in the artist's mind. Like how they got to just the right vantage point, or how they might have given up on finding something interesting that day until they found this tree or giant rock.

What makes it art? That's worth a conversation all by itself.

If the subject is photography, it's even more likely we have some kind of acquaintance with the art on display. Unless we are like my grandmother, who never learned to get her thumb out of the frame and would cut off heads with wild abandon, there is probably some photographic insight we can share.

Does this photographer like closeups? That's called a macro lens, and requires some precautions, like calm conditions. Because just as this special lens makes small things bigger, so does it make a small breeze bigger.

There. Now we can discuss it.

#3: Don't be afraid to notice something

Did we notice the way the sunlight was shining on something? That's a great thing to bring up to any artist. Because they have studied and worked for years to enable us to look at their paintings and say, "Hey, that's sunlight."

Are we amazed that we can see the veins in that leaf, or the texture in that flower? That's another wonderful thing to say.

What if we can't even be that specific? What if we just like it?

That's fine, too.

Yes, it's piano parts covered with snow. Do you like it?

We can also chat about the food. We offer tasty refreshments, some of which might even be homemade. If someone wants to show off their brownies, they know they will find an eager audience at an art opening.

Remember, too, that we will meet all kinds of folks at the gallery. They are just as likely to have climbed St. Regis Mountain that day as they were to have gone on a photographic expedition. Sometimes, they have done both.

Here, everybody tends to paddle lakes and hike mountains and enjoy art. There's more mutual subjects to talk about than we might have realized.

Yum, yum. The language everyone speaks.

#4: don't be afraid of the prices

It can be a little daunting to fall in love with a work hanging on the wall... and see that it is out of our range. But that is not all there is to the art in the galleries.

Look along the art racks spotted throughout, and you will find some wonderful bargains.

Look for the racks of prints that need only a frame to grace our living areas.

These racks contain prints the artist is offering for less, sometimes much less, than the finished work suitable for display in galleries and at juried shows. If we are willing to go a little smaller and do the framing ourselves, we can fill our living spaces with beautiful art - on any budget.

The jewelry and pottery is another delightful way to have our art and still eat, too. From delicate earrings to sturdy coffee cups, art can be an affordable part of our lives. Which is the way art should be.

Art is not some faraway aspiration, forever out of reach. Art is here for the enjoying, as close as one of our delightful galleries. Art can live in our kitchen where we can greet it every morning. Art is accessible, to both our minds and our pocketbooks, if we indulge our curiosity.

The night many of these photos were taken, there were four art openings happening within a few blocks of each other. One was serving root beer floats.

It's another Adirondack good time

So now it’s time for you to decide you've missed enough. Make it your goal to have fun at every Art Opening.

There is no special occasion required to browse our fine galleries. Discover the next openings by consulting our Events Calendar. After the nibbles, go out for a real meal. Exercise your own artistic judgement and choose some lovely lodging.  Or just take a stroll along the lake, and find some art of your own.


 Some photography by Burdette Parks

Author:Pamela Merritt
Martha Reben: staring down the Great White Plague
Dog Days of Summer aka Beach Time!

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