Each summer, Northville Waterfront Park is the site of an idyllic scene.
The Summer Concert Series, sponsored by the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network (SVAN), draws crowds of over 350 people who have come to connect, enjoy a picnic dinner or takeout from a local restaurant, and listen to free concerts in a variety of musical genres, with the stunning Great Sacandaga Lake as a backdrop.
SVAN, founded in 1997, is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and expanding the arts for artists and non-artists alike while acting as an economic catalyst for the region. The organization’s 200-plus members range in experience from world-renowned to amateur artists and musicians as well as patrons of the arts.
Through its all-volunteer efforts, SVAN orchestrates numerous and varied ways for artists to share their work with the community and build their own artistic expression.
Through its all-volunteer efforts, SVAN orchestrates numerous ways for artists to share their work with the community and build their own artistic expression. It operates the SVAN Arts Center Gallery and Gift Shop on Main Street in Northville, where it exhibits the work of up to 30 artists in a variety of media. Featured art rotates each quarter. SVAN also hosts open houses and book readings there. Additionally, the community can enjoy the work of local artists in SVAN’s galleries at the Fulton County Visitor Center and at the organization’s gallery in the Northville Public Library.
Each August, SVAN sponsors the Art Trails, a self-guided tour of Sacandaga Valley artists’ studios. “Artists have opportunities to educate visitors about their art as well as to sell it. It has been a really popular event for us,” said Carolyn Adamczyk, SVAN’s board president.
The SVAN Art Club meets periodically and encourages residents to engage in their own artistic expression: music, painting, photography, textiles, weaving, woodworking, jewelry-making, writing, and many other art forms can be found at the gallery and among the art club members.
SVAN fosters art and music appreciation in the region’s youngest citizens by sponsoring arts programs in area schools. For example, singer-songwriter residencies allow musicians to work with students over the course of a week, writing songs around a theme and concluding with a performance for families.
The concerts in the park are just one part of SVAN’s extensive musical components. Barbara Spaeth, the music committee’s chair, leads the effort to present 15 to 17 concerts throughout the year, with offerings to suit a wide variety of tastes. Classical, folk, bluegrass, blues, rock, Irish, Americana, Latin, jazz, rockabilly, and classic ‘60s and ‘70s selections are all represented. Winter, spring, and fall concerts take place at various venues, such as restaurants, artists’ studios, churches, and inns. “It really enriches our community quite a lot,” Spaeth said.
“It’s art in every form that helps to enrich the community,” Adamczyk said.
Performance art is a third component of SVAN’s activities. Northville Waterfront Park serves as the venue for Shakespeare in the Park performances. Sacandaga Musical Theater provides a performance outlet for residents while providing entertainment for theater lovers. They cater to different tastes by offering a range of different genres, including mysteries, comedies, and musicals. The group also presents dinner theater performances and hosts cabaret-style events.
Another important role for SVAN is the connection it fosters between artists and arts organizations. “SVAN is central in providing artists and art agencies throughout the Sacandaga Region, including Gloversville and Johnstown, with connective avenues that allow for interaction among artists and other agencies that promote businesses dedicated to the arts and individual artists who seek to share their arts,” said arts center manager Sandy Peters.
The Arts Trails, combined with the year-round concerts and theater events, serve as the means for SVAN to fulfill its mission of building the valley’s economy. Adamczyk points out that these events draw visitors to the region who might not have come otherwise, including travelers from out-of-state. “We’ve had people travel specifically for Art Trails, rent a cabin for the weekend, and then go home,” she said. In addition, the organization extends its marketing beyond the Art Trails event. “When we advertise for it, we also advertise eateries, overnight accommodations, and other events that may be going on that same weekend in the area,” she said.
Funding for the roughly 75 annual events SVAN hosts comes from memberships, theater events, commissions from gallery sales, workshop fees, private and corporate donations, local businesses, and grants.
When Adamczyk, a stained-glass artist, moved back to Fulton County after her Air Force service, she was surprised to find a flourishing arts community in the region. “The fact that there was such a healthy, robust artists’ community here was definitely a selling point,” said Adamczyk of her decision to move back to the county. “It’s art in every form that helps to enrich the community,” she said.