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A Festive Approach

Is it coincidence that the Keuka Arts Festival is held the same weekend in June as Keuka College’s annual Alumni Reunion Weekend? Perhaps not.

According to Festival Director Chris Vaughan, the volunteer committee that oversees it has diligently tried to “cross-connect” the arts fest with Reunion Weekend for the last three years. Organizers are delighted to have faculty and staff willing to hang a few posters on campus and send returning alumni and their families out to the festival site grounds, along the Penn Yan boat launch on Water Street, Vaughan said.

“We just want to let them know there’s all sorts of things to do after they’ve (visited) campus,” he said.

First incorporated in the 80s, the original arts festival was held on the College campus, but petered out in the late 90s for unknown reasons, Vaughan said. Now in its fourth year since Vaughan and his wife helped revive it, the festival boasts some 75 artisans, several wineries offering tastings, an array of festival foods and live music. This year’s event will run 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12.

“Some people make that connection of what we do now as a rebirth or continuation of what was going on there (before),” said Vaughan, adding that the couple was new to the area and had never heard of a prior event when they first took their idea to the Penn Yan Village Board. “We like to encourage the arts in many ways, shapes or forms. We try to pour some money back into the community for arts scholarships to high school students and improvements on the park areas and try to benefit the community any way we can.”

“We were very happy to get Melissa (Newcomb) on the board of directors this year. We’re always looking for a more solid connection with the College,” Vaughan said, referring to Keuka’s associate professor of art. “That was a feather in our cap. She’s been extremely helpful.”

In turn, Newcomb has suggested students taking her art classes consider entering the festival’s poster contest or volunteering to serve. That’s how sophomore Shelbe Dancause got involved.

Dancause, left, and Visual and Verbal Arts and English major Erica Ruscio show off a copy of the 2011 Arts Fest poster.

“I entered the poster contest and I thought it would be nice to help out, too,” she said. An elementary and special education major, Dancause is taking a minor in art and is eager for the opportunity to meet a variety of artists.

“I can learn what they’re interested in, learn different skills they have, or help set up their booth,” she said. “I’m open to anything.”

The festival may also provide her an opportunity to work with children in a kid-friendly festival area. While Vaughan indicated face-painting or balloon crafts are often offered in the children’s area, Dancause wondered aloud if  the elementary-level art coloring book students in one of Newcomb’s classes put together might play a part.

The coloring book holds images of Toy Story characters Buzz Lightyear and Woody, animals including orangutans and dinosaurs, scenes about pirates, princesses, or sports, and simple landscapes. In the same class, Dancause and other students also wrote and illustrated their own children’s storybooks, colorful works of art in themselves.

Dancause's wrote and illustrated her own children's book.

“I really like working with children,” she said, adding the volunteer work may mesh well with the degree she is pursuing and her desire to teach art classes in the future. Given the College emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning, the arts festival could be another way for her to gain experience in the educational arena.

Newcomb added that networking with other artists may also provide Dancause with new opportunities.

“I’m a strong believer in getting your name out there and meeting other people that share a similar passion for creating art,” Newcomb said. “I’m pleased to see a student not only helping with the festival but expressing interest in others’ work. For a student to volunteer says something about the students at Keuka and their motivation to help in the community.”

One Response to A Festive Approach

  1. Susan Dancause says:

    What a wonderful opportunity, and a great story. It is so nice to see that the community and the college are working so well together to give students the opportunity to enhance their skills, and to network with their future peers. I am a 1988 Keuka College graduate, and Shlebe is my daughter. I am a proud Alumni and a proud mother!

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