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Around The Arts

March 17, 2012

Many helping rebuild the arts community after Hurricane Irene

Almost seven months ago torrential rains and winds crashed through the region, leading to massive mudslides and roaring floods, which caused destruction that is still visible today. Even long after the physical evidence fades, the economic and emotional wounds will still be healing.

So many of our friends, neighbors and perhaps even you, have been impacted by Hurricane Irene. WKTV, the NBC affiliate broadcasting out of Utica, recently reported on the positive influence thousands of volunteers, who flocked from all over the country, have had on the area. Although residents are grateful for all the support received thus far, there is still a great deal left to do and so many ways to help.

Numerous homes and businesses in the vicinity of Schoharie County were devastated by the hurricane, too many to name in a brief column. And, since this column covers the arts, I will narrow my focus on the effect Irene has had on this particular industry.

Water and mud ripped through every building and ruined whatever was in their paths, while artists looked on helplessly as pieces of their livelihood were pulled away.

Visual artists, musicians, thespians, writers and poets lost everything from research, supplies and tools, to works in progress and completed pieces. Some of these items are easily replaced with a few shopping trips, while most are irreplaceable.

Musicians bond with their instruments as one might with a longtime spouse, with intricacies that make them fit together perfectly.

Many musicians have been with their partner for many years, and purchasing a new instrument forces them to rebuild that relationship to produce sounds of the highest caliber.

Visual artists often create and store dozens of pieces, either in preparation of a gallery showing, as part of their creative process or by necessity. A natural disaster can wipe out many years' worth of work in a matter of moments. Writers and poets are also in the same position, as they often have a collection of their work on premises; not only their own original compositions, but a great deal of research and source material as well.

Theater arts are a conglomerate of several other art forms _ writing, visual arts, music and more. They also use a great deal of technology. Although many organizations may not own their own venues, they rely on theaters within the region for their success. So, whether or not it is their immediate loss, theater groups are part of a multifaceted web that has a direct affect on their business.

Luckily for artists in the Cobleskill area, there is the Schoharie County Arts Council. The Council's mission is, "To enhance the quality of life for Schoharie County residents through the promotion, practice and enjoyment of the arts."

To assist local artists in the recovery process, on its website, www.schohariecountyarts.org, the Schoharie County Arts Council has aggregated resources that provide various forms of aid for artists stricken by disaster.

The extensive list covers almost every art discipline and a thorough list of types of support offered, from art supplies and musical instruments to studio space and electronic equipment. Many of the organizations and foundations on the page are not exclusive to Schoharie County or flooding, which makes this a great starting place for those who may find themselves in a similar situation.

It is immensely difficult to lose a home. One of the few things that could make such a tragedy more difficult is when one works from home, as many artists do.

Not only is the devastation twice as great, but a source of income is lost during a time when cash flow is particularly important. To further complicate matters, when artists lose their work it is nearly impossible to claim a value for insurance purposes; therefore, they may not receive proper compensation for their work.

Thanks to the generosity and support of neighbors and friends near and far, Schoharie County is continuing to rebuild. The physical repairs are only the surface, as the sentimental loss runs deeply and intimately within each person affected by the flooding.

As we all know, there's nothing quite like art to heal the soul, and over time, I hope professional artists and hobbyists alike can find solace within themselves and their creations.

June Dzialo is a member of ArtsOtsego, the alliance of Otsego County arts organizations, and marketing and public relations manager for The Glimmerglass Festival. Column ideas and questions may be sent to aroundthearts@gmail.com. 'Around The Arts' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/aroundthearts.

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