Dansville’s Art Center

Salome Farraro, ArtWorks’ Treasurer(left), and Nicole Alioto, Board President Photo by Kay Thomas

This latest installation is proving to be a success

by Kay Thomas

Survival is the name of the game on Main Street. Without a vibrant business atmosphere, a small town falls into decay quicker than not. Shoppers go elsewhere.

A group of visionary people in Dansville, Livingston County, is working on a solution.

“The arts can transform a community, particularly in a rural area, with energy,” says Nicole Alioto, president of Dansville ArtWorks, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Now in its third year of operation, its mission is to cultivate and enhance the visual, literary and performing arts opportunities in the greater Dansville area. “It might be a little confusing, but Dansville ArtWorks is an organization that has a center with the same name,” she adds. “Our goal is to collaborate with the entire community to make it a better place to call home.”

Right Now

Currently, Dansville ArtWorks is hosting an exhibit that showcases the work of students in grades 5 through 12. The graduating-senior artists in each participating school district are eligible to apply for a college scholarship offered by Dansville ArtWorks.

Coming up in February and March is the third annual juried photography exhibit with cash awards. It attracts artists from all over the Finger Lakes region and beyond. The public opening will be held Friday, February 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. The judge is Christine Berry, co-owner of Berry Campbell Gallery on 24th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Her gallery features post-war modern and contemporary art. Berry has a background in both the public and private sector, and has been cited as a force in today’s art world by both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The Mission

Dansville ArtWorks provides a location for people of like minds to meet, perform and display their work. If there are existing arts opportunities in the area, Dansville ArtWorks reaches out to partner, not compete, with groups already successful. If there is a gap, it strives to meet those needs. Last year, Noyes Health/UR Medicine, which serves residents in Livingston, Allegany, Steuben and surrounding counties, and Dansville ArtWorks co-sponsored Hats Off, a live art auction, to help fund the new Ann and Carl Myers Cancer Center in Dansville.

Dansville ArtWorks offers art workshops for adults and children. Programs include the annual Chalk Walk and Arts Fest in August and Fairy Doors of Dansville throughout the year at its location at 153 Main Street. Dansville ArtWorks charges no membership fees.

There are consignment and performance possibilities, including events each month on the fourth Friday for author/performers. Each one is given 30 minutes or so to teach and share their talents. Consigning artists, 20 or more at any given time, display their work. Exhibits are often theme-related, such as the upcoming 2018 Spring Awakening. Earlier this fall, a balloon exhibit coincided with the New York State Festival of Balloons. Solo shows have featured the work of John Adamski, wildlife photographer; Bernard Dick, photographer; and Mary Skillings, basket weaver

The Vision

Five years ago, Dansville ArtWorks was only a concept in the mind of Nicole, who has lived in other parts of the state where arts centers are regular mainstays of their local culture. An arts hobbyist herself, she was looking for people with similar interests. She met and shared her ideas with Salome Farraro, who with her husband co-owns Tony’s Pizzeria on Dansville’s Main Street. Since establishing their business 12 years ago, both Farraros have been active in supporting the community’s wellbeing.

Nicole and Salome have extensive backgrounds in organization, finance and public relations. Nicole is the owner of Alla Breve Educational Consulting LLC, with 25 years of research experience using data for student outcomes and institutional effectiveness. Salome is the former associate director of Livingston ARTS, and has expertise in grant funding.

“After leaving Livingston ARTS, moving to Dansville, and starting up Tony’s, I realized that there was a void here. There are so many artists in Dansville. Early on, I partnered with lots of people up and down Main Street,” says Salome.

First, a series of meetings was held to see if there might be interest in forming an arts organization. Representatives of all walks of life, age groups and interests attended and expressed their ideas. A board of directors was formed. ArtWorks incorporated and in 2014 a pop-up gallery during the holiday season was a near sellout. Afterwards, many people told Salome, “You need to be doing this on Main Street.”

It took time to find the proper location and do the necessary fundraising, but within nine months, Dansville ArtWorks leased a storefront at 178 Main Street. Its owners, Susan and Randy DeMuth, operate Dogwood Trading Company, also on Main Street. With their encouragement and interest in increasing foot traffic downtown, Dansville ArtWorks launched for business.

In September 2017, ArtWorks moved to a larger location at 153 Main Street. It offers more opportunities for workshops and wall space for exhibits. “We want it to be a go-to place for creativity,” says Nicole.

ArtWorks is in the same building as Spinnanagans Indoor Cycling Studio and Every Body’s Yoga Studio. The three businesses enjoy a common mission: enhancing mind, body and spirit in the heart of Dansville. “Dansville was built on health and wellness, and it has come full circle,” says Nicole, who remarked that the original pop-gallery was in space rented from Spinnanagans’ owner Shannon Mays.

The Problems

There’s a certain stigma associated with the term “art gallery” among individuals who are unfamiliar with such places. In fact, Nicole and Salome say their biggest challenge is getting visitors to walk through the door without feeling intimidated. They and their staff are working on referring to the place as a “center” rather than a gallery. Either way, the large room is brightly lit and offers a variety of gift items, including jewelry and pottery, and photography and fine art at affordable prices.

In the beginning, there were many naysayers who didn’t believe the place would still be open after a year. At the time, there were no other main street art centers in Livingston County. “Attitudes are coming around and people and their organizations are coming behind us,” says Salome.

ArtWorks depends on volunteers to man the center, and survives thanks to donations, and sponsorships from businesses and individuals. “We try to keep our costs down and be realistic,” says Salome who, as treasurer, is responsible for managing the finances. She talked about ArtWorks’ summer event, the Chalk Walk Festival. “When I looked down the Maxwell Block on Main Street and saw all the chalk drawings I thought, This is it. This is what we are supposed to be doing – getting people out creating right in the heart of our downtown business district. This connection with the arts has an impact. It’s powerful.”

Dansville ArtWorks is located at 153 Main Street, Dansville 14437. For information about exhibit deadlines, consignment opportunities and hours of business call 585-335-4746, e-mail dansvilleartworks@gmail.com or visit dansvilleartworks.com. Follow Dansville ArtWorks on Facebook and Instagram.

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