Yates Arts at Sunny Point

Artists from all over the world are drawn to the Finger Lakes Region where they are inspired by sailboats and sunshine, clusters of grapes hanging on gnarled vines, and waterfalls and gorges that cut through a patchwork of woodlands, grain fields and vineyards. Thanks to a generous donation of lakefront property by the estate of artist, writer and educator Annie Smith, Ph.D., the Yates County Arts Center (YCAC) can offer artists a gathering place for sharing ideas, practicing their skills, and learning new techniques.

Sunny Point, located on East Lake Road just north of Penn Yan, was Annie’s second home. A native of Canada, Annie traveled to Keuka Lake throughout the year, no matter the season, until her death from cancer in 2007. The YCAC received the Sunny Point property the following summer. It features two residential buildings – a small cottage and “the red barn” – and a boathouse.

Because of her work in education and her interest in art as a healing medium, plus her love of art and the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes, Annie was prompted to donate Sunny Point to an artists’ group. Her friend and neighbor, Sandy Murrin, who is a member of the YCAC, said Annie wanted everyone to enjoy her property, and hoped its personality would endure. Our goal is to continue Annie’s legacy by using her property as a place for artists and others to gather, be inspired, learn, contemplate and share ideas.

The white cottage is sheltered and secluded within the gentle curve of a small cove. It overlooks a point of land, which is covered by the canopy of an ancient willow. YCAC plans to use this tranquil spot for classes and art therapy programs.

The red barn is situated closer to the point. This building, with its expansive windows and lighthouse-style addition, has dramatic views to the north, south and west. YCAC plans to use it as an educational facility for workshops in many media, including painting, photography and weaving. Artist-in-residence Roger Hyndman held the first workshop, “Solarplate Printmaking,” in the barn last June. In August, Dick Kane held a four-day plein air painting workshop. In October, a well-received opening reception that featured the work of local artists was hosted there.

The immaculately kept grounds and two main residences offer ideal settings to foster creativity, but perhaps the most innovative concept is using the boathouse to accommodate the “messier” arts, such as pottery, sculpture and soapstone carving. This building will provide artists with a carefree and relaxed environment to practice their skills.

The possibilities for this new facility are wide open, and people in the community are continuing to share their ideas on how it can be used to benefit all. Yates County Arts Center’s main facility on East Elm Street in Penn Yan continues to offer a wide array of programming, and the Sunny Point donation will allow them to expand and offer even more.

Dr. Annie Smith was instrumental in developing and coordinating the art and art history program at Sheridan College of the University of Toronto. Her interests in both studio art and art history guided her teaching, writing, speaking, and administrative work in the visual arts, and earned her an outstanding international reputation, especially with audiences in the U.S., Scotland, Hong Kong, Spain, Taiwan and Brazil.

The Annie Smith Arts Centre at Sheridan College is named in her honor. Annie received 10 awards for her creative teaching style, lectures and publications. As an artist, Annie initiated, designed and created three murals for the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. She was well known for her landscapes, working in oil on canvas and in watercolor and pastels. However, her most familiar creation was a little cartoon bear that became part of her signature. Annie included it on every personal note, hand-designed Christmas ornament or book she signed. The bear later became the central character of her last book.
Art educators may be familiar with her classroom art projects book, Getting Into Art History, published in 1992 by Barn Press. Her experiences with breast cancer in 1986 and ovarian cancer in 1999 inspired her last book, Bearing Up With Cancer, published in 2004 by Second Story Press. The book, featuring her familiar cartoon bear battling ovarian cancer, led to numerous speaking engagements aiding cancer research.

All through her long battle with cancer, Annie kept returning to Sunny Point. She saw it as a place of dreams, of friendship, of creativity, of healing, of music and laughter, of wind and water, and nature at its very best. Sunny Point continues to be such a place. Annie left behind a very large imprint and continues to touch the lives of people and enrich their lives beyond measure.

“The 29th Year of a Dream of Love” 
by Dr. Annie Smith (c. 1965)

Dreams live forever – they are gold,
A fire’s warmth when it is cold.

Dreams live forever – colors change,
Happiness dances with yellow flames.

Dreams live forever – keeping sight
Of falling rays, the setting light.

And though a dream may come and pass,
The fact it came is what will last;

And neither time nor wear will sever
Me from my dream that lives forever.

by Fran Bliek, with Mary Harmony and Nancy Langford


  • Lynette Wright Myhren says:

    I knew Annie (Annabelle) Smith my whole life. She was also a great competitive K sailor; taught me a few tips. Annie lovingly restored her K 178(?) and was happy to sail the old boat while she had a newer fiberglass K. My parents owned Sunny Point for many years before they sold it to Annie’s parents, Dr. Earl and Ruth Smith, of Elmira, N.Y. (not Canada, where Annie lived later in life.) (My dad, Murray Wright, also built the “White House” next door to Sunny Point, and two more cottages around the cove. Murray’s father built “Neepawa” across the cove from Sunny Point in the early 1900’s, where my dad grew his love of sailing and boats.) My sister and brother used a megaphone to call out across the cove to Annie and her brother, Neil, to let them know we were in the neighborhood so we could get together with us. Our family had lots of great times with the Smiths on Keuka Lake!

  • Timothy D Williams says:

    So wonderful reading about Dr. Annie Smith, her life’s work, her commitment to the Arts and her straight is battling cancer is truly inspiring.
    I have the honor of investing the week of August 22-28 at Sunny Point where I intend to teach workshops in watercolor and acrylic painting as well as three days of ceramic work.
    I am thrilled for this opportunity, and look forward to providing a time for the community (ages 12 on up) to have a place to explore their creativity.

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