Local color comes alive on the Corning Art Walk

The idea behind organizing an Art Walk isn't an original one, but having one in Corning is a first. And there are a couple of things that make the Gaffer District's version unique.

Here's the deal.The numerous art destinations on Market Street, along with the Corning Museum of Glass and 171 Cedar Arts Center, are staging a once-a-month event designed to, essentially, show people what they're made of.During the Corning Art Walk, museums, galleries and other businesses offer demonstrations, special exhibits, discounts, etc. Maps and event listings are handed out, and participating locations put a sign in the window. The thinking is, people will stroll leisurely from place to place, enjoying themselves and hopefully buying some art.

It's fairly common in other cities with a vibrant art scene, says Meghan Bunnell of Lost Angel Glass, who spent two months making phone calls and orchestrating the whole thing.

"They call them Gallery Crawls, or Gallery Walks, or Gallery Hops," Bunnell said. "There's a lot of them, all over the country. So I researched it for a while, and I thought we needed one in Corning, because the art community is huge here, and there's no real event to celebrate it."

The Art Walk got started in August and is scheduled for the second Saturday of each month, with future sessions planned for Oct. 9, Nov. 13 and Dec. 11.

"We decided to do a Saturday, all-day event, just because it was the only time we could guarantee all the stores would be open, because, as you know, hours on Market Street at night, year-round, tend to be an issue," said Jesse Gardner of West End Gallery. "Saturdays, we could count on people being open. This way, it's an all-day event, you can always count on second Saturdays, year- round, and it's more of a family event, instead of couples going out Friday evening."

Her theory proved true during the Sept. 11 Art Walk, as a large crowd of children hung out on the sidewalk in front of West End, where Gardner was painting faces, and artists Lucretia West and Parnilla Carpenter were showing kids how to do watercolor and acrylic paintings.

"I think this could be a very big event, if we keep this rolling. I thought it was a success. We had an incredible amount of traffic this past Saturday," Gardner said, adding, "I wouldn't say huge, but I would say it was pretty big. Actually, sale-wise, we had a very good day, although not all because of the Art Walk."

Lost Angel and Noslo Glass had glassblowing demonstrations. The Glass Menagerie had a magic show by Dick Pope, the Clay Pot had pottery demonstrations, and Gustin's Goldsmithing had a mosaic art presentation. The Rockwell Museum had special tours for kids.

While the numbers certainly didn't rival something like NASCAR's Race Fever Night, it did seem like there were more folks than usual milling around Market Street. Bunnell estimated that 50 people wandered through Lost Angel during the day's event. At the Corning Information Center, where event maps are handed out, the effect was noticeable.

"They may be on the streets, going to it, and not actually coming through here," said Val Ryan, a staffer at the Information Center's Centerway Square office. "But I looked up the numbers, and I know 20 people had actually come in Saturday and asked specifically for that, so it's doing pretty well. I'm sure a lot of people have gone on the Art Walk, but not specifically come in here."

"As long as it gets the advertisement, and people find out about it, it's something that could be nice," Ryan added.

For those who might have been fearing pushy art salespeople, that didn't seem to be an issue. The atmosphere seemed fairly laid-back, and those new to art got a chance to mingle with the artists.

"Seems like it's kind of a informal thing, which is nice," said Joanne Carruthers, 45, of Rochester, while strolling down Market Street. "Corning has so much art for a small town and I think this is a good way to put it on display."

"We come down here occasionally anyway, but I think it gives people some incentive to check out places they might not find otherwise," added her husband, Bill Carruthers, 46.

Many gallery crawls in bigger cities draw hundreds or even thousands of people, and rely on public transportation such as buses and trolleys to get the participants from place to place. Conversely, Corning's art destinations are packed into a small radius, with the longest trek being a stroll over the Centerway Bridge to the glass museum. And there's plenty of good places to eat and drink along the way.

Organizers said the monthly event will continue indefinitely.

600450 Local color comes alive on the Corning Art Walk glassonweb.com

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