NORTHVILLE – When artist Dianne Knapp moved to the Sacandaga Valley a decade ago she was looking for a way to connect with the community.
She found that through the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network, an organization that brings artists of all types together for exhibits, concerts, workshops and community programming.
“It’s a great way to get introduced to the community and become part of the community,” Knapp said. “It’s also a great place to meet up with like-minded people; people who value the arts and it’s a way of supporting the community as a whole, through something that you love.”
On Saturday, Sept. 24, the organization will celebrate its 25th anniversary with an Arts Jubilee. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Northville Waterfront Park there will be live music from Chris Draffen, The Zorbas Trio, The Wayward Folk and others. Food trucks set up and artists will have booths set up.
SVAN was founded in 1997 with the intent to bolster the local economy through the arts and local history.
“At that time, [in] Northville there were a lot of empty storefronts along Main Street and things were not doing really great,” said Barbara Spaeth, a longtime SVAN volunteer and board member.
In 2004, it became a registered not-for-profit, serving parts of Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga and Warren counties, and started to focus more on supporting local artists.
“The mission went from an economic builder to the arts, feeling that the economic part would come along with it, which it has,” Spaeth said.
The group is all-volunteer-run and has a membership of around 200. It presents a variety of exhibits each year at the Northville Library, Fulton County Visitor Center and at the SVAN Art Center Gallery and Gift Shop (303 S. Main Street Northville). The exhibits feature everything from traditional paintings to sculpture to photography.
SVAN also hosts Art Trails, a two-day event where artists from across the Sacandaga River Valley open their studios and galleries. That includes popular artists like John Van Alstine and Caroline Ramersdorfer, who have a studio in Wells and open it each year for the Art Trails.
“Some of our artist members are world-renowned and I always find that so uplifting,” said Knapp, who is SVAN’s vice president.
Beyond visual arts, the organization hosts a growing number of concerts each year.
“We’ve gone from a couple of concerts a year when it started out . . . now we’re up to 10 concerts in the summer in the park and four to five usually during the winter months,” Spaeth said.
Most of the summer concerts, which are held at the Northville Waterfront Park, are free, thanks to support from grant funding and local businesses.
“Early on, we’d go around [to businesses], begging for money, and they might give us 20 bucks. And now, you have sponsorships of $500 and $300 for concerts, and the local merchants have just been fantastic in supporting us,” Spaeth said. “On Saturday nights in the summer, we bring in anywhere from 150 to 350 people and local businesses really benefit from that.”
There’s also a musical theater component to SVAN, though its programs were curtailed because of the pandemic.
Like many non-profit organizations, the pandemic also put a dent in membership and in their team of volunteers. With how much SVAN does, finding enough volunteers had been a perennial challenge.
“I think the biggest one is to try to keep our board filled out and finding people that are willing to do quite a lot of work as a volunteer,” Spaeth said, adding, “To be on our board means you’re a working board member, you’re expected to take things on . . . We have trouble keeping those positions filled because it’s a big commitment.”
But it is certainly a worthwhile one, at least that’s what artist Carolyn Wilcox has found.
For the Northville native and stained glass artist, SVAN became a landing spot when she moved back to the area in 2015.
“When I moved back here, I had no idea how many local and varied artists there were in this area,” Wilcox said. “[It’s] a good way for artists to network and communicate with each other and help each other; help promote each other.”
Since becoming a member, Wilcox served on the board for four years, including one year as president.
“SVAN does a really good job of bringing art to the local community at large,” Wilcox said.
One way they’ve done that is through workshops with artists like Linda Biggers. The Broadalbin resident recently led a mosaic workshop through SVAN and plans to host another in October. She works with eggshells and glass, among other materials to create intricately detailed mosaics depicting everything from forested landscapes to striking abstracts. Some of her work will be on display during the Arts Jubilee and she’ll give a demonstration of her process.
Biggers, a longtime SVAN member, said the organization has helped to maintain connections in the arts community.
“SVAN is growing. I think SVAN is trying to do more for the artists in the area and in the Fulton County area, SVAN is an excellent group to join . . . to find contacts and opportunities,” Biggers said.
For information on how to volunteer or on becoming a member visit svanarts.org.
SVAN Arts Jubilee
WHEN: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
WHERE: Northville Waterfront Park, 412 South Main Street
MORE INFO: svanarts.org
NOTE: At 6 p.m. SVAN will host a catered dinner with live entertainment to honor those who have contributed to the organization over the years. Tickets are $45. For reservations call 518-863-8047.