KAC looks forward to 2019 with new programming director and upcoming fund-raisers

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CLINTON — Programming and development have become the top priorities for a new development director at the Kirkland Art Center, 9 1/2 E. Park Row, a position funded by a $25,000 award from the state Regional Economic Development Council.

The position is one of more than 70 projects funded by over $85 million in state funds to the region and represents one of only three arts awards made in Oneida County this year. 

The KAC is one of the oldest community arts centers in the state and has provided year-round programming for adults and children for almost 60 years. With the engagement of the community, the KAC is the cultural hub of the town with annual offerings that include more than 80 art, dance and pottery classes each year; exhibits by local artists; a live music series; and juried art shows featuring national and international artists.  

The KAC’s 6,000 square-foot, circa 1840 building on the Village Green was originally a Methodist church and historically was used for public gatherings for such prominent people as presidential candidates Van Buren and Harrison.

The facility also includes a converted 1862 barn to the rear of the church and a connection between the church and the barn that was built more than 20 years ago.

KAC Executive Committee member Scott Leonard said not surprisingly, this “gem on the green” requires some major capital improvements to keep it structurally sound. With funds provided by the REDC, the new development director will be able to focus on raising funds through increasing programming, expanding membership, and initiating a capital campaign for improvements including a new roof, as well as soffit and window replacements, he said.

“The KAC has a dedicated community of hard-working staff, board members and community volunteers,” said Leonard. “With the addition of a development director, the KAC is positioned to provide the much-needed upgrades our beautiful old building deserves. We are delighted that the Regional Economic Development Council is investing in the art center in this way.”

Over the years, the KAC has also received financial support from community and business memberships, the state Council on the Arts, The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida County, the Stewarts Foundation, the Town of Kirkland and the Hamilton College Town-Gown Fund. 

In addition, the KAC recently received a gift from an anonymous “angel” donor to fund new easels and stools for the art studios, a new pug mill for mixing clay in the pottery studio, and many other supplies to improve the experiences of KAC students and artists.

“What might excite the most people are the wonderful new padded chairs we have, thanks to this generous donor,” said Damhnait McHugh, board member. “Our old steel chairs are almost as old as the KAC itself.”  

We heART KACelebration! 

In addition to the several programs offered at the KAC throughout the year, fund-raising activities bring the community together for fun events that also support a good cause, McHugh said. One of those big fund-raisers of the year is the We heART KACelebration! in February which features live music; food and drinks by local sponsors; and a silent auction of “extraordinary” experiences. 

This year the KAC Gallery will be transformed for an uplifting evening with a Roaring Twenties theme for the sixth annual We heART KACelebration! from 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. Jerry Dee & the Dovetones are the headline band and the auction will include a private tour of Saranac brewery with Fred Matt; a Red Panda Encounter at the Utica Zoo; a private harp recital by Jessica W. H. Wilbee, and lots of other unique items. Attendees may enjoy listening to the music as they sip on drinks and indulge in tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Advance tickets are $40 and on sale now by going to www.kacny.org or by calling the art center at 315-853-8871. Tickets purchased at the door are $45.

Other upcoming fund-raising events include an Irish Evening at the KAC on Saturday, March 16 that will feature traditional musicians: Pat Reynolds on fiddle; Deb Putnam, fiddle; Tom Hourican, flute; and Eileen McIntyre on harp. Music performed will also include ballads by local favorite Stephanie Steele; and young dancers from the Johnston School of Irish Dance.

A new fund-raiser in April this year will be Off The Wall, an art night with a twist, where KAC board members and friends will donate artwork they own by renowned local and regional artists, and everyone who attends the event will go home with a valuable piece of art of their own. 

The annual KAC Run & Walk is the longest running fund-raising event for the art center and it has drawn hundreds of community members of all ages on the first Saturday in June every year for the past 40 years. The event, along with the Festival on the Green on the same day, is a highlight of the community calendar in the village and will take place on June 1. It is organized by a committee that includes local runners and it benefits from major sponsorships by local businesses.

Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jackie Walters said she was excited for the art center and looking forward to their new leadership with its programming director position.

“KAC is such a big part of our community, offering so many programs and events that bring people together throughout the year,” Walters said. “They are a main focal point of our village.”

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