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The Hidden Gems of Rural WNY: North Shore Arts Alliance & the Art Trail Hub Crawl

Author: Nicole Murray

The North Shore Arts Alliance was founded about thirteen years ago by a group of artists with the mission to promote, mentor, and encourage visual artists of all disciplines in Chautauqua County. The organization has grown significantly since then and membership in the alliance includes local artists and community members who can join for a nominal fee. All administrative work is done by volunteers and the funds that are raised go directly to the promotion of Alliance artists and to arts scholarships for local college-bound seniors.

Their signature event is the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Art Trail, a driving trail that brings patrons directly to the homes and studios of many of the artists in the Alliance. They call it the “Art Trail Hub Crawl” because many stops on the trail are “hubs” where you can see the works of multiple artists at a time.

Much like Shake on the Lake, the Art Trail Hub Crawl serves as an economic driver for Chautauqua County with patrons arriving in from across the state, and many from the bordering state of Pennsylvania as well, to come and peruse its wares. While many recognize the Chautauqua area for the Chautauqua Institution, many tourists as well as many from the local community are drawn specifically to the Art Hub Crawl for its accessibility and its direct connection to the artists themselves.

Marcia Merrins, President of the North Shore Arts Alliance and a skilled potter, describes the interactions with her customers during the Art Trail event as “one of the best things about making art.” During the Hub Crawl, she is able to talk at length with those who come through her home, which is one of the hubs on the trail, about her inspirations and artistic process. In particular, her pottery serves as an exciting talking point because in her words, “[as opposed to a painter,] …you couldn’t tell how I do it from a bag of clay.”

This year’s second Art Trail Hub Crawl will take place on September 4th and 5th from 10AM to 5PM. There are eleven total “hubs” on the trail with art that ranges from paintings to textiles and the hubs are scattered from Fredonia through Westfield and Bemus Point down to Jamestown. It is well worth the stop on your Labor Day weekend to check out this unique event, meet the talented artists in the North Shore Arts Alliance, and perhaps find a new piece of art to take back home with you. Find more information about the Art Trail Hub Crawl here.

All too often, “Western New York” is a term used to describe the city of Buffalo and its immediate suburbs. Maybe names such as Clarence, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, and Lancaster come to mind. But if you take just a short 45 minute drive outside of any of these places, you’ll find that you’ve left the suburbs and hustle and bustle of city life far behind and entered the beautiful rural areas of Western New York.

These types of rural settings have historically attracted artists of all disciplines who have packed up their crowded city studios to seek an artistic retreat in the quiet countryside. Here you’ll find seasoned professionals as well as skilled artisans and craftspeople who have taken up a creative path, perhaps as a means to distill the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Arts events in these communities are well attended and serve to strengthen the local economy by drawing in large crowds from surrounding cities as well as bringing together those who live locally.

This month, we’re delighted to spotlight three organizations that are doing impactful work in their rural communities – Shake on the Lake (Perry, NY), North Shore Arts Alliance (Fredonia, NY), and Griffis Sculpture Park (East Otto, NY). We hope their stories inspire you to make the trip to one of their upcoming events so you can see these hidden gems of the Western New York arts community for yourself.

Stay tuned for Griffis Sculpture Park (East Otto, NY).

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