The Year of Arts and Culture

The 2019-20 Academic Year officially commenced in August. Numerous arts and culture-themed initiatives already underway, and set to kick off, are giving the year a distinct flavor.

In collaboration with Aunt Karen’s Farm, an artist incubator residency site in Cooperstown, SUNY Cobleskill has introduced an improv course in the fall semester. The course is available to all students, and of particular value to Agricultural Business students preparing for careers that require making frequent presentations.

These are not the first initiatives to pair SUNY Cobleskill with Aunt Karen’s Farm. Through the Institute for Rural Vitality, and, specifically, the Center for Arts and Culture, the College formed an affiliation with Aunt Karen’s Farm in 2018 to establish a practicum agriculture platform for students. The connection builds on the Institute’s mission to engage the College’s resources in collaboration with regional partners to enhance community and economic vitality in rural New York, and commitment to building an increasingly sustainable, robust arts and culture ecosystem in the region.

As a fellow of the Institute, Assistant Professor and Grosvenor Art Gallery Director Kayla Cady Vaughn is taking inventory of the campus art collection, cataloguing its works and assessing its condition. Institute Council and Coordinator of the Center for Arts and Culture Beth Orgeron has put out a call to commission a local artist to create works of art tying together local rural and agricultural influences, fortifying the nexus between ecology, arts, and rural culture. The commissioned artist will have studio space on campus, and develop a community arts curriculum or workshop while in residency. The IRV Artist Fellowship Program launched in September.

“This in many ways is a response to the message we have received from the community,” says Orgeron, “that there are many artists in our community, interested in and capable of doing great things with this type of opportunity.” The fellowship will also include a report outlining suggestions on how to advance the promotion of the arts in the county, and the chance to make original works available for sale at the Carriage House Café and General Store.

As SUNY Cobleskill continues to “put culture into agriculture,” the theme is infusing another planned collaboration: SUNY Cobleskill plans to convene artists who have previously been in residency in Antarctica to create an exhibit to be built into ecology/climate change-focused academic programming. Aunt Karen’s Farm has a hand in this program as well – though not how you might expect.

“[Aunt] Karen drove a truck on the Antarctic ice roads,” explains Orgeron, “and she made connections with members of the artist community down there. Those connections live on, and we are excited to be part of something with real, pertinent impact on the College and the future.”

Feature photo: Assistant Professor and Grosvenor Art Gallery Director Kayla Cady Vaughn, shown with an original piece that she debuted at the 2019 Faculty Biennial Art Show.

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