Group Looks To Put The Arts Center Stage

By Chelsea Hutt, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – The arts have held a great significance over the years in the city of Oswego.

There have been plans brewing for many years as some artists, and art enthusiasts, wished to broaden the influence of art in the community as a whole.

This idea came about with the development of the 2020 Vision Plan for Oswego – a comprehensive vision of what the city was wished to look like – which was completed in 2002 and adopted the following year.

“(Our idea) is an outgrowth of the 2020 Plan,” said Michele Southgate, program coordinator for the Oswego Arts Collaborative. “A group of artists and others interested in art wanted to help implement the vision and developed the 2020 Arts Group.”

This assembly of art enthusiasts wanted to formalize the group and partnered with the SUNY Oswego Office of Business and Community Relations.

“We called it the Oswego Arts Collaborative,” Southgate said, proudly. “The association was developed to help promote arts in Oswego County and help support other arts organizations throughout the county.”

The collaborative has many great ideas; however they are still looking for a building to house their projects and programs.

They had found an historic building for renovation, St. Louis Church at East Bridge and Fourth streets.

They were in agreement with the Catholic Diocese, but the rundown old building collapsed before any paperwork was finalized.

Southgate reveals they will be on the lookout for an historic building that could be used as an arts center, but are not focusing all of their attention on it, as of now.

“We want to get projects going, to get people in the community involved and then focus on the arts community and plan for building,” agreed Linda Goodness, assistant director of the Community Development Office and acting president of the Arts Collaborative.

“We are now in discussion with SUNY Oswego about an idea to provide cultural experiences for high school students interested in careers in the visual and performing arts.” said Southgate. “We hope to have something in place by summer or fall.”

The association is also looking to get involved in the Arts in the Park programs.

“Since the Art Association did not do the program last year, we might pick it up,” Southgate said.

Southgate has been in leadership capacity of several arts organizations since retiring from her teaching career at Oswego Middle School.

She has an award-winning record of art herself.

She states that the collaborative would “include programs for the entire community, for all age groups,” from teen programs to something for senior citizens.

“We believe arts really benefit kids and give them the outlet to express themselves,” Goodness said passionately. “We see that as a really critical need in the community.”

Goodness brings to light the topic of artists trying to get noticed within the city, but have a lack of advertising themselves.

“We hope to assist organizations, like the Children’s Theatre and others, to help bring in people,” she explained.

There is also the issue of storage and the Arts Collaborative hopes to help arts organizations with that as soon as they find a space for themselves.

“We would like to provide a warehouse for costume and scenery,” Goodness said.

The group wants to figure out a “roadmap for where they are going and are currently working on a strategic plan for the next 18 months,” Goodness said.

They have an annual meeting in February and hope to get a great deal sorted out.

“We intend to regroup and get a better focus to provide help and assistance for the county, not just the city,” Southgate said.

“There is so much history in the arts in Oswego,” Goodness exclaimed. “We couldn’t let it go to waste.”