By Sydney Hakes
As a college student living on campus, life can easily become centered around what’s happening only in that campus bubble. Campus and community have the opportunity to intertwine at events like Fall Fest, happening Sat. Oct. 15 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Strand Center for the Arts.
Events will include various art demos, tours of the new printmaking studio and a pumpkin carving contest. Membership Engagement Coordinator Kailey Maher explained that the printmaking demo will involve carved wooden blocks being pressed into paper or muslin with a two-ton roller.
The Strand’s mission is to host events and classes for the community’s enjoyment while also showcasing their space and the education opportunities.
In a small city like Plattsburgh, the Strand Center is a hidden gem. Behind the walls of the once Federal Office Building are hallways of classrooms, studios and galleries.
“People think the Strand is just the theater, and while there are a lot of great events that go on there, it’s actually a very diverse campus,” Jerrod Olsen, director of operations, said. “We have so many classes offered which can then lead to people using the studios on their own time.”
Built in 1924 as the Vaudeville Theatre, many grants for programs and renovations have funded the Strand Center. The most recent was the Downtown Revitalization Initiative launched by Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The City of Plattsburgh government website called it a “$100 million effort to improve the vitality of urban centers across New York State.” Plattsburgh received $10 million of that grant. It was then split up between local businesses.
Money from grants like the DRI support the weekly classes and studio spaces at the Strand. Classes will require a fee, but their range of topics leads to classes filling up fast. One of their most popular studios is the clay studio.
Clay studio manager Mollie Ward, a Plattsburgh alumna, said her classes sell out quickly.
“The most popular is our Mud & Merlot class. Those of age can drink wine and throw pottery on the wheel or hand build something. Those will sell out months in advance,” Ward said, elbow deep in a bucket of wet clay. “The Strand was originally only watercolor and clay, so it’s great to see the expansion to so many other forms of art.”
Other studios include digital technologies, a multimedia lab, music, visual arts and the upcoming prints studio.
Olsen said the Strand can supplement what the college may not be able to provide.
“Some people are interested in art without being on a BFA track for it,” Olsen said. “They don’t want to take a semester class on something, so they can come here occasionally and satisfy or explore that interest.”
While classes cost a fee that may be too much for a struggling college student to frequently attend, most events, like Fall Fest, are free to the public. There is a monthly rotating exhibition on the first floor, and a monthly artisan market showcasing local vendors. It’s a chance for students to explore what the Plattsburgh community has to offer without going too far or spending too much.
For the fall, classes include Knitting 101: Beanie Making, Intro to Watercolor, Intro to Resin 3D Printing, Musical Theatre Workshop, Intro to Afro-Caribbean Percussion and Dance and many more. A full list of classes and events can be found at strandcenter.org.
“This is a really unique space,” Maher said. “Most of us who work here are artists and even we’re excited by all the events the Strand provides. I hope people see these opportunities and take advantage of them.”