Arts master plan set for Saranac Lake

Arts master plan set

In 2016 Madden’s Transfer and Storage on Main Street, Saranac Lake, was proposed as a potential new site for the Pendragon Theatre. This idea is echoed in a new arts and culture master plan for the village. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — Since July, arts and culture consulting firm AMS Planning and Research has identified venues, surveyed dozens of residents and businesses on what types of art they would like to see more of in Saranac Lake, and brainstormed ways of marketing the village to tourists and second home owners.

The eight-month study culminated into a master plan, which AMS representatives Lynette Turner and Brynn Elcock presented to the public Thursday night at the Saranac Lake Free Library.

There were substantially fewer people in attendance at the master plan presentation than at the previous meeting in January. Whereas last month’s garnered more than 80 people, Thursday’s meeting had under 30. However, that could’ve just been because Thursday’s meeting was earlier in the evening, closer to when most folks are just getting out of work.

The Downtown Advisory Board hired AMS last summer. Their services were paid for with a $49,500 grant from the New York State Council for the Arts.

The master plan has plenty of info, charts and prospective budgets, and it can be found on SaranacLake.com.

Empty storefronts in Saranac Lake, like these on Broadway, could be used to showcase local artwork, according to a new arts and culture master plan. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

The goals of the master plan are separated into five sections: arts and culture community engagement, master plan funding acquisition, targeted arts marketing campaign, organizational and artist support, and arts and culturally driven economic development.

Each section describes strategies, how much projects will cost, who will be responsible for projects, how long they will take and what the successful outcomes would be. Many of these proposals were also mentioned at last month’s meeting.

Arts and culture community engagement

This section deals with actually expanding the arts and content the village has to offer. AMS concluded that comedy, cooking, writing and film are in high demand but low production locally. Some of their suggestions included starting a Monday night comedy night at the Waterhole, partnering with Paul Smith’s College’s culinary management program, developing a themed film series, hosting a children’s storytelling festival and exhibiting student artwork at local venues.

Master plan funding

To keep these initiatives alive, there needs to be money. Making sure these arts and culture projects are identified in the downtown revitalization initiative is a key competent for funding. The state Downtown Revitalization Initiative will soon grant $10 million to one communities in northern New York. If Saranac Lake is chosen, that could be a big help for the arts and culture master plan.

The master plan also suggests reaching out to seasonal homeowners for financial support and donations.

Targeted arts marketing campaign

This goal focused on how to best get people interested in Saranac Lake arts and culture. Elcock showed some data to go along with this part. A study done by the Wild Center in Tupper Lake concluded that 76 percent of millennials are interested in cultural history and attractions, and 88 percent use digital means to find those outlets.

Turner and Elcock said a few of the best ways to market village arts and culture are to design an app, to partner with the New York Tourism Campaign and to develop an outlet to capture community feedback.

Another suggestion was creating an “Arts in Saranac Lake” website similar to DiscoverSaratoga.org and TourChautauqua.com.

Organizational and artist support

An idea Turner and Elcock presented was making an online calendar for events in the village that way businesses and venues can work in tandem and not schedule acts or special nights at the same time as each other.

One of the larger projects as part of this goal is renovating or relocating Pendragon Theatre closer to the downtown. Holly Wolff, the president of the Pendragon board, estimated this would cost anywhere from $1 million to $5 million. One possible location originally discussed in 2016 was the Madden’s Transfer and Storage building, where a liquor store and Adirondack Hamlets to Huts are now storefront tenants.

The plan also highlights accessibility to venues. Installing wheelchair ramps and lifts into buildings can increase patronage and engagement.

Turner added that there’s “no shortage of venues in Saranac Lake”; they just need to be improved.

Arts and culturally driven economic development

This section proposes making a welcoming center for visitors and second home buyers. It would include regular meet-and-greets between artists and tourists, and handout maps highlighting artistic sites and venues in the village.

Repurposing empty storefronts to house local and student-made artwork was a main point in this section as well as creating a prominent art instillation that would signify the downtown area as people entered it.

Moving forward

Turner said the budgets in the plan are not entirely accurate but rather educated predictions of what things will cost. Developing a Saranac Lake app could cost anywhere between $35,000 and $75,000, for instance

One of the first goals of the plan is getting the initiative approved by the village board and setting up a new committee that would oversee many of its projects.

Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski said she doesn’t think either of these will be a major hassle.

“The village board has expressed strong interest in this,” she said, “and I already have a few people who want to be on the committee.”

Konkoski said the suggestions in the master plan are just that: suggestions.

“This is a list of options for us,” she said. “The next step is choosing which goals we’re going to commit to. I don’t think we’ll take on every single strategy.”

Downtown Advisory Board Chair Tim Fortune said he thinks the arts and culture initiatives are coming at a good time for Saranac Lake.

“Now’s the right time,” he said. “With the Hotel [Saranac] opening back up and Pendragon potentially moving downtown, this could be good for the village.”

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