Local artist’s legacy lives on
Posthumous coloring book release of local artist to benefit Winter Carnival
SARANAC LAKE — Pam Crane’s name was all over the Ice Palace on Thursday.
Carvers etched her name into one of the ice pillars outside the Colosseum as a tribute. Friends and fellow artists were sharing memories of her and her generosity. And her name was on each copy in a stack of little purple coloring books at the Winter Carnival history hut and gift shop at the Lake Flower boat launch.
Crane was a local artist who died last year shortly after the Carnival season. The coloring book is a posthumous release of Crane’s, and was published recently by friends and family. Sales of the book will go toward Carnival.
For several years, Crane had been working on a coloring book filled with designs for holidays throughout the calendar year.
She had chosen St. Patrick’s Day as the cover for the book, but on March 17, 2022 — St. Patrick’s Day — she died unexpectedly.
After her death, Crane’s five sisters and her friend and fellow artist, Lori Wilson, set to work completing the coloring book in Pam’s honor.
Crane’s sister Susie Rocque said Crane worked on drawings for the book over the past six-or-so years, between all the other jobs she had. But it was never pushed over the finish line to publication.
“She had the artist part down really great, but the business end of it … you know what I mean? Pam was an artist,” Rocque said.
Wilson said her friend was not just self-employed, but “truly Adirondack, survivor self-employed” — shoveling in winter; sign painting in summer.
Crane painted the Red Fox mural, business signs around town, portraits, sculptures and helped restore and repaint the beams of the Great Hall in the Hotel Saranac. But she had never published a coloring book before.
This book was a passion project stretching over several years. She wanted to create something for children, Rocque said.
She cared a lot for them and volunteered her time to help them, she said. After all, Crane got her artistic start from a young age. Rocque remembers Crane drawing on the chalkboard in their childhood playroom.
“From the very get-go, she was always, always drawing,” Rocque said. “Whenever she could be, she was always in the art room at school.”
Sports and music didn’t interest her nearly as much as the visual arts. She never knew where it came from, but it was certain it came “natural” to her.
Crane grew up in Brainardsville, attended college at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and after landing in Saranac Lake after graduation, put down roots and lived here for 40 years.
A bittersweet pride
Rocque said she was proud to be able to finish her sister’s work, and her family is proud of what Crane created.
“Each and every one of us are extremely proud of her,” Roque said. “It’s very humbling to be able to do that for my sister. It’s the last thing we can do for her. We’re just very grateful to put what she wanted together.”
But she feels bittersweet now that the book is published. The work is done, but the work is done.
“It’s great, but then it’s sad, too. But that’s what life is, right?” Roque said.
Wilson helped finish the artwork for the book. She had been friends with Crane for several years, bonding over a shared love of art, beer and good conversation.
Wilson said she regrets that she didn’t do this when Crane was alive. Life gets so busy, she said. But it’s an honor to her to respect her late friend’s work.
“She’s a legend,” Wilson said.
The two met in 2017 when Wilson hired Crane to help repaint the Hotel Saranac Great Hall.
Wilson said they became friends “from the very first day we worked together.” They went for a beer after their painting was done and clicked right away.
“She just had me riveted because she was a storyteller and she was very gifted with words,” Wilson said.
Over the years, Crane would tell her about this coloring book she was working on that she wanted to sell to kids to benefit Carnival. She said Crane loved Saranac Lake and she loved Winter Carnival.
“The Ice Palace was top dog to her,” Roque said.
Crane was a member of Ice Palace Workers 101.
“She was one of the original art rats,” ice carver Shawn Rohe said.
“Art rats” is the term the Ice Palace carvers use for their group.
Last year, Wilson said she and Crane watched the Carnival Gala Parade — Crane’s last — from the patio of the Hotel Saranac, enjoying it together at the place they first met.
Phil LeBlanc said Crane painted his family a sign for their home when they moved to town, which they have treasured for nearly three decades.
“When we moved into our home in 1994, Pam was walking by and said ‘I’m an artist and would like to welcome you to the neighborhood,'” LeBlanc wrote in an email. “Her love for the community and Winter Carnival is a testament to her dedication to Saranac Lake.”
At Crane’s funeral, Wilson mentioned the coloring book to her family, and they decided to finish and publish it.
Rocque found a publisher. They organized the Pam Crane Crawl on Aug. 18, 2022 to raise money for publishing costs, touring establishments around Saranac Lake for food and drink all day, with some special Jameson drinks, Crane’s favorite.
Her family put up the rest of the money for an initial publishing run. The family donated the books to the Winter Carnival Committee and they will be for sale at the Winter Carnival history hut and gift shop located near the Ice Palace in the coming weeks with all proceeds to benefit Winter Carnival.
In future years, Wilson said Carnival can always republish more books, too.
And coloring isn’t just for kids, Wilson said. Adults partaking in coloring books for their calming and meditative states is gaining popularity, too.
To share art made in the coloring books with family, friends and the community on social media, use the hashtag #pamscarnivalcoloringbook.