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BluSeed starts to sprout after quiet spring, summer

Marissa Hernandez is administrator of BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

SARANAC LAKE — To use its name as a metaphor, BluSeed Studios has largely lain dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now it’s starting to push up a few leaves toward the sun.

Pottery classes have now resumed on site, with just four students per class, according to BluSeed founder Carol Vossler. A few programs happened over the summer and fall with social distancing solutions, and now the nonprofit arts hub is trying to figure out how to hold some version of its annual November fundraiser, the Fall Harvest Benefit, board President Mark Kurtz wrote in a fundraising newsletter emailed this week.

Challenging finances coincided with the departure of BluSeed’s only employee, Kathy Recchia, in fall 2019. Board members took over and managed to keep BluSeed’s basic functions operational through the winter. Its studio aspect — pottery classes, etc. — kept going, and a paper-making studio upgrade was finished. Sponsorships by individuals and businesses (Guide Boat Realty was singled out for thanks) helped it continue some concerts, and a grant from the Pearsall Foundation helped it continue some open mics, according to Kurtz. A $100,000 Smart Growth grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation is being used to improve the grounds on Cedar Street and add an outdoor pavilion.

BluSeed didn’t get every grant it applied for, and financially it’s still not doing great, Kurtz said, but to the relief of tired board members, a $20,000 state arts grant gave the boost BluSeed needed to hire another administrator.

The board chose Marissa Hernandez, a California native who moved to the Adirondacks last year with her husband and two children. She was supposed to start work on March 23 — and then COVID hit. Still, she managed to start the job in May.

Devon Bandru of Saranac Lake is an intern at BluSeed Studios and a senior at SUNY Potsdam, studying graphic design. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

“She cleaned and sanitized the office which was need(ed) as everything in the previous 7 months had been done entirely by volunteers and that has its limitations,” Kurtz wrote in the newsletter.

She has the help of Devon Bandru, a Saranac Lake native who is currently in his senior year at SUNY Potsdam, remotely due to the pandemic. He’s studying graphic design and hopes to make a career doing digital illustration of children’s books and young adult novels — and books he plans to write.

Hernandez grew up in Oakland and San Francisco as well as the small city of Grass Valley, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but she said she got sick of California’s unchecked growth. Her husband is from upstate New York, and in 2019 the family drove cross-country and ended up in a boathouse in Owls Head, next to his parents. Six-year-old daughter Seneca described that as a particularly fun few months.

They were looking to farm, and a year ago they bought 6 acres on state Route 3 in Sugar Bush. They have 55 chickens and grow all their own food organically, and they are working up to selling their products commercially.

Meanwhile, she’s working to help arts and crafts sprout in this area, as well as vegetables.

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