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Who Are the Adirondack “Arts”?

March 24, 2014 - Ernest Hohmeyer
How would you define an “arts” community? When you think of an “arts” related business what comes to mind?

Is it the visual, fine or performing arts? How about literary, architectural or the rave in local foods and the culinary arts?

Then there is the grandfather of all the arts - the one that may have put the Adirondacks on the map in the first place – the wellness or healing “arts”?

Taking Initiative

I read with great interest the pursuit of an “Adirondack Arts Trail” led by the Adirondack North Country Association in conjunction with a host of “arts” organizations including local ones such as Saranac Lake Artworks.

They should all be commended for further developing the “arts” industry. Saranac Lake Artworks in particular should be seen as a model for how a grass-roots “arts” organization is developed.


Traditionally, “art” trails and maps have taken a focus on who qualifies to be included. Generally, performing, literary, culinary and the healing arts are not included. That makes sense as in today’s avalanche of information, defining a niche is important.

This holds true what other regions are doing. This week, we brought our daughter back to college in the Finger Lakes where I scoured the “art trails.” Of course I had to see the wine trails, beer trails and distilleries – all in the name of research of course!

Other Art Regions

The “Greater Ithaca Art Trail” is a well-done art trail map. Their caption is “Visit 47 studios. Meet 48 artists.” They also take that niche view of the “arts” and focus on painting, photography, sculpture, prints, etc.

In the brochure laden rack at the inn we stayed in were other “trails” including the “Ithaca Discovery Trail” and the “Seneca Lake Wine Trail.”

The Finger Lakes has of course made a name for itself with wine.

Here is an interesting thing though. They have developed this incredible niche with wine, yet in this brochure was a section on “Breweries & Distilleries,” “Activities,” “Tours & Transportation,” Lodging and “Dining.” They are also part of a larger effort “Uncork New York."

Trails and Maps

In the Adirondacks we have our own variety of “maps” and “trails.” These include highway trails, heritage and a blossoming wine route. There are a host of maps in our region from downtown, village, “area,” county, Adirondack region and the Adirondack Park. There are special interest maps ranging from snowmobiling to fishing, hiking and biking.

Perhaps we offer so much, the only way we can voice our messages is to be targeted in nature (every pun intended!”

Yet does this run counter to several trends in tourism marketing? Also, do all of these niche “arts” messages get diluted by the vast geography that separates these artists?

Soft Packages

You may choose to come to Lake Placid to ski. However, you may choose Lake Placid over other ski areas because of what else they have to offer from shopping to the…arts.

“The Experience Economy”

Last week, the on-line publication “Hotel Interactive” featured an article by Editor In Chief Glen Hausmann “Luxury Rising” where he talks about the “experience economy.” This is described as “People are shifting away from desiring things and are looking to have enriching life experiences…” And money is not paramount as the “The luxury sector is leading the way regarding this emerging economy…” Hausmann notes “But this time around instead of buying a fancy car many consumers want to become deeply embedded in local culture while traveling, or learn a new skill such as winemaking.”

Adirondack Arts vs. Culture

What about our Adirondack culture? How does that message fit in with the arts?

Would a wider “arts” effort, perhaps under the banner of “Discover Adirondack Culture” make any sense? Would this have more appeal to today’s traveler seeking diverse “experiences?

An Adirondack “Discovery Trail”?

With a wealth of “arts” experiences ranging from the fine arts to the healing arts we have in the Adirondacks and the vast distances between them, would it make sense to create regional “art hubs” with distinct maps and web sites?

These regional “art hubs” could be then be a part of a wider “Adirondack Discovery Trail” that links in all the arts?

Too Complicated?

Perhaps this all gets too complicated and blurs the “niches.” If so, I would encourage the other “arts” to follow the lead of their colleagues and create an “Adirondack Wellness Trail,” an “Adirondack Culinary Trail” and even an “Adirondack Brew Trail” if we are to take advantage of these other “arts” that are of growing visitor interest.

Further, these businesses and community groups don’t have a lot of money and would it make sense to leverage it with other Adirondack “cultural” or “discovery” efforts?

Need to be Linked

Perhaps this misses the even bigger point that no matter what happens; these “arts” efforts need to be linked to other visitor marketing efforts and amenities.

Will folks travel up to the Adirondacks to see an artist studio, a local pub or restaurant, a wellness practitioner or a performance by themselves? Or is it part of a greater experience where culture and the outdoors meet to lure visitors to “discover the Adirondacks"?


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