Finger Lakes Arts Scene Is Gripping; Long-Known for Its Vineyards and Lakes, This Region in Upstate New York Is Now Recognized for Its Artists, Galleries, Museums and Special Events

By Silberman, Vanessa | Art Business News, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Finger Lakes Arts Scene Is Gripping; Long-Known for Its Vineyards and Lakes, This Region in Upstate New York Is Now Recognized for Its Artists, Galleries, Museums and Special Events


Silberman, Vanessa, Art Business News


With its wondrous glacier-carved lakes, rolling hills and quaint villages, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York has long attracted visitors in search of pristine beauty and pleasant diversions. In addition to alluring scenery, this natural wonderland boasts a burgeoning wine industry praised especially for its Rieslings, myriad historic attractions and thriving university communities, which include Cornell University and Ithaca College. In recent years, the region also has been attracting attention as an arts destination. Already home to several important art museums such as the Corning Museum of Glass and the Herbert E Johnson Museum of Art, the Finger Lakes region also plays host to dozens of galleries and hundreds of artists and crafters.

It is easy to understand the region's appeal for artists, who cite the area's natural beauty, affordable cost of living, and multiple cultural offerings as reasons to call the Finger Lakes region home. Named one of the Top 10 "Great Escapes in the World" by Travel and Leisure magazine, the Finger Lakes region also attracts a sizeable tourist population, with more than one million visitors per year, which benefits artists aiming to increase their exposure by reaching new audiences. Located about four-and-a-half hours from New York, Cleveland and Toronto, the Finger Lakes region is far enough away from major metropolitan areas to keep its bucolic charm, yet dose enough to attract urban dwellers in search of a weekend getaway. With the recent adoption of the fast ferry from Toronto to Rochester, the area also is attracting more Canadians.

The Finger Lakes region owes its name to its long and narrow shape, which reminded early map makers of the fingers of a hand. There are 11 lakes in total, but the primary cluster includes the Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga and Owasco Lakes, which also happen to be at the heart of the wine region featuring 90 wineries. Surrounding these lakes and lining the streets of many villages and small cities throughout the area are shops and galleries featuring the work of local artists.

The two largest arts communities are found in the attractive towns of Corning and Ithaca. Located at the southern end of the Finger Lakes region, Corning was recently recognized as one of the "Top 25 Art Destinations in the United States" (among communities with populations of less than 100,000), by American Style magazine. With a population of about 12,000, Corning is world-renowned for its love affair with glass, which began during the late 19th century when the manufacturer Corning Glass Works (now the Fortune 500 company, Coming, Inc.) was established. In 1918, Corning Glass Works acquired Steuben Glass, one of the finest makers of handmade art glass and crystal in the world. Steuben glass continues to be crafted in Coming, and visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the company's artists at work may do so at the Coming Museum of Glass. There, a section of the museum overlooks the Steuben factory floor, affording visitors a fascinating view.

The opportunity to observe artisans fashioning crystal is not the only reason to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. Indeed, any visit to the Finger Lakes region would be incomplete without a visit to this wonderful

gem, which is the world's largest and most comprehensive glass museum. Founded in 1951, the museum houses more than 40,000 objects spanning 3,500 years of glassmaking history, including such treasures as an ancient Egyptian glass portrait of a Pharaoh dating back to 1450 B.C., Roman vessels dating back to the 3rd century A.D., signature pieces by Louis Comfort Tiffany and contemporary art glass by Dale Chihuly. The museum also offers live glassblowing demonstrations and walk-in workshops, where for a small fee, visitors can create a handmade glass souvenir.

While the museum boasts an extensive permanent collection, it also plays host to well-executed traveling shows.

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