This Friday: Works by Graphic Novelist and betterArts Resident Maggie Fishman

"Faceoff" by Maggie Fishman
Visual artist Maggie Fishman will have pieces from her graphic novel The End of Oil on display at 6 p.m. Friday, July 25, in Better Farm's Art Barn gallery in Redwood.
"Fieldwork Detail" by Maggie Fishman
Fishman, a Brooklyn-based artist who focuses on drawing, painting, and graphic poetry, has spent the last several weeks in Northern New York as an artist-in-residence through the betterArts Residency Program. That program invites artists of every discipline and from all over the world to visit the Better Farm campus in Redwood to focus on a body of work against a backdrop of sustainability initiatives and green living.

In addition to her work as a professional artist, Fishman has worked in education, activism, anthropology, and writing while exploring how we put beliefs into action, how we connect the personal with political and artistic expression and social change—and how we can nurture and educate the next generation to build the world anew. By combining drawing, painting, comic narrative, and visual poetry, Fishman speaks in different voices from the unconscious to the documentarian.

The End of Oil is a series of drawings and paintings in ink and watercolor which Fishman is building into a book. The pieces explore how common stories and themes shared by humanity are acted out in a world we are told is near its end. The book has three parts: The first follows a claustrophobic car journey of a nuclear family; the second, they gather with others in the countryside; and in the third, this small community joins the wider public by the sea. Fishman has used her betterArts residency to work on the second section, using her time in a community-based living situation to reflect and clarify the themes and stories in her work.

Fishman possesses a PhD with Honors in cultural anthropology from New York University, a BA with honors from Haverford College, and has earned fellowships and scholarships to New York University and the New York Studio School. She has worked as a lead researcher, visiting professor, adjunct instructor, and developer for arts outreach organizations and at colleges; and is co-founder of the River School Project. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions for more than 20 years.

This gallery event is free and open to the public. Better Farm is located at 31060 Cottage Hill Road in Redwood. To learn more about Maggie Fishman's work, click here. For more information about the betterArts Residency Program, visit www.betterarts.org.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Gallery Showing of Works by betterArts Resident Kiran Chandra July 11

Kiran at work in the Art Barn.
A gallery showcasing the work of betterArts resident Kiran Chandra is slated at 6 p.m. Friday, July 11, at Better Farm's Art Barn in Redwood.


Kiran has been at Better Farm since June 25 through the betterArts Residency Program, creating a body of work that investigates notions of time, place, communication, and dialogue.

Kiran works with paper, water colors, India and colored inks, spoken word, and video. "I write original texts which become recorded audio pieces that are heard alongside drawings or 3-dimensional work," she said. "The sound, drawings and objects come together to create an effect, and often become an immersive environment for the viewer to enter. The materials are in dialogue together, connected by their physical materiality, but also the very structure of the language that informs the work."

Here are some shots of Kiran-in-action:

Kiran doing a plant study in Better Farm's library.


The artist earned a bachelor's degree from St. Stephen's College at Delhi University in India before moving from Calcutta to Boston to earn a secondary bachelor's in fine art from the Art Institute of Boston. In 2013 she earned an MFA from Hunter College in Manhattan. She now lives in Brooklyn, where she is a teaching artist with various organizations throughout New York City; including the Brooklyn Arts Council, City Lore, Artistic Noise, Studio in aSchool, and the Sadie Nash Leadership Program for Young Women.

Light refreshments and snacks will be served at the gallery opening.


The Art Barn is located at Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood NY, 13679. For more information about the betterArts residency program, click here.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Bouldering

From left: Bradley Harrison Smith, Kara Colarusso, Jacob Firman, Sean Durning, Nicole Caldwell, and Rebekah Kosier install a bouldering wall on Better Farm's Art Barn.
We've got a brand-spanking-new bouldering wall at Better Farm, perched along an outside wall of the Art Barn.

Bouldering is a branch of rock climbing that involves climbing low rocks and boulders. It is often designed to be extremely challenging; so that while the climber may not go very high, he or she will have to be physically fit and very skilled. Bouldering is usually practiced with a large mat, so that if the climber falls, he or she will not be injured. It is also generally done in pairs, in case an emergency arises.

A bouldering wall is a type of rock-climbing wall designed specifically for the practice of bouldering. Like a conventional climbing wall, a bouldering wall is constructed with a sturdy wooden backing, and is designed to accommodate climbing holds of various shapes and sizes. Indoor and outdoor versions can be found around the world for practice, fitness, and recreation, and it is also possible to build your own bouldering wall. (Info from WiseGeek)
  
For our setup at Better Farm, we didn't build anything onto the existing wall; instead we simply used studs to anchor our hand and footholds. Most of what we did involved guesswork: stretching ourselves out to determine where the next piece should go, retracing our steps to pick alternative spots for additional pieces.

Check out Metolius Climbing for a great tutorial on constructing a bouldering gym at home.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

The yellow bricks of Chittenango, N.Y. Image from My Vintage Soul.
I was fortunate enough two years ago to receive golden bricks that once formed a road actually danced and trod upon by just about every cast member from the Wizard of Oz except Dorothy herself. This gift was the result of a string of events involving the town of Chittenango (where Frank L. Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was born and raised), harsh North Country winters, and two dear friends of mine, Walter and Sunny.

You can read the full story by clicking here.

So what's a girl to do with 50 pounds of bricks with such an illustrious history? Find a place to inlay them, of course. Enter Better Farm's Art Barn, which in its former incarnation housed animals and utilized a gutter in the floor that nowadays has simply laid empty in such a way as to create a bit of a hazard for the inattentive wanderer in our gallery space.

It's a perfect trough to lay in some gold bricks; so that's what we did. All it took was a few bags of concrete mix, a little water, and some elbow grease.




Now, all visitors to our gallery space can walk on the same golden bricks the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and oodles of Munchkins have danced, walked, and skipped on. A little magic, right here in Redwood.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Progress on Frame Ceiling


We blogged recently about a ceiling design for Better Farm's Art Barn that will utilize donated, discarded frames. We "broke ground" on the project a couple of weeks ago, and have already used up the frames given to us by Fort Drum and Focal Point Frames. Here's how we went about the work:

Firstly, it's important to always keep your end-goal in sight:
This photo from the New York Times is of a ceiling created out of discarded picture frames by Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion.
1. Line up all matched frames in a row.
 2. Using a power nailer, connect corner pieces.
3. Use a chop saw to shorten sides to fit between ceiling beams.

4. Begin the laborious task of power-nailing the frames to the ceiling...





Got some frames you can donate to the cause? Email info@betterarts.org to help out!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Gallery Ceiling Will be Picture-Perfect

This photo from the New York Times is of a ceiling created out of discarded picture frames by Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion. The image became our inspiration for the gallery ceiling in Better Farm's Art Barn.
Thanks to donations from Focal Point Custom Framing and Fort Drum, Better Farm's Art Barn is about to have a gallery ceiling fittingly made entirely out of upcycled picture frames. It's a lesson in upcycling, but more than that we like to think of it as a very literal intersection between art and sustainability. In return for keeping hundreds of old picture frames out of burn pits or landfills, we get to use them to create a thing of beauty—and a thought-provoking thing at that.

The gallery space in Better Farm's Art Barn.

Since I moved to Better Farm in 2009, the Art Barn overhaul has been one of our biggest and ongoing projects. We've cleared out years' worth of hay from the second story, added bank after bank of windows, rented dumpsters to haul out all the old and broken stuff that had been piled up over the course of decades, added track lighting and gallery walls, and turned the whole space into a studio and art and performance gallery. In the fall of 2011 we added recycled soy sprayfoam insulation on the first level, and in the spring of 2012 added a second-story deck overlooking a natural amphitheater (to check out the unreal sound quality for yourself, be sure to visit us at this year's betterArts/Better Farm Open House & Fundraiser.

I've been kicking around a bunch of ideas for the ceiling on the first floor of the Art Barn, which betterArts uses as its gallery space:
I considered using old barn wood, then wondered about using some old siding we have in the wood shed. Many people suggested sheet-rocking it, or zipping down some slab wood to use. Then, Fort Drum donated a bunch of old, broken picture frames to us. I recalled an article in the New York Times about Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion, a man who builds recycled houses—which is to say, he takes building materials destined for the dump and builds homes with them for next-to-nothing.

In one of the images from that article (see above), he took picture frame corners to create a zig-zag pattern across the ceiling of a house. This was the perfect solution for our Art Barn ceiling! I set about finding a frame shop locally that might be willing to donate more frames to betterArts to use in the non-profit's gallery space.

Tracy Spencer from Focal Point Custom Framing in Watertown was extremely gracious and said that while the company seldom has broken frames, they do have some small frames with defects and discarded moulding. I met with Tracy Saturday morning and picked up the bounty—we're hoping to continue working with Focal Point in the future to get the project completed (many frame pieces are required!). Tracy also through in some beautiful suede matboard that we can use for arts & crafts projects in the community.

Here's Focal Point's display wall, also indicative of what our ceiling will look like:

 My car, stuffed to the gills:

Back at the Farm, I got the Ryobi chop saw out and ready to make 45-degree cuts on the frames:

Then began the extremely tedious process of piecing all the frames together:

We will get chopping this week and should be able to get a quarter to a full half of the ceiling completed before the open house in May. Stay tuned for updates!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Grounds Stewards

A main springtime initiative at Better Farm this year is clearing the old farming grounds of the original homestead.
Part of the work we do at Better Farm has to do with reviving old spaces; turning what had become forgotten land into fertile new ground for people (and animals) to enjoy. Because our Annual Open House and Fundraiser is expanding this year, it was time to level-up on the property across the street from Better Farm's main house.

It's amazing how much stuff is just lying around old barn foundations, in open fields, and buried under tangles of vines, trees, and brush. Here's just one pile of junk we found twisted up in the old barn foundation (mental note: This is already after a huge dumpster haul three years ago, and an intimidating barn clear-out the last two years):
On the plus side, there is now going to be more space to utilize for meetings, entertainment, and for the natural bug and animal community to traverse without getting tripped up on some old rusty metal or other piece of garbage.

The photo above is of the mess discovered after clearing this space out:

Here's the space just about finished up, save for a few remaining piles of dirt:
 
While one work crew was clearing out the foundation this morning,  there was also some ATV activity clearing pathways through woods, removing old barbed wire, and lowering some brush:

Here's another pile of junked metal from decades ago:

Across the street next to the garden, we also got some repairs done on our rainwater catchment system. That set-up sustained some damage in heavy windstorms since last fall.



Stay tuned for more updates as we enhance the grounds for upcoming events and tours. To volunteer, please contact us at info@betterfarm.org or (315) 482-2536.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Gallery Opening of Kristie Hayes Beaulieu

A gallery show at Better Farm last Friday celebrated the work of visiting betterArts resident Kristie Hayes Beaulieu.

As we discussed in an earlier post, Kristie is a high school art teacher and professional visual artist who visited us for two weeks from Syracuse, N.Y. through the betterArts residency program. Her work has been featured in more than a dozen group and solo exhibitions in galleries as far away as Detroit, and her recent "x-ray art series" has been featured on the cover of Academic Medicine and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists' medical publication.



Kristie sold three pieces at her gallery opening, and we had a great turnout—complete with an impromptu, live musical performance by some North Country locals. Here are some photos from the gallery:








To learn more about the betterArts residency program, click here.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Art Barn Gets a Rainwater Catchment Slop Sink

The Art Barn in the last week gained running water to activate a slop sink for artists, thanks to a little rainwater harvesting project undertaken at Better Farm.

Utilizing a blueprint created last year by intern extraordinaire Lizzi Musoke, we constructed a gutter system to catch rainwater runoff on the Art Barn and divert it through a downspout and spigot into a laundry sink. Biodegradable products will flow out of the sink drain and disperse on the ground; and for toxic chemicals and paints, a catchment bucket can be placed below the drain to collect that waste for disposal.

Here's all you need to create your own rainwater catchment system, applicable for any non-potable water use (irrigation, outdoor shower, or outdoor sink):


Materials:
  • Length of plastic gutter to fit along your roof edge
  • End cap for gutter
  • Downspout cut to length
  • Downspout connector to gutter
  • Braces for gutter
  • Exterior screws
  • Spigot with washers
  • Drill with with various bits: one to fit your screws, one with a drill head of the same diameter as your spigot
  • Rainwater catchment barrel (check with your local farms, they're always flush with barrels like this!)
  • A stand for your barrel (cinder blocks at least for a hose attachment, something taller if you want a sink—you are using gravity to pull the water from the bin to your spigot, which should be at the bottom of the rainwater barrel!)
  • Skill saw to cut a hole in your barrel for the downspout
  • Mosquito netting to surround the entrance point of the downspout-to-barrel to ensure no bugs lay eggs in the water
Directions:
Carl Frizzell helps us out by cutting some gutters and downspouts
  • Measure your roof edge and cut your gutter length to fit (any saw will be able to cut through plastic gutter).
  • Take your gutter braces and screw them along the roof line, ensuring a gradual angle so the water runs downstream to where your catchment bin is waiting.
  • Put your gutter in the braces and attach the end cap at one end, downspout attachment piece at the other.
  • Measure from the gutter to where your catchment bin is and cut your downspout to be just a few inches longer. (NOTE: make sure your measurement for the downspout accounts for the fact your rainwater barrel is sitting up on something. This measurement should not be to the floor!)
  • Attach the downspout to the gutter system.
  • Cut a hole in your rainwater barrel's top to fit the downspout.
  • Use your drill to cut a hole in the barrel's side a few inches up from the bottom for your spigot. 
  • Put a washer on your spigot and screw it into the hole.
Any questions? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Thank You

Saturday marked betterArts' first annual Open House and Fundraiser, which welcomed members of the community and visitors from all over to stop in and check out our Art Barn, peruse work by local and visiting artists, listen to music by more than half a dozen acts, and get acquainted with free summer programming funded entirely through donations.

The event, put on in conjunction with the First Annual Artists' Studio Tour in the Thousand Islands region, was a roaring success. More than 200 people visited Better Farm throughout the day and learned about the initiatives being taken on by betterArts.

You can see the full album of the day's festivities by clicking here.

We'd like to offer our most heartfelt thanks to all those who came out to support this worthy cause. Without your support, our endeavors to make music and the arts accessible to all would be impossible. Special thanks also go out to the following:

Our Sponsors
The John Hoover Inn

Our Musical Acts, Especially:
Ben Plante and Friends
Airhead Jordan
The Pistol Whippers
Brian Purwin and Friends
Aaron Horeth

Our Hoopers and Fire Dancers:
Jozette & Seth

Our Volunteers:
Carl Frizzell
Bob Laisdell
AmberLee Clement
Tess Flynn
Ben Paul Plante
Holly Boname
Erin Fulton
Brian Purwin
Jim Mercer
Nick Bellman
Mike Brown
Jon-Michael Passerino
Sue Kerbel
Phil Randazzo

Our Board of Directors:
Nicole Caldwell
Holly Boname
Erin Fulton
Scott Smith
Mike Brown
Sarah Herold
Anet Hammette

Winners of our raffles from the event will be contacted this week about claiming their prizes. For betterArts' summer workshop schedule, click here. For more information about the betterArts residency program, click here.

Great news coverage from the day can be found here:
Watertown Daily Times (front page!)
WWNY TV 7

This Saturday: betterArts Open House at Better Farm


betterArts will host its annual open house and fundraiser from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, May 26. This event is in conjunction with the First Annual Artists' Studio Tour, which includes more than 27 artists and 21 studios in the Thousand Islands region.


The betterArts open house will raise funds to allow the organization to offer free music and art workshops throughout the summer to the public. Check out our full workshop listings and dates by clicking here.

At the event, we'll be raffling off wares donated by Dragonfly Pottery, Winnie and Belle (free shipping on all orders through July 1!), and Wrecords by Monkey. Local artists' works will be showcased and available for sale in the gallery space, and the following musicians will be performing (in addition to other cameos and impromptu improv sessions throughout the day): 

GALLERY STAGE
11 a.m.-12 p.m. Nick Bellman
1:30-2:30 p.m. Aaron Horeth
4-5 p.m. Airhead Jordan

MAIN STAGE
12-1:30 Brian Purwin and Friends
2:30-4:00 p.m. The Pistol Whippers
5-6:30 p.m. Ben Plante and Friends
6:30-8:30 p.m. Jounce

And there's more! We'll also have arts 'n' crafts stations for kids, hula hoops for all, fire jugglers, a beer and wine tent, and an outdoor barbecue featuring homemade foods, pizza and wings from the John Hoover Inn, and locally sourced chicken and hot dogs. And, of course, veggie burgers! Click here to RSVP! Hope to see you there!

Art Barn's New Deck

It was barely two weeks ago when the guys from Passerino Painting and Contracting stopped by to break ground on a new deck for the Art Barn at Better Farm. With construction now completed, we've got easy access to the second-floor studio spaces. That opens up the entire downstairs area for gallery and additional studio space, and gives us a great stage overlooking the natural amphitheater out back.

Here are some after shots (see the full album by clicking here):





To complete the Art Barn renovation, we'll be doing the folllowing in the coming weeks:
  • Wiring the upstairs and deck for electric
  • Installing a new ceiling downstairs to cover the spray foam insulation we put in last fall
  • Putting in a new sliding glass door and steel exit doors downstairs
  • Building a kayak and canoe rack to open up the carport space
  • Brush hogging/borrowing goats to eat the burdocks and tall grass in the amphitheater
  • Cleaning and organizing the studio and gallery spaces
Stay tuned for completed interior photographs!

To schedule an estimate for one of your at-home projects, contact Passerino Painting and Contracting at passerinojm@gmail.com or (315) 783-3994.