LITTLE FALLS — There’s art — and artists — in them-thar hills, and Herkimer County residents Dave Warner and his wife and partner, Deborah Kaufman, have unearthed a rich vein of talent.
Not ones to hoard their finds, the veteran prospectors staked claim to their recently launched media company, Art in the Adirondacks, and are spreading the word about it in a 21st century-style gold rush.
The “art”-trepreneurs’ ultimate goal, in addition to broadcasting, supporting and facilitating the marketing of regional artists and their works, is the use of “cultural enterprise as an economic catalyst to create jobs, re-purpose vacant architecture, and revitalize business opportunities within the region.”
That’s according to the vision statement on their image-rich website, https://www.artintheadirondacks.com.
The online magazine, which is also available as a mobile app, serves as a sluiceway for the delivery of regional news and stories about the creative people, works and events inspired by the Adirondacks. It also caches a trove of radio shows and podcasts featuring interviews with top filmmakers, musicians, photographers, painters, and other professionals trained in the arts and fine arts. The site’s first podcast is devoted to an interview with Alexander Lombard, the founder of the Lake George Music Festival.
Warner, a Texan who spearheaded several successful tech start-ups after his service in the U.S. military, has experience as an air traffic controller and holds a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics. He currently works as the chief technology officer of Port Jackson Media, a Mohawk Valley publishing company.
Kaufman, now retired after an illustrious career as the corporate head of several Texas-based and international companies, and a skilled pilot, grew up in the majesty of the local mountains and moved west to earn her fortune.
Neither is a stranger to the arts scene: Kaufman is an accomplished artist specializing in architectural stained-glass works as well as a budding, self-taught landscape artist who paints in oils. Warner is a photographer, videographer, web designer and podcaster. His photographs have served as the inspiration for many of Kaufman’s works.
In addition to their personal involvement in the arts, the “baby boomers” have invested much in the development and marketing of the arts, both on Post Office Street in Galveston, Texas, where they operated the Earthman Art Center and their own Bremond House Gallery and in the Austin, Texas, area of Elgin, where they relocated their gallery and arts efforts following a 2005 hurricane that devastated the Galveston area.
The focus of their arts-related work in Galveston was to create an arts incubator where artists could display and learn how to brand and market themselves and their works.
“Hardly anyone talks about the business side of art, and every single artist ultimately wants to be able to sell their work so they can earn a living off of doing their art and not have to have a side job,” said Kaufman. “In the way of the ‘starving artist,’ they really don’t want to starve.”
In Elgin, they helped kick-start the arts with an annual festival and other initiatives that continue to this day.
The couple have collaborated or worked together since the mid-1990s, when marketing expert Kaufman saw a newspaper article about then-CEO Warner’s air traffic control simulation company and initiated contact. Flirtatious and affectionate to this day, Warner and Kaufman moved to the upstate New York community of Spruce Lake in 2008.
Kaufman said the concept for Art in the Adirondacks was conceived in the latter part of 2010. She said, “When we moved up here, we started seeing some really interesting artists in the middle of nowhere, and we realized that the Adirondacks as a region didn’t have a central consolidated venue for collectors to learn about the numerous artists that are part of this region.”
She continued, “To find artists in the Adirondacks, you have to go to individual websites-if they have a site or you know enough about the artist to do a search. There isn’t just one place where you can find all of the artists in the Adirondacks.”
Work to promote the regional concept began in earnest; however, a return to Austin for a corporate position for Kaufman temporarily delayed the site’s progress. The onset of Parkinson’s disease coupled with other health concerns, led to her early retirement and the couple’s return to Spruce Lake in early 2013.
Since that time, Kaufman’s interest in and talent for landscape painting has blossomed. Warner is proud of his wife’s accomplishments and encourages her painting. This June 12 -14, she will be the featured artist during the annual Violet Festival in Dolgeville.
Although they’re members of the post-WWII crop of offspring who came of age during the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s and are at (or nearing) retirement, Kaufman indicated that she and her husband are not like their parents’ generation. “Art in the Adirondacks is part of the positive side, the happy side of life, and where we want to be in the future.”
“We’re moving on to the next thing,” said Kaufman, noting that they both have Type A personalities and are looking forward to their next big project. “Retirement for us can’t be sitting in front of the TV,” she said.
“It has to be something bigger than life,” Kaufman said. “It has to be something never done before, something that can deliver a positive impact on the communities that make up the Adirondack region.”
She concluded, “There’s so many life lessons in what we’ve experienced. That whole story about who we are is still being written, and we’re not even halfway done.”
— Story by Linda Kellett