IMG_9058 (2)Using arts and cultural tourism to spark interest in an area is not really a new concept; however, the level of interest from key players within the Adirondacks arts, cultural and heritage community who will be attending the September 10th, 2015 ADK Action’s Adirondack Cultural Symposium at the Olympic Conference Center in Lake Placid is certainly noteworthy, if not unprecedented. According to Lee Keet, President of Vanguard Atlantic Ltd. and ADK Action board member, the event has exceeded its original capacity and had to be moved to another floor to accommodate the over 100 attendees from the region’s visual and performing arts organizations, museums, historic sites and representatives from all organizations that promote and support the arts in the North Country.  Keet believes that “tourism, based on environment and culture, will be a main driver for the region’s economy going forward.” He cited the success of Saranac Lake’s Third Thursday Art Walks with the crowds they generate to the downtown district as a prime example of what is possible through organizational partnerships. 

LeeKeet

Lee Keet

The purpose of the Symposium is to bring together key players within the cultural community to discuss how organizations can collectively work together to increase membership and attendance; utilize county, state and federal support services; and identify opportunities for collaboration and cross-promotion. “For example, many organizations in the region don’t have grant writers, yet there is money available to finance many of their projects through the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), Empire State Development and others. If we can share resources, we can do more,” explained Keet.

Symposium presentations include: an overview of The New York Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Lisa Robb, Executive Director for NYSCA; an overview of Empire State Development led by Richard Newman, Exec VP of State Marketing Strategy and Gavin Landry, Exec Dir of Tourism, Empire State Development, I LOVE NEW YORK; and, a presentation of the Adirondack Partnership’s work to promote cultural and environmental tourism in the Adirondacks by Bill Farber, former head of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages and the current Board Chair of Hamilton County. The Symposium will be videotaped and made available after the conference on the ADK Action website.

Three panel discussions, made up of industry stakeholders, will follow the presentations and include topics such as: creative thinking and collaboration in the Adirondacks, opportunities versus problems for museums and historical sites, and opportunities versus problems for visual and performing arts.  Moderators Jim Herman and David Mason from the Adirondack Futures Project will facilitate three breakout sessions covering performing arts, museums and visual arts/arts promotion organizations. According to Keet, a successful outcome from the event would be, “three working groups led by dynamic, committed leaders with broadly defined goals, ready to take on next-step activities.”

ADK Action is not new to creating partnerships and driving positive change throughout the Adirondacks; the organization has been tackling challenging projects since its inception in 2007. “We take on non-controversial projects, to improve the life of the villages. The road salt project is one example of how we raised funds for monitoring equipment to study the environmental concerns.  Those studies prompted DOT to rethink their use of salt, which has been reduced 30% since we began that project,” explained Keet.

Other projects led by ADK Action include saving the Monarch butterflies from extinction through the distribution of milkweed seeds for planting in area communities. According to Keet, they were even successful in getting the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to plant them at the White House. They have also embarked on expanding broadband internet through the Adirondack Park and recently authored a letter to the NYS Public Service Commission requesting that Time Warner share full granular mapping of service in cooperation with the NYS Broadband Program Office Mapping Program. Other projects include the establishment of fair tax assessments for properties, shoreline erosion and early childhood education. Currently, they are considering taking on the lack of transportation services in the Park as a potential project.

While the organization’s projects may seem disconnected at first glance, the consistent thread throughout all their projects is the extraordinary level of passion and persistence that they apply to shaking things up and getting things done.  Only time will tell just how successful ADK Action will be in their effort to pull together the region’s arts, cultural and heritage organizations as a unified group to increase tourism and ultimately serve as an economy driver for the future.  If their history of successful projects is any indication, it may be an exciting journey for those of us working to advance arts and culture within the Adirondack Region.