Art Lab seeks visionary vols

Art Lab in action at the old library. (photo by Beth Blis)

Art Lab, the Saugerties-based nonprofit arts and education organization, is calling on all artists and educators, parents and interested parties in general as it seeks to expand membership and programming. “We would like the new members to kind of shape the direction we move into,” said Melanie Avallone, Art Lab’s secretary, a mother of two with a background in the fine arts. There are a wide range of opportunities available, from the volunteer level to committee and even board participation, said Avallone.

Art Lab is familiar to many in the community through its role providing complementary art instruction for school-age children, as well as through its free-form “Drop-In” art classes at the Inquiring Mind bookstore in the village. (At the moment, the latter features artist and educator Edith Bolt teaching a class called “Making Moving Toys.”) Art Lab also offers creative activities at the Farmer’s Market and hosts a kids’ tent at the Garlic Festival, where members annually entertain the 700-900 children who have not yet developed a taste for the pungent bulb—or just can’t get enough art.

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Indeed, due to budget cutbacks, the school’s arts programs are less extensive than when Art Lab first began. Currently kindergarteners through sixth graders in Saugerties schools only get 40 minutes of art per six-day rotation.

Art Lab does not limit itself strictly to the arts. “We have those two words in the name of it, and it’s really this idea of inquiry and creativity,” said Katie Emerson, board president. “So it’s not just limited to collage and making toys that move, but physics and science and everything else.”

Based on interest and participation, the organization hopes to develop a tutoring program that provides free educational space for youth. The tutors would be artists and educators who volunteer their free time to the program, if only once or twice a month. Board members also seek to make use of the tremendous space available at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory once they have the requisite support and programming.

In the short term, Art Lab will move into Claire Raper’s Kid Around consignment shop on Partition St. on Friday, Nov. 2, where they will begin offering weekly classes.

Beth Humphrey, a founder of Art Lab, is now the Educational Curator at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, but said this of her past work with the organization: “Art Lab has affected my life in so many ways. I made some really great friends, learned a lot about running a tiny nonprofit, learned a lot about our diverse community and how incredibly generous Saugerties is. Although I am not on the board anymore, every time I look at those kids making art at the farmers market or at any of the other places Art Lab makes art, I am super proud.”

“Art lab has also served us,” said Emerson. “It has informed what we have become as parents, educators and artists ourselves.”

Volunteers seeking grant funding may be able to gain more than a sense of pride and accomplishment through working with Art Lab. The organization, as a nonprofit, can potentially umbrella those struggling to achieve funding as individuals.

“Bring us your ideas and your energy!” said Katie Cokinos, vice president, a filmmaker and mother of two.

The next public meeting of Art Lab will be at the Saugerties Senior Center at 207 Market St. on Friday, Sept. 24. New board members will be nominated on that date. There are three working committees—programming, outreach, and fundraising—and the current open board positions are that of secretary (which could be shared between two people) and treasurer.

Art Lab’s website is www.saugertiesartlab.com.

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