Nancy Fox, CNY Arts Center Helps Revitalize Fulton – Oswego County Business Magazine
The group recently celebrated its 10th anniversary; he is preparing for a new post-pandemic season
By Steve Yablonski
At an age when many others are retiring, Nancy Fox shows no signs of slowing down.
âI have always been a housewife and mother who volunteered in all of my children’s activities. I have a background in community theater, a Bachelor of Arts Administration from SUNY Oswego and a Masters of Drama. of SU, âFox mentioned.
She started a small theater company in Oswego, Port City Theater, in 2006 with her husband.
âWe were entering our third season when my husband passed away suddenly in 2008,â she said. âWhen it was all said and done, I had to decide what to do with the rest of my life. I decided I wanted to do something important.
The CNY Arts Center started as a local organization 10 years ago, in April 2011.
âI wrote the letter to the editor and invited people to meet and talk about Fulton. My husband grew up here. That’s what he left me, so I chose to devote myself to developing an artistic identity in Fulton, believing that the arts can make a difference, âshe explained.
The letter was a call to action to discuss the grim plight in Fulton, the constant decline, desperation and negative reputation that permeated social media, according to Fox, executive director of the CNY Arts Center.
Fourteen people responded. A plan was put together to stimulate an artistic presence in Fulton, to call on artists to share their art, to beautify the city and create a place where people could find art, make art and enjoy art , she said.
âThere was a strong belief that the arts could bring revitalization to the region, stimulate economic activity and create a new identity,â she said.
In July, a non-profit organization was formed, approved by the IRS in September, and a board of directors was put in place.
âThe programming began immediately as the weekly meetings continued. In January 2012, we introduced the first Snow Day with a children’s carnival and snow-themed entertainment and games, even though there was no snow that year! Fox said.
Several houses over the years
A year later, 2012, the group moved into the basement of the State Street Methodist Church to begin programming with art classes and Arty Camp. A stained glass mural was designed and created with community input during Oswego Harborfest. The Town of Fulton constructed and erected a steel frame to house the mural in Indian Point Park at the north entrance to town.
The Shineman Foundation provided a grant for a sound system and a lighting system was donated. The lights were suspended from large tripod “trees” facing the stage in only two directions at the back of the house. A large stage was built in the dining room (no backstage, only access to the wing) and theatrical productions started in December 2012.
“In the spring of 2013, a second location was opened for a downtown art gallery as monthly programming continued with art classes and four to six stage productions per year at the State Street Church.” , she said. âFrom Shakespeare to children’s productions, the theater was well attended and the group continued to grow throughout 2014.â
In the fall of 2014, the Arts Center moved to a space offered at Cayuga Community College, at the southern entrance to the city. The hope was that the best location would provide more visibility and opportunities for growth, Fox noted. The location was popular for theatrical productions with plenty of seating and parking, but there was no accommodation for classes and no storage, she added.
âOnce again, the Shineman Foundation granted us an upgrade to our lighting system so that we could remove the lights from the ground and hang them on a grid above. A technical stand was built and fire retardant curtains were added to the collection, âshe said.
By the end of 2017, it became apparent that the college was having issues with space availability and that the Arts Center needed to find a new home. An empty downtown building became available and discussions began to buy and renovate the building. The donors were found and the building was purchased in June 2018.
âThe renovations began immediately,â Fox said. âThere were no productions or theatrical programming, except for Arty Camp, which took place in the downtown gallery during the eight months of renovation.â
In February 2019, a restricted occupancy certificate was granted for the use of the building on the first two levels. It was enough for the center to make its “Little Women” debut on the new stage. The old lighting and sound system was installed and learning to work with the steeply sloping and sloping roof line above the stage became a challenge. With barely seven and a half feet of headroom on the left side of the stage, all of the âsecond floorâ locations, or the attic as requested in Little Women, had to be creatively designed.
A final certificate of occupancy was awarded later in the year with the completion of a sprinkler system on all three floors and a wheelchair lift for access to the lower level.
âOver the next two years, we learned with every show and production – the values ââimproved dramatically. Thanks to a state grant, the lighting system has been replaced with an incredible state-of-the-art LED system that has more potential than our intimate stage with a sloping ceiling currently allows.
âOur children’s theater productions have reached such popularity that more than 50 children have typically auditioned for our annual junior production. However, our stage wouldn’t hold more than 30, âshe said.
Successful theatrical productions were their greatest source of earned income, helping to support other artistic programs. A hearty concession stand and creative basket raffles and fundraisers were part of every production.
Groups were formed to support other arts, a writers cafe, a song circle for guitarists, a group of writers and actors to create new workshop scenarios, and more.
âWe were less than two weeks before the opening of a major musical production [âChildren of Edenâ] with a full cast of adults and children when the pandemic stopped us, âFox said. âOur next junior production, ‘Frozen’, has launched and is in full rehearsal. We immediately lost all income.
While they waited for the live theater to return, they used the time to complete renovation projects such as the final construction of the commercial kitchen space.
âOnce we were cleared to reopen, we launched a small cookie shop to generate another source of income and hope to add cooking classes soon,â she said. âWe focused on developing our studio arts program with classes and groups and created regular opportunities for art sellers to show and sell their art. We have started a weekly outdoor arts market for sidewalk art sales.
With the support of the Shineman Foundation once again, they secured a grant for a film screening system.
In January, they made their Fulton Cinema Arts Theater debut on their 10th annual Family Snow Day by screening the feature film “Snow Day.”
âWe can only accommodate 25% of the house, around 20 people per session. But it brings people back to the theater and provides another potential source of income, âshe said. âWe got a different grant to cover the cost of renting movies for a year, giving us time to build audience loyalty. We will be showing films at least once a month until we reopen for live performances. “
In the year leading up to the pandemic, Fulton won the latest downtown $ 10 million revitalization initiative. As the recipient organization, the CNY Arts Center is set to receive funding to raise and level the roof line on the stage, with the governor’s approval of their proposal.
âWe are excited about this project for the enhanced experience we will provide to the public once our stage lights are at the right height. Production values ââare expected to grow exponentially with this improved shape and design of our stage, âshe said. âWe will also add much-needed programming space and even seating on the balcony. We are all desperately short of theater and have attempted virtual events with less than satisfactory results. As the restrictions eased, they started offering certain events.
They applied for a grant for essential equipment to produce better quality live streaming capabilities.
âI am surrounded by people who are passionate about the arts and about Fulton. They keep the momentum going. As a team, we have accomplished more than I could have hoped for or imagined! I mean, have you seen this place? It’s incredible! They are amazing! âShe said.
âAnd, the blessing of the dedicated people at the arts center means that we are gradually putting qualified people into all the important roles such as artistic director of performing arts, artistic director of studio fine arts, director of film arts, directors of culinary arts, etc. etc. They are always volunteers, but work for the passion and the opportunities to create and have a say in how the center is run. My focus now is on securing the foundations of the center so that we can hire real staff including a professional executive director who can provide a great working environment for all those multi-talented people who inspire us to create art. . But, the pandemic has pushed us back a bit! she continued.
Fox vowed to continue.
âYes, I am old enough to retire. I’m thinking about it. Technically, I didn’t enter the full-time job market until 2011. So I just hit the 10-year mark – our 10th anniversary this year, âshe said. âAnd I miss making art and creating art. But, the responsibility as an executive director leaves little room for creative thinking, especially at my age! Retirement will come when someone can take over.