The gorgeous new arts center in Old Forge, View, was sprouted from a tiny seed in 1952, when a young woman in Thendara boldly told a summer resident that there would be an art show in two weeks. Miriam Kashiwa was manning her small store in Thendara and visiting with a member of the Hay Fever Club when he said, "You know, it's unfortunate there aren't more cultural activities for people here." To which she responded, "You know we're going to have an art show here in two weeks." From that retort everything else followed that led to the state of the art building that is celebrating its grand opening on July 8 (2011). Kashiwa is not sure what led to her response, maybe a little community pride, but after the statement was made, all that was left was to put on an art show. The art show was publicized in the local paper and Kashiwa's husband, Hank, started building a display area in their yard.
"Of course, my husband was my champion. I didn't know how we were going to have it out there on the lawn, but he went out and cut down some little trees and stuck them in the ground and brought home some hardware cloth and put it between the trees and that's where we hung the art." She found a judge, her old college professor who stayed at the Bald Mountain Colony, C. Bertram Walker. When she was in Walker's class in college and she was bemoaning her artistic abilities, he told her to be patient and that there were many ways someone could contribute to the arts. Truer words were never spoken. She scraped together some prizes -- shampoo and wine and such -- from local businesses. Then she wanted to have awards, so Hank came to the rescue. He cut little slabs from trees and the chips became the awards. The chips are still used today. "We call them Adirondack Chips," Kashiwa said.
By the day of the art show, there were about 100 entries, but one from the local clergy bothered her. "The Father at St. Bart's entered a painting he did by number. He treated it like a big joke. I was so mad at him," said Kashiwa.
One of the paintings that won, by Helena Palmer, is still in the View's collection. "The whole thing was public interest driven. None of it was planned." The lack of planning carried the show on for years. After the first year on the lawn, Kashiwa set up in the bandstand that used to be across from where the Visitor's Center is now. Publicity, headed by the town’s publicity director June Kiefer, brought in entries and Kashiwa would put the paintings out during the day in the gazebo and store them in the American Legion Hall at night. In the morning, she would come back and start the cycle again. Luckily, the shows only lasted one weekend back then. After two years at the bandstand, Kashiwa approached the Town Supervisor, Leonard Helmer, and asked if she could use the fire hall for the show. Helmer agreed, and for several years the show had a home in the fire hall. Jack Christy made eight, foot-long easels with chicken wire that weren't quite strong enough to hold the paintings up. So they put cement blocks on the bottom of the easels to hold up the rigs. After the show lost its temporary home at the fire hall, one of Kashiwa's first helpers stepped up to the plate. "Al Stripp was a Mason's member and they let us have it in the Mason's building. We were there for 16 years. We needed walls to put the art on, so we bought redwood fences and we hitched them together to make it easier to put up,” Kashiwa said. “Al Stripp was my first helper, then Beatrice Foley. I couldn't believe that somebody would come to me and ask to help me. Then, before I knew it, everyone was so generous. The hardware would let us borrow a truck and the town let us store things in the Thendara Town Hall. The town men were wonderful. I don't know if they took pity on me or if they thought it was a big joke, but they helped."
Kashiwa was surprised that the art show kept going. "People started coming to see it -- and they kept coming -- and people started asking what they could do to help,” she said. “Then I realized that if we wanted to perpetuate this thing, we'd have to become a corporation. In 1968, we asked Mr. Bill Foley if he'd like to do this for us for nothing. It took two years and he did it. So then we didn't have a home, but we did have a corporation. We started to have concerts and theater productions." Members of the community continued to help the group. They received a large gift from the Higby Club. "The Higby Club had a nine-foot Steinway stored under its stairway and Joe Dunn inveigled that piano for us, which meant you had to inveigle 10 men to move it from Big Moose down here,” Kashiwa said. “We asked the Protestant church if they wanted a piano and they kept it there for us for a while, but sometime in the '80's we had to sell it. The piano was built in 1859, and we got $5,000 for it." The art show lived at the Thendara Train Station for a while as well as the "Pocket Gallery" in what is now Nathan's Bakery. The group was able to offer courses for college credit and continued to grow. In 1973, the Arts Guild president saw a property for sale and thought the Guild should buy it. "In 1973 we had a great president, Peter Ferris, and we had an opportunity to purchase a building,” Kashiwa explained. “Of course, most of us didn't have a cent and the idea of owning something scared us to death. But Peter said, 'We have to buy that building. We need all of our activities under one roof.’ But how to do it? Peter said, ‘We'll send Bob and Shirley Lindsay to the bank.’ They were the only ones who had any financial credibility in the whole group and they came home with a mortgage. The building was $45,000. We had a fund drive and we paid it off in eight months and had a mortgage burning," said Kashiwa proudly.
Once they moved into the old Arts Center building, the group held fund drives every year and put the money toward fixing the building up. People chipped in however they could, and slowly the gifts added up to a viable Arts Center building. "Always there was a name to the gift. That was how the whole program progressed. People wanted to be a part of it."The outside of the building left a little to be desired, so in 1992 the old building had some cosmetic surgery. "We knew we weren't attractive and nobody paid attention to us as an Arts Center. So we had another fund drive. We called it Project 40, its aim was to put wood on the building and to make that Adirondack-looking portico," said Kashiwa. Norman Rannels built the portico and his old fashioned method of a teepee with pulleys to put the logs into place drew some attention. Kashiwa thinks it's because people liked seeing how things were done in the old days. The programs were outgrowing the space, and the Arts Center looked to expand. Originally, they wanted to expand their old building, but the property wasn't big enough to support any more square footage and follow town codes. "We even thought about buying the little piece of property across the creek and putting a little bridge across. We had a million ideas," she said.
Around the same time, Kashiwa had been thinking of a research center. The "Snowflake Project" was an idea for a six-pointed building that had space for the arts and sciences. That project never got off the ground, but Kashiwa presented the idea of an arts and sciences center to the Arts Guild. The Guild thought that an arts and sciences building was too ambitious and thought that starting smaller with just an arts building would be the way to go. And slowly but surely, with plenty of help, the plan became a reality. "As far as getting this far, everything has been an accident,” said Kashiwa. “We took the opportunities. We were very blessed with opportunity and challenge." The Arts Guild met the challenges and everyone can now enjoy the View in Old Forge.