Livingston Arts revitalizes local history

Geneseo students usually resort to traveling into Rochester in order to get their entertainment fix. Rochester is known as a hub for art and history in upstate New York—but what many don’t know is that Livingston County has its own modest art scene to boast. Livingston Arts is an arts center located in Mount Morris that combines the region’s rich history with vibrant visual arts and events.

I attended “One Big Soul, a Great Depression Symposium,” an event hosted by Livingston Arts on Saturday Sept. 26. This event featured three lectures given by three experts in different areas of the Great Depression.

James Spiller of SUNY Brockport presented “FDR and New Deal Policies,” which was a general overview of government policies during the Great Depression. Wanda Wakefield—also from Brockport—presented “American Sport in the Great Depression.” This lecture highlighted the Depression’s impact on baseball. Critic, author and radio host Michael Lasser was the final lecturer. He discussed his lecture “Entertainment During the Great Depression,” which focused on the film, music and fashion of the 1930-40s.

Although the term “lecture” gives off a strict connotation of a teacher-student hierarchy, the symposium encouraged attendees—most of whom were Geneseo community members and history buffs—to put in their two cents and to openly ask questions for discussion.

While I found these lectures to be quite interesting and illuminating, I realize that lectures are not every student’s cup of tea. But Livingston Arts offers a handful of various activities, including two art galleries, classes and special events.

The New Deal Gallery is a year-round gallery that features a rotating collection of over 200 paintings from the Great Depression—all created by Works Progress Administration artists. The WPA was created as a part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide people with temporary jobs during the Great Depression.

The WPA is known for public works projects such as building roads, infrastructure and parks—every project meant to benefit both society as a whole and the individual workers. Its sister organization—the Public Works Administration—was very active in Geneseo and is responsible for the construction of Sturges Hall. But the WPA also dealt with artistic ventures, giving Geneseo and the surrounding community the large collection of works at Livingston Arts. Currently on display is “Changing Landscape: Architecture in American Scene Painting in the 1930s.”

As a large supporter of emerging and local artists, Livingston Arts provides many opportunities to get involved. Livingston Arts’ Apartment One Gallery is a gallery space for regional artists to display their works. The gallery’s exhibits rotate every three months, giving many artists a chance to show their work.

The Apartment One Gallery is currently displaying Mark Sager’s photography exhibit “Testing the Waters” and Ann Parker’s multimedia exhibit “Endpapers.” The Livingston Arts website provides information on how to apply for an exhibit in their gallery, as well as in galleries in the area.

Even if you are unfamiliar with the art world, Livingston Arts has something for you. It offers a variety of classes to people of all ages. Classes include learning to draw super heroes, acting and improvisational comedy, playwriting, sewing, yoga, song composition, music theory and history and piano and vocal lessons.

With their large variety of exhibits and events, Livingston Arts is dedicated to bringing the history of Livingston County out of the past and into the spotlight, providing a place and time for community members young and old to come together and discuss their interests.