A World-Class Artists Community in Upstate New York

A World-Class Artists Community in Upstate New York

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Rural as it may be, Washington County is home to a vibrant community of artists. With the support of numerous organizations, artists have helped to build an oasis for Upstate NY artists between bustling Saratoga Springs and beautiful Vermont. 

From modern, large-scale sculpture work to more traditional styles like fiber work and painting, visual artists have found inspiration here for hundreds of years.

When you look around at the incredible landscape, however, that probably comes as no surprise. It’s hard not to be moved by the bold colors of fall, rolling hillsides, and quiet moments of winter.

Art in Washington County, of course, is not a new phenomenon.

Grandma Moses donating her painting “Battle of Bennington” to Mrs. George Kuhner who accepts it for DAR / World-Telegram photo by Roger Higgins. 1953.

One of the most well-known folk artists of the 20th century is Grandma Moses, but did you know she spent most of her life here in Washington County? Anna Mary Robertson Moses was born in Greenwich in 1860. 

She and her husband left for Virginia when she was 27, and they returned 20 years later. Grandma Moses had a lifelong interest in art but couldn’t find the time to paint while raising children and tending to the family farm. 

Her art career began in earnest in her late 70s after arthritis made needlework too painful. Inspired by scenes of rural life growing up, which she called “old-timey,” Moses often omitted features of modern life, such as tractors and telephone poles. 

Those same hillsides inspire today’s Washington County artists every day. 

More traditional art forms, like paintings, clay work, and photography can be seen at small, independent galleries and artist studios throughout the area. Excitingly, many of these galleries are housed in refurbished barns, farmhouses, and former factories!

Work by Upstate New York Artists in Washington County NY

The Valley Artisans Market in Cambridge, NY. 2018.

The Valley Artisans Market, reopening on April 1, is home to a cooperative of local artisans focused on bringing quality pieces and small gallery shows to Main Street in Cambridge, NY.

In Hudson Falls, local photographer and artist Kendall McKernon runs the McKernon Gallery, located in the Sandy Hill Arts Center. Stop in to explore the rotating inventory by local artists and McKernon himself. 

For a unique mix of contemporary art and antiques, visit McCartee’s Barn in Salem. Currently open by appointment only, you can explore local art displayed in their historic house and barn!

Also open by appointment is the Design Store at Cambridge Lantern Works. Featuring their artisan copper light fixtures, you can also shop handcrafted furniture, antiques, and objects de art.  

Folk artist Will Moses, a fourth-generation member of the renowned Moses family, also calls Washington County “home.” Moses resides in Eagle Bridge, in the same 200-year-old farmhouse where his great-grandmother spent her days. You can visit the artist studio and farm at Mt. Nebo Gallery

Washington County is home to artisans of all kinds. 

There are basket weavers, fiber artists, potters, stained glass artists, and more creating unique pieces out of unexpected materials. And don’t forget about the Southern Adirondack Farm to Fiber Tour

A glassblower creates a piece of Upstate New York Art

A glassblower works on a piece at SAW in Salem, NY. 2019.

You can find any number of international and historic art forms being practiced in Washington County. 

One artist featured at the Valley Artisans Market in Cambridge, Christine Levy, is known for her pysanky, which she has been practicing for more than 50 years. This Ukrainian folk art is often passed down from generation to generation, and Christine uses a beeswax resist and dye technique, very similar to batik. 

What’s batik? Another artist based in Washington County, Carol Law Conklin, specializes in this ancient art form. Batik is the process of painting with wax on fabric and then submerging the cloth in a dye bath to create intricate patterns and designs. Carol’s work includes farmscapes, equine art, landscapes, and fantasy/myth creations.

The area is also home to the internationally renowned SAW, or Salem Art Works. This 119-acre former dairy farm is now home to artist studios, workshops and community programs, and summer art camps including blacksmithing, glass blowing, jewelry making, screen printing, drawing, painting, and welding facilities. Plus, public grounds feature rotating sculptures by regional, national, and international artists 

If you want to meet some of these makers all in one place, don’t forget about the annual Wool and Arts Festival. There are dozens of musical and theatrical productions to enjoy every year all over the county, from the Strand in Hudson Falls to Cambridge’s Hubbard Hall.  Plus, there are open studio days and various art events all year long. Check out our video for more: