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Water Colors

Seeing New York State

Kenan Center

The fall colors are a key attraction and when water, water everywhere and thriving cultural activities are added to the mix, New York State becomes a a not-to-be missed fall tourist destination.

On a fall afternoon, my wife Ellen and I headed west to see some of the state's wonders, limiting ourselves to three areas for a weeklong driving trip. Our first stop was Corning for a transparent experience, seeing glass in all shapes and forms. The Corning Museum of Glass not only showcases scores of exhibits featuring glass as art, but also includes a Hot Glass Show, and perhaps best of all from our perspective, an inexpensive Make Your Own Glass Experience with tutelage by experienced glass workers. I couldn’t believe it, when, after we arrived home, the postman delivered magnificent colorful glass-blown flowers that each of us had made, which after they cooled, were mailed to us by the museum. We also had time to experience the Rockwell Museum of Western Art – the other Rockwell -- with its fine collection of both Western and Native American Art and enjoy a fabulous dinner of lamb lollipops, scallops, duck and tuna at the Cellar Restaurant on the city’s charming West Market Street.

Corning Museum of Glass

The next morning we headed north to the Niagara Falls area, for a range of watery and aesthetic experiences including a must-take, although you get soaked, boat ride on the Maid of the Mist to the spectacular Horseshoe Falls. In nearby Lockport, we again found ourselves water-borne as we enjoyed another boat ride on Erie Canal Cruises, going through 34 and 35, the last two locks on the Erie Canal, that masterwork of 19th century engineering.

It was time for cultural experiences. At the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center in a converted school building, we saw the Artist & Friends Exhibition in the main gallery and met the director and several artists who had studios there. We also visited the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University. In Lockport we saw a range of impressive art works and peeked into several artist studios at the Market Street Arts Center before visiting the nearby Kenan Arts Center, housed in a magnificent Victorian Mansion, which includes virtually every art form in its bustling premises. The Center, the focal point of a 25-acre setting, donated by financier William Rand Kenan, Jr., includes the mansion and two carriage houses turned into an education center and theater and the more recently-built Kenan Arena.We also had time for several wonderful dinners at Carmelo’s and Casa Antica in the charming town of Lewiston and experienced a dramatic local adventure, the Marble Orchard Ghost Walk through and around the Village Cemetery.

Landmark Theater, Syracuse, Jersey Boys.
Credit: Wainwright Photograpy

The next stop on our itinerary was Syracuse, NY where the arts came alive in a unique collaboration organized by the city’s famed Everson Museum of Art, "Tony 2012, The Other New York." The exhibit at 14 area sites – we visited four - featured works from 63 artists not from New York City. Staying in the historic downtown Armory Square area, we had easy access to city sites, including the historic converted old movie palace, the Landmark Theatre, where we enjoyed a great touring company production of "Jersey Boys" and dined at the bustling Empire Brewing Company.

The next day more cultural attractions awaited us at the wonderful Everson Museum designed by I.M. Pei and at the Onondaga Historical Association Museum with its outstanding regional collection. Before lunching at Cantina Laredo, in Destiny USA, the exciting, upscale retail, dining and entertainment center, that is still adding new stores and attractions, there was more water on the agenda at Syracuse's Erie Canal Museum, the only existing weighlock building in the country, set at a site where the Canal once flowed.

Rockwell Museum of Western Art

In adjacent Madison County the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park offered us an ever-evolving four-mile wonderland of outdoor art and sculpture and in nearby Chittanango, the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of the "Wizard of Oz," we had a memorable visit to the All Things Oz Museum, which houses an array of memorabilia, from both the book and the movie, devoted to Oz. It was here that we learned that a young heart surgeon was called to the town in the 90's to save the life of a local boy. That particular surgeon fittingly was called in great part because of his name. Yes, it was THE Dr. Oz, who since has become one of television’s super stars.

Wine was on the agenda at the county's new winery, Owera Vineyards, and we took a bottle of red to enjoy back home along with champagne from the Pleasant Valley Wine Company in Hammondsport, a reminder of our visit to Corning in the Finger Lakes Wine Country. Come winter, we'll enjoy drinking a toast to New York State and its wine, water and art.

-- Alvin H. "Skip" Reiss

Fall 2012