Finger Lakes Art Cooperative

Sue Waby is the treasurer of the Finger Lakes Arts Council in Auburn.

The Citizen file

The first exhibit at the Finger Lakes Arts Council's new gallery doesn't actually exhibit anything: The gallery is the exhibit.

Opening Friday in the front of the downtown Auburn space formerly known as the Finger Lakes Art Cooperative, "Visualize" asks you to do just that. 

"It's mainly an introduction to the community that there will now also be a gallery, and to stay tuned for upcoming shows," Finger Lakes Arts Council Treasurer Sue Waby said Wednesday.

The gallery's formation is one result of the Finger Lakes Arts Council's own. Founded by Waby in 2013 as the Finger Lakes Art Cooperative, the group started as a way for member artists to showcase and sell their work in a downtown storefront. As membership ebbed and flowed between 15 and 30, Waby said, the cooperative paid the bills — but that was about it.

Feeling the group could accomplish more for the community arts scene, Waby and others formed the Finger Lakes Arts Council and obtained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in September. The organizational change opens the group up to programming like workshops, while the new status qualifies it for funding, she said.

That means, for instance, the council could secure a recent Finger Lakes Community Arts Grant, which will support its series of playground arts projects returning this summer. Waby said the council will also apply for funding for its annual Art in the Park show at Hoopes Park in September.

Membership, meanwhile, is now open at lower price tiers to anyone — not just member artists who want to feature work at the store and can maybe clerk it a few hours a month.

Waby said the room for the Finger Lakes Arts Council's renewed mission was partly created by the Cayuga County Arts Council shifting its focus to the Auburn Schine Theater restoration project over the past several years. Waby added that she spoke to Cayuga County Arts Council board member Dia Carbajal about the matter.

"I just wanted her to know we're not trying to replace them, and she agreed," Waby said. "She said they're not really serving the arts community right now."

The council's 101 Genesee St. space is simply known as Finger Lakes Art, Waby said, so as to communicate to the public that it's open to them. So, too, will be the gallery's proper exhibits, which begin in February with "My Beating Heart." A collection of art depicting the human heart, the exhibit has already received several submissions, Waby said.

Until then, those who'd like to view the work of the Finger Lakes Arts Council can do so at the Auburn Unitarian Universalist Society's January show, opening Sunday. Such partnerships are another part of the council's mission to help continue building Auburn's arts scene, Waby said.

"We're not in competition, it's all for the good," she said. "I think Auburn has become more of a cultural center. It's more and more embraced as one."

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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Features editor for The Citizen.