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Niagara Q&A: Painter bringing artists and the public together

LEWISTON – A chance to have a relaxed chat with local artists in their own studios – or to visit with them while they are hosted for the day by a handful of generous area businesses – is planned for Oct. 10 throughout the area.

A total of 18 exhibitors will participate in the River Region Artists’ Studio Tour and Art Walk, scheduled for roughly 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eleven local artists creating paintings, sculptures, jewelry – even furniture – will throw open the doors of their private workspaces that day, while seven local businesses have agreed to host artists, as well, at no cost.

In addition, local cable celebrity Lori Caso will give cooking demonstrations at her Hewitt Parkway home, while hosting two artists; her son, sculptor Connor Caso, and painter Kimberly Lyn Williams. Caso’s cooking demos will be held noon to 4 p.m.

Michelle Marcotte is the Lewiston artist behind the studio tour idea. She searched the area for willing artists and businesses to participate and was heartened by the response.

She has prepared a map with participating artists’ and business addresses, as well as a short description of the art, for visitors to drive the route through Lewiston and into Youngstown. Tour maps are now available at: the Juice Bar and Café, Lewiston Music, Sue’s Frame of Mind, Apples to Angels Clothing and Shoe Boutique, the Village Goldsmith, Enchanted Florist and Grandpaws. In addition, participating artists will have maps at their home studios.

Marcotte is a painter and art instructor, working mostly in oils, and she will welcome visitors to her home studio, as well. Her husband, Ken Vick, is a master woodworker, who also will participate. He opens his home workshop just one day a year to the public, she noted.

A native of Windsor, Ont., who has traveled extensively, Marcotte said she was surprised when she and her husband moved here last summer to learn that if she wanted to join an art tour, she’d have to start one, because none existed. She said they are common in other parts of the U.S. and Canada.

“The tours give people a chance to talk to the artist in a more relaxed setting than an art show and see what work the artist has done, what’s in progress and talk to the artist about what he or she is thinking about,” Marcotte said. “Of course, art is also for sale.”

Marcotte added that this tour offers the rare opportunity for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how an artist works.

“Some studios are very tidy, and some, like mine, are not so very organized,” she said with a laugh.

Marcotte recently took some time to talk about the genesis of this relatively new venture (she actually launched it last year with just five artists and little fanfare), her take on her new home and her surprising background.

Q: How long have you been painting?

A: I started painting when I was 10, and then went to what would be considered a high school of the arts in Windsor, Ont., where I had an hour of art each day in school and then another hour after school. Then I went to the University of Windsor, where I majored in food and nutrition, with a minor in art. I spent the next 40 years traveling to more than 40 countries, trying to see art in galleries all over the world, and really, studied art independently.

Q: So, you are an artist and your husband is a woodworker – how did you meet and how did you choose Lewiston?

A: My degree is in home economics and food science. My work was – and still is – quite diverse in the fields of food and agriculture, international environmental treaty issues, regulated fine chemicals and radiation processing. I own regulatory, agri-environmental consulting and medical editing companies in Canada and the United States, so I still do a little consulting, but I am transitioning into becoming a full-time artist.

The Canadian government had asked me to get involved with this expert committee on the United Nations’ Montreal Protocol for Ozone Depleting Substances and I became co-chair in 2005 and resigned in 2014, but my husband, Ken, is still on it. He was a scientist with the U.S Department of Agriculture and he managed the science at 16 different research institutes. When we met on this panel, we called it “international détente.”

We had lived in Maryland for eight years, then Niagara Falls, Ont., for two years before we bought this house on Fort Gray Drive in Lewiston. It had a perfect studio for me and a workshop for Ken and we love it – we’re really happy here.

And part of the reason we chose Lewiston is that, even though it’s a very small community, there is so much going on with the arts and with music. It’s really wonderful.

Q: So your background is food science and food is sometimes a subject in your art, right?

A: I work virtually all in oils and I’ve been working on a food series for the past couple of years. The next thing I’m doing is that I’ll be an artist-in-residence at Tops Market in Lewiston. It’s undergoing renovation right now, but I’m going to be painting in the store, maybe by the end of October and then from April to November. I’d like to do 10 to 20 paintings there and hope to exhibit them in 2017.

Q: So, along with your oils and your husband’s furniture, what else can tour visitors expect to see?

A: Joan Turrell does plein-air landscapes and handmade felt; Sister Carolyn Fisher is a potter at Stella Niagara and has a kiln right in her workspace; Jill Hessinger does paintings of pets; Zach Frank is a young man who does abstractions with a lot of depth; Sherryl Perez does watercolors of flowers and scenery; Paulette Jurek is a quite well-known landscape painter; Carol Carreno has exhibited at the Castellani Art Museum; Marolyn Corriere will not only exhibit her work, but also the work of her student, Jackson Milano; and Connor Caso is a student at Niagara University who does interesting sculptures.

Robert Young owns the Village Goldsmith and designs and manufactures jewelry; Roz DiBacco works in a little of everything – like glass and wood and she even makes lamps; Diana Traver does a more advanced design of jewelry with semi-precious stones; L. Paul Thomas does watercolors of landscapes, streetscapes and sailboats; Kimberly Lyn Williams is a painter who experiments with different media; and Sue Sullivan does nature and travel photography.

I think we’ve covered most of the field of visual arts!

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email