Arts Scene in Syracuse is Strong Syracuse's Arts are Going Strong

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Tinesha Jackson has always been an artist. She has a doctorate in Art Education, has been drawing and painting most of her life, and enjoys writing. She had more time for that before she was hired for her most recent job.

“I really don’t have a lot of time because I’m running the Community Folk Art Center,” Jackson said.

Running the center, while also serving as a professor at Syracuse University, has taken up a lot of  Jackson’s time lately. Not to mention that Jackson only moved to Syracuse less than a year ago. But, she’s doing what she loves: working with artists. And she’s finding that the city of Syracuse is a great place to work with artists.

“Right now, there is just an overwhelming surge of creativity going on within the city of Syracuse,” Jackson said. “And a lot of it is surrounding various art institutions.”

Syracuse is a great place for all patrons of the arts because of the many opportunities available for everyone. Whether you’re an ex-theater major or just a casual art fan, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with the arts.

Take Joanna Penalva, a longtime Syracuse resident. She was not a theater major in college, yet found a passion for Syracuse arts when she became a patron for Syracuse Stage.

“You don’t just have to be a good at painting pretty pictures or thinking creatively,” Penalva said. “There really is a position for everybody.”

Now, she’s a marketing associate, so she’s able to get involved with the arts like she never has before.

“To have ended up working in the theater is incredible that I could have just gone from being a consumer of art to being a participant,” Penalva said. “I think that’s the ultimate journey right there.”

Joseph Whelan has had certainly quite the journey in Syracuse. The Marketing and Communications Director at Syracuse Stage, Whelan has worked in Syracuse for over 20 years. The arts community in Central New York has molded his life.

“I’ve made my career here,” Whelan said. “My wife and I moved here 25 years ago, and now for about 24 of those years I’ve been working here at Syracuse Stage. So, it’s been my career, it’s been fantastic for me. This is a great place to work, I teach in the drama department, I’m interacting with students all the time. So, it’s allowed me to have a stable professional life but also to keep involved in the artistic pursuits that I started out, many years ago, aspiring to do.”

Whelan has learned a lot about the Syracuse arts community, particularly on the theater side of the spectrum. He finds that a decent group of people who attend Syracuse Stage know their shows.

“There are people who come to Syracuse Stage who will go to London to see theater, people who frequently go to New York to see theater, who go to the big festivals Canada, Stratford, and the Shaw festival,” Whelan said. “There’s a core of people who are very, very savvy theater goers.”

The theater company has also made an effort to involve the city of Syracuse in its work, with topical plays like “Thoughts of a Colored Man.” Whelan feels that most of the community has enjoyed this shift.

“In terms of the plays that have had a more Syracuse focus, we’ve had a very good response,” Whelan said. “And it’s enabled us to reach out to community organizations to partner with community organizations. And that’s been great.”

The arts are more than just paintings, they are about community and acceptance. Jackson understands this and tries to teach this to her students and everyone attending the Community Folk Art Center.

“I think that the arts translate across culture,” Jackson said. “And across religion, and language, and it’s from there that we see the connectivity among people who are different as well as we’re able to see our similarities.”

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Patrick Gunn

Patrick Gunn is an Associate Producer for Citrus TV's live post game show, Orange Press Pass. Patrick is also the Film Beat Reporter for Citrus TV's entertainment news show, Unpeeled. Patrick is a writer for Pulp, a section of the Daily Orange, and Start Spreading the News, an independent blog about the New York Yankees.

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