Anne Conroy-Baiter, CCAC Executive Director
Anne Conroy-Baiter, CCAC Executive Director

By Jann Wiswall

Cattaraugus County Arts Council has some big news. Lots of it!

First, the organization has turned a very sweet 16. In those years, there have been many achievements toward meeting its overall guiding mission of helping to make Cattaraugus County a place where people want to live, work and raise families.

“This is a naturally beautiful area,” says CCAC Executive Director Anne Conroy-Baiter. “CCAC strives to make it more interesting by engaging youth in the arts, providing more exposure to our highly talented arts community, adding vibrancy and balance to our daily lives and making the area a place where people want to stay.”

Winter, spring and summer art camps have been keeping hundreds of children in the region creating and learning during school breaks and after school. The Council’s Routes to Art program, now in its sixth increasingly successful year, draws more than a thousand visitors in November to see and buy affordable art and craft items from nearly 30 area artists. Art in the Park, a juried outdoor art festival dedicated to excellence in the visual arts, is held in conjunction with July’s Taste of Olean and features painters, jewelers, photographers, woodworkers, toy makers and many others. More than 150 artists take part in the various exhibition and educational programs offered by the arts council each year. And CCAC’s annual grants programs provide much-needed financial support to non-profit organizations and individual artists. These are just some of the programs and services offered by the arts council.

“The arts — music, visual, crafts, etc. — are a critical part of the economic development efforts of our region,” says Conroy-Baiter. “They also contribute to a more balanced life.”

To that end, CCAC currently is in the process of reviewing applications for its 2014 decentralization grants program totaling $60,800. The grants, funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, will be awarded in three categories: Community Arts, Artist in the Community and Arts in Education. Last year, grants were made to organizations in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. In Cattaraugus, some of the grantees included the Chamber Music Society of Olean, the Southern Tier Symphony, Ellicottville Memorial Library’s Winter Theater program and many others.

A new grant made to the Council by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board will allow 20 artists to take part in a six-month program called Arts Business Learning Exchange (ABLE) to learn about online marketing and will fund a three-lecture series. The call for artists to participate is available on the arts council’s Web site.

On Nov. 30, CCAC will unveil its refurbished Art on Main — a retail gallery space at the CCAC’s headquarters at 100 Main St. in Allegany. The renovated gallery now features improved lighting and a new point-of-purchase system that simplifies the sales process for CCAC staff.

And on Dec. 7, arguably the organization’s most fun event — the 5×7” Exhibition and Sale — will be held at the new Art on Main. This event enables art and gift buyers an opportunity to purchase original 5×7” paintings for just $25 each. Attendees make their purchase selections based only on what they see on the gallery wall — not based on who created it. Artists are anonymous until the item is purchased, but rest assured that most of the region’s best-known artists are contributing works.

Only 300 pieces will be available for purchase, and 30 first-pick tickets will be sold in advance for $50 (not including the $25/painting). After the first-pick ticket holders take their one minute of allotted time to choose their artwork, the rest of the crowd may begin selecting paintings. But be prepared to make your decisions quickly. There’s definitely a rush to the wall once the open shopping period begins. General admission tickets are $15 and include hors d’oeuvres and refreshments. The preview begins at 6 p.m.; first-pick sales begin at 7 p.m.; and the open sale begins at 7:30 p.m.

For more information on CCAC, membership, its programs and the 5×7” Exhibition and Sale, visit