By Eva Potter

An extensive selection process, including a two-page narrative and detailed application, ended up with a big win for Joelle Wolters-Kubiak.

The talented photographer is one of two artists recently awarded the Artists in Community grant administered through the Cattaraugus County Arts Council and funded by the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, which will provide her with $2,500 for the creation of new artwork within a community context.

The grant encourages individual artists in all disciplines to encourage interaction between artists and the community and to highlight the role of artists as community resources.

Wolters-Kubiak’s project proposed the creation of a photojournalistic gallery entitled “Degrees of
Separation” through a process of personal interviews with residents of Cattaraugus County and Batey 50, Dominican Republic, that would result in a series of portraits that juxtapose diverse faces with

She said she was strongly motivated by her own experience as a young artist who was forced to move from a more urban and multicultural area (New York City) to rural western New York.

“I was convinced that I would be banished to a slow social death after this move,” said Wolters-Kubiak, “however, I have discovered that Cattaraugus County is in fact a viable place to have a future.  As a young adult, an artist, and a legally married lesbian, I have unexpectedly found solidarity and diversity.”

Sparked by a decade of mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Wolters-Kubiak wanted to find a way to merge her love of the Dominican Republic and its people, her passion for social justice and her artistic sensibilities to create art that creates change.

Wolters-Kubiak has twice led a group of friends to the Dominican Republic. Through the group’s fundraising efforts, they were able to fund enough food to feed the residents of Batey 50 for an entire month.

Through interviews and photographing willing participants, she plans to uncover the common threads that bind together the diverse residents of Cattaraugus County and the residents of Batey 50, and to illustrate that they are more alike than different.

She will translate her concept through photographs, which ultimately will be presented to the community in a photo essay that combines images and narratives in grand opening gallery exhibition at the Cattaraugus County Arts Council on Main Street in Allegany, N.Y., during the first two weeks of July 2014.

She said, “I would hope that the work would grant perspective to individuals here, dignity to the individuals in Batey 50, and a heightened understanding of humanity’s

interconnectedness every- where.”

Wolters-Kubiak has built the framework of her life on the understanding of herself as an artist.

“My understanding of the world, myself, my spirituality, and my purpose all center on the idea that life is a work of art and I am creatively involved in how it unfolds,” she explained. “I started off playing music (which I still do) and have really found a home in photography.  However, I have also published a book of poetry and several musical eps.”

On her Joelle Wolters Photography Facebook page, she states, “I seek to create work that will capture beauty, love, sadness, and the entire spectrum of life through the lens of a camera, to capture moments and memories that can give hope, evoke emotion, and make us remember. It is my goal with this business to take my passion and use it to bring joy to my clients, family, and friends.”

By using her camera lens as her eye into the world, Wolters-Kubiak hopes that her project will “define a greater sense of community identity within Cattaraugus County residents, foster an increased awareness of interconnectivity in the county, generate an awareness of interconnectedness globally, and lead community members in a process of generating passion within the community to use their voice/skills to create a stronger sense of community and interconnectivity by way of modeling that process.”

To learn more about Wolters-Kubiak, please visit her website at or Please contact her directly with your questions about her Artists in Residence project.

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