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Agawamuck arts project sees great future for Philmont

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PHILMONT–Agawamuck, the stream that runs through this village, means “stream of many fish.” It’s also the name chosen by participants in a new project that is bringing together people in the village.

Sunday night, March 14, over 60 people attended a fundraiser for the Agawamuck Project for Fine and Practical Arts (APFPA), an evening of improvisation by Walking the Dog Theater  and dessert by the Vanderbilt Hotel chef.

The vision is to help young adults, ages 18-24, develop healthy self-confidence and to become constructive and engaged members of our communities. The project’s Center, at 159 Main Street, will provide a place where young trainees can engage in artistic and practical activities that make use of their talents and energy, through art, music, speech, movement, drama, leatherworking, woodworking, stone carving, marionette making, fabric arts and gardening.

The APFPA trainees will also work in the field with professional trades people, gaining the skills that come from engaging in productive work in a goal-oriented, team environment. Mentors and therapists, paid and volunteer, will work with the youth, helping to nurture a healthy self-esteem as well as their awareness of what contributions they can make to their community.

One example of how this is designed to work is to see how the APFPA and the Vanderbilt Hotel plan to work together. Trainees will learn construction skills in the Center, then they’ll be offered the opportunity to assist in the renovations of the Vanderbilt that the hotel’s new owner, Bob Mansfield, has planned.  Other trainees will also have the opportunity to train with the Vanderbilt chef, Michael Myers.

The people who have been meeting for two years to move this vision forward  include Beatrice  Birch, Peter Buckbee, Timothy Smith and Nathaniel Williams. Ms. Birch has extensive training and experience as a Hauschka Artistic Therapist, having worked in England and Holland. She has worked with drug and alcohol rehabilitation and ex-felons, finding that under served and unrecognized young adults are attracted to this kind of therapy.  She has spoken with judges in the area who hope to refer some of the people they see in court to this program as a way to learn skills and contribute to their communities.

Mr. Buckbee works primarily in agriculture, social work and carpentry. Mr. Smith is a stone mason who, for years, worked with young adults seeking to start afresh, some having served time in prison. Mr. Williams studied art in Switzerland and has taught art, marionette building and marionette theater.

Ms. Birch said of last week’s fundraiser, “The enthusiasm is so heartening.  Everyone sees the need in our community.  Everyone cares about youth.”

Benedicta Bertau, producing artistic director of the Walking the dog Theater, said, “The crowd was very exciting. To see such support of this project also adds to the WTD mission to support the arts and engage the young people of the community.”

David Anderson, executive artistic director of the theater group said, “It is wonderful to feel the great sense of resurrection of the Village of Philmont,” referring to the renovation of the Vanderbilt as well as the APFPA Center.

The program still has many financial, supplies and mentor needs. Anyone who would like to contribute or learn about becoming part of the project can call Bea Birch at (518) 325-7813 or email beabirch@taconic.net.

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