Why not make it a real art park?
Thursday, August 26, 2010 - 4:00 pm

To the Editor:

Kudos to Craig for a great article on the zoning battle in Potsdam with Hank Robar. I drive by the corner lot every day on my way to work. I never had the whole story about it until now.

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t mind it at all. I would love to see Hank collaborate with the St. Lawrence County Arts Council and make the lot a site for installation art. But, not just all Hank’s toilets. I would love to see local artists and art students get involved and provide us some lovely sculpture. Hank has the ground work done. But, we need to think variety. And take it up the creativity scale a notch or two. Sorry Hank!

Seriously. There is real potential here.

I’m from the North Country originally, but spent many years away living in Connecticut, NYC and England. I am not narrow-minded and conservative the way so many other northern New Yorkers are. I see the potential in this and actually hope that we don’t see the lot finally get rezoned only to see some boring “financial consulting firm” or another services business move in. I like the eye candy, although it hasn’t always been super artistic. Some of Hank’s work is better than others. But, with collaboration with the local art community, I could see true art happening.

If it gets rezoned and a boring business moves in, then we are moving in the direction of downtown Canton. Look at how much of the main street is choked with law offices, insurance companies, and other ‘service’ business.

As an aside, looking at the bigger picture, I have always wondered why Canton and Potsdam don’t feel more like college towns. There are four colleges and universities within a 10-mile distance, and looking at the downtowns, you would never know it. I am wondering if it’s the town councils and zoning laws that stifle growth and the potential for wonderful college-influenced culture. The only effects of the colleges I see are the various off-campus housing, the occasional students walking around, the congested traffic, and a few university stores.

Where are the neat galleries, indy-books stores, and art shops and more coffee shops and a more open progressive attitude that comes with youth and education. Clarkson and St. Lawrence are affluent Ivy-Leagueish schools that I feel have really kept too encapsulated instead of integrating into the towns.

Or is it that the towns have not wanted the colleges to influence their local life? Ah, that might actually be the situation. After all, it would be in keeping with the close-minded feel of the people in the North Country.

A prime example is Burlington Vt. It’s a college town, and you can see it is a pulsating thriving community.

Christina Ruddell