The Utica Art Association is a nonprofit organization serving the Central New York arts community. We provide information and support to regional artists. Artists work in a wide variety of medium. The Utica Art Association (UAA) was organized in the 1830s. Read about our history below. The UAA promotes community awareness of art related activities. We are supported by paid memberships and exhibition sponsorships.
The Utica Art Association sponsors exhibitions at local galleries, is involved with many arts related community events, and holds monthly meetings. Meetings are held the last Monday of the month from September through June. Members are encouraged to socialize at the meetings. After the general meeting the Association provides an artist demonstration, arts related presentation, or an art critique. Members pay yearly dues. Members are kept informed of our activities through a monthly Bulletin.
President: Connie Watkins
Vice President: Pat Malin
Treasurer: Roger Cleveland
Secretary: Sandra DeVisser
Bulletin Editor & Webmaster: Peter Rashford
HISTORY OF THE UTICA ART ASSOCIATION
Arts became popular in the Utica area during the formational years of the United States. In the early 1800s the most economical and efficient means of transporting commercial goods from region to region was by boat. The village of Utica formed at the end of the navigable waters of the Mohawk River. The river flowed west to east and merged with the Hudson River in upstate New York. The Hudson River leads to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. Commercial items from the central New York region were transported over land to the boat transportation center in Utica. Furs, forest products, agricultural goods (the quality and quantity of hops grown in the Madison-Bouckville area drew many people to this region) flowed from the docks. Manufacturing and service industries grew with the increasing population. The strategic location of the village of Utica caused it to become one of the most active commercial centers in New York State.
Utica became a fine residential village of dignity, culture, and refinement. There was great interest in music, drama, theater, museums, and concerts. The fine arts began to flourish around 1814 when portrait painting became popular. Some of the best portrait artists came here to make likeness of Utica's leading citizens. Folk art artists soon arrived to paint portraits of average people. At a time when the life span was short, a person could achieve psychological immortality by having his or her likeness recorded forever on canvas. The Utica Mechanics Association, organized in 1827 as a benevolent society, played a prominent part in the social life of Utica for many years. In 1836, this society built a large hall and library where they held fairs, lectures, and concerts. Although starting as a mechanics society, the group broadened out until most of the influential people of Utica became members. It was in this social atmosphere, and in the Mechanics Association Hall (present address is 104 Liberty Street), that a group was organized as the first Utica Art Association. Many six-week-long art exhibitions were held at Mechanics Hall. These shows were held during the winter months. They became the highlight of the season and the social event of the times. The shows gained great recognition under the leadership of Mr. Thomas H. Wood. Wood was a prominent Utican with a rare artistic taste and a desire to promote appreciation of art in the community. So successful were these exhibits that at one time the art dealers in New York City feared that Utica would become the art center of the United States.
In 1871, ill health and advancing age caused Mr. Wood to step down as a leader in the Utica Art Association. Without his leadership the Association dwindled in activity. Many people had the interest but few could afford the time to devote to the job. Following the Civil War the railroads were rapidly developing and industrialization was everywhere. Living standards were changing at a fast pace. Vaudeville shows were plentiful, newspapers, and books were readily available. The victrola, picture shows that moved, and even carriages that moved without the need of a horse. Travel was easier and the society became more mobile. Life was full of new and wondrous things. Fewer people had the time or interest in art; and so, in 1910 the Utica Art Association ceased to exist.
The second beginning occurred in the mid-1930s when the Utica Art Club was organized under the guidance of Mr. Arthur Derbyshire, who was the director of the Munson-Williams-Proctor-Institute community arts program. The depression was upon us. With the business slowdown, people had more time. With time to contemplate, the interest in art again became popular. At that time, the yearly membership dues were $1.50 a year. The club survived through the Second World War, and in the 1950s and 1960s it became a prominent part of the Utica scene, especially in sponsoring downtown sidewalk art shows.
In 1980 the club was once again incorporated as the Utica Art Association. Today it functions as a legally approved tax-exempt nonprofit organization. The sidewalk art shows have been largely replaced by shows in galleries and colleges. The Utica Art Association is involved in numerous art-oriented projects in the community. Throughout history many prominent local artists and sculptors have been associated with the Utica Art Association.