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Potsdam artists receive grant funds

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POTSDAM — Five artists have received the funds they need to expand their work as part of an ongoing effort to turn Potsdam into a regional hub for the arts.

The village Office of Planning and Development distributed $100,000 from the state’s Community Renewal Small Cities program to the artists.

All five spent 10 weeks in a business training course through the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, learning how to create a specific business plan to demonstrate how they would use the grant money if they received it. Each was required to provide up to 20 percent of the business startup costs.

Timothy J. Damon owns Damon Drums, which makes custom drum kits out of high-end solid wood.

“The bulk of my grant money will be going towards machinery, tools and materials,” he said.

Mr. Damon also received a low-interest loan from the village to cover additional costs not covered by the grant.

The new equipment will allow him to step up his output. He said he plans to promote his one part-time employee to full time soon.

Mr. Damon promotes his business by providing drum kits for use in high-profile concerts in Central or Northern New York in the hope that performers will want to purchase a kit for themselves. So far, this tactic has been successful, he said.

“They get to see them, most importantly they get to hear them, and sometimes they even get to play them, and so far that’s worked out quite well,” he said.

Isaac J. Snell will use his share of the grant money to start a ceramics production studio to create vases, dinnerware, urns and custom work.

He developed a love for pottery while studying art at SUNY Potsdam several years ago.

“It’s something that really took hold of me,” Mr. Snell said.

The money will allow him to double his rate of production, start a website and purchase more equipment.

If he is successful, Mr. Snell wants to open a Potsdam storefront within the next few years.

“The grant allowed seed money for that to happen,” he said.

Mr. Snell is working in the basement of the Creative Spirit Community Arts Center on Raymond Street.

Sara E. Lynch sells porcelain sculptures from her website at www.saraelynch.com and will use her share of the money to start an earthenware planter company. She has a studio in Snell Hall.

“Just today, I went to the store and bought a lot of things I’ve been doing without,” she said.

Working with members of the St. Lawrence County Arts Council to create a specific business plan helped her realize her vision.

“They were super helpful,” Ms. Lynch said.

The other winners were Leigh C. Chapman, who plans to expand her line of greeting cards and wall art, and jewelry maker Christina Adams.

“A lot of people did a lot of work to get the funds available and I think it’s a really good thing,” Ms. Lynch said, adding that she thinks projects such as this will boost the village economy and that she hopes Potsdam will pursue similar initiatives in the future.

According to Mr. Snell, such programs could help Potsdam realize its potential as a cultural center.

“It really has the opportunity to be a destination where artists can come and work,” he said.

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