It’s an idyllic Saturday afternoon—the trees are turning but the air still contains the lingering warmth of summer. Huguenot Street is bustling with people bedecked in sunglasses still prominent in this warm month of October, weaving in and out of the white tents set up to display hundreds of pieces of artwork.
This is COTA. The Celebration Of The Arts—the brainchild of Noelle Kimble McEntee, a homeschooler, who thought it up at the tender age of fifteen. Saturday, October 8th 2011 marks the festival’s 4th birthday, and after 4 successful years it is clear that, as McEntee puts it, “it continues growing, and doing what it needs to do and becoming what it needs to become.”
This is no small feat for an arts festival—or any festival for that matter. Funding is difficult, and not an easy job at all, yet the organizers of COTA deserve a hearty round of applause for their efforts throughout the years. Thanks to The Arts Community, a local non-profit organization, Huguenot Street, and various impressive individuals the festival has become what it is today. Janet Apuzzo, a former fundraiser and a homeschooling mother, says “it has really been a great experience for me, I learned a lot doing the silent auction and the fundraising”—and this year, Apuzzo was very excited to inform me that she finally has a chance to display her own artwork.
COTA is a fun place; in the fine arts tent, artists, sitting in front of their pieces, nonchalantly throw paper planes to their neighbors over the heads of the viewers (usually too absorbed in the art to bother looking up at the paper bits flying up above) and music made by local bands permeates the air. There’s something in it for everyone, for while parents are listening to the band or looking at oil paintings their children have the opportunity to play games and participate in arts and crafts activities.
Art is incredibly important to community, in all its’ forms: music, dance, fine art, etc. Some may even say it’s necessary—as one man put it, “It’s the relief valve on this pressure cooker of a culture we have.” To have an outlet for expression and to experience that collectively strengthens the bonds of a community.“[It’s] very important to human happiness,” Cherie, a young jewelry maker, declares. “If we don’t have art I think we’ll end up a pretty sad race. And it’s not only important to the community but also to the individual; even if you don’t make art or don’t consider yourself creative, it impacts you from a distance”.
Ultimately, COTA is trying to build a solid arts community in New Paltz, and it’s important to support that. The festival may not be perfect, but with effort and time it can become something even more fantastic than what it is now—and because it serves as an opportunity to display anyone’s art, no matter the skill level or age of the artist, it truly shows the spirit of our local community.