My first exposure to SAW was through the ‘Things To Do’ section in back of The Metroland (RIP). There was a listing for a quirky music festival called SAWFEST. I went, saw and heard and ever since, I have been a big fan of this amazing institution. I first met Pearl through previous ACE! Executive Director Maureen Sager. We did an event together and I came to appreciate just how much Pearl had to offer SAW and the region at large. And now…you too are on the inside track.
Please state your name, title, and what you do at Salem Art Works (SAW). How many employees do you have on campus and what do they oversee?
I am Pearl Cafritz, Executive Director. I oversee administration, programs, and strategic planning. There are twelve staff currently. The administrative team is comprised of a Director of Programs, a Coordinator of Workshops, a Director of Development, and a Graphic Designer. The studios each have a director as well including: blacksmithing, ceramics, glass, foundry and welding. We also have a sculpture park manager, a young artist coordinator, a seasonal chef and housekeeper.
Can you share a little bit about your education and background pre-SAW. Curious about the other places you have worked and learned your expertise from.
Originally from Saratoga Springs, my journey to creative problem solving began while working at my family’s hardware store, Farmers Hardware. I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts from The College of Saint Rose with a concentration in sculpture. My background in exhibit installation and art handling took me to museums like The Guggenheim, The American Museum of Natural History, The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and The Whitney. Pursuing the contemporary division of art shipping allowed me to travel, oversee import / exports and coordinate crews installing at various art fairs including Basel Switzerland & Miami, Frieze London, and Venice Biennale. I had the privilege of working directly with Matthew Barney as a set builder for Cremaster 3 and assisted Kiki Smith at the International Center of Photography.
As an art world entrepreneur, I started my own art handling company inspired by the Art Basel scene in Miami, Florida.
Can you tell us more about the mission and varied programming that you oversee?
The SAW mission is to provide a unique alternative arts learning and experimental environment for young, emerging, and established artists. In addition to a variety of artist residencies, SAW prides itself in its youth programming and workshop offerings. For example, In 2021 ‘Salem Teen Arts‘ taught 31 teens valuable art skills such as glass blowing, watercolor painting, acrylic painting, welding, pottery throwing, and welding.
Starting this year, we are offering a ‘Family Friendly Residency‘ which will allow families of teen artists to stay on campus and take advantage of workshop offerings. For the summer of 2022, we have families joining us from as far away as Washington state and Florida.
Over the past few seasons we have seen a dramatic increase in our workshop offerings. Our capital improvements have allowed us to winterize most of our shops, thus expanding our workshop schedules in a variety of disciplines including:
Blacksmithing, Welding, Making Natural Paints and Pigments, Painting, Retaining Wall Restoration, Woodturning and Stone carving
How has COVID affected your programming and facilities over the last couple of years?
COVID imposed a variety of challenges on our operation, the result was an opportunity for re-examination of our procedures and processes. In March 2020, we temporarily postponed our the public programming scheduled for the 2020 season. Having this imposed breather allowed us to refine our administrative procedures, policies and programs. Additionally, we used this time to make several improvements to our facilities.
It seems like SAW is an important part of the greater community at large in Salem and the immediate area. Can you talk a bit about your outside collaborations and partnerships?
I am actively seeking opportunities for our artists in residence as well as for local artists. Currently SAW has partnered with North Main Street Gallery, Railroad Station Gallery, North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Park, HN Williams, Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council, Kingsborough Community College, Southern Vermont Art Center, Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum, Salem Historic Community Center, The Art Center of the Capital Region, Union College, Collar works, and MASS MoCA.
I also serve on the Salem Chamber of Commerce, our 4th of July Parade Committee, and have begun working with Jackos (A downtown Salem Restaurant/Gathering Space) to provide public programming which will begin this summer.
Anything coming up that you are especially excited about that you would like to share?
Now in it’s 2nd year, the ‘NY/VT Regional Artist Residency‘ will host 10 artists who live and work in one of the two states and that have an income of $50,000 or less. This takes place from June 20th to July 5th. Artists will live and work at SAW for two weeks with a $500 unrestricted honorarium. Our goal with this residency is for the artists to see themselves as part of our region while generating new opportunities and growth.
Artwork created during the residency will be on view during a closing Artist Reception Friday, July 1st from 5-7 PM.
This is the 11th season of ‘salem2salem’, an international multi-disciplinary exchange between SAW and the Bodenseekreis (Cultural Department of Lake Constance in Salem Germany) which brings together 20 artists from August 8th to August 29th. The group will include 4 artists from Australia, 1 artist from Romania, 10 artists from Germany, and 5 artists from the USA. An open studio event with work created during the residency on Friday, August 19th from 5-7 PM will include live music, readings and fine art.
To join the mailing list, register for a program / class or to see the full program/workshop/event calendar drop by the website.
WEB: salemartworks.com | IG / FB: @salemartworks