Founder of Oswego arts cooperative/ gallery, retiring at the end of the year
By Matthew Liptak
Q. In 2011 you started Lakeside Artisans, an arts cooperative and gallery in Oswego. How does it feel to leave the business now?
A. “It’s like leaving your kid behind, are you kidding? It is. It’s hard to let go, but it’s time. To use a metaphor, parents have to leave their kids eventually and let them run the business themselves. It’s time. It’s time. I’m 75.
Q. Why are you retiring?
A. “This isn’t just me. It’s Michele Southgate too. Michele and I, we’re partners. We’re in our 70s and it’s time to let the children run the business. There just comes a time when you’ve got to let go. All the artisans that are in the store are going to stay there and are going to continue to run the business. They’re going to continue on with what we started. It’s important to us that it’s in capable hands.
Q. How much time have you spent on the business?
A. “We spent the last seven, eight years of our lives on this without any time off at all. We’ve been in business for six years, but it took two years of preparation before we even started.
Q. What’s the future for the store?
A. “It’s going really, really well. That’s why we feel good leaving now. If it was doing poorly it would be like we’d be bailing a sinking ship, but we’re not. It’s extremely successful. It’s on a good path and there’s a bunch of good artisans there now. We feel like we’re leaving it in very capable hands.
Q. What’s your artistic future?
A. “Well, I’m going to be able to sit down and paint some paintings that I want to paint. I’ll have some time to do it. I haven’t had time to produce an awful lot of work in the last few years. Now I can relax and sit down and just worry about my own self instead of 20 other artists and a business to run. It’s going to be different.
Q. Any other projects in the works?
A. “We’re tossing some ideas around because both of us find it kind of hard to sit still. But we’re going to take some time off just to relax, do a little bit of traveling and take some time off for ourselves. I’d like to see a nice gallery open in Oswego — an art gallery. A gallery is a whole different thing. It’s complementary to an artisans shop. We’re thinking about it. We’re giving it careful consideration.”
Q. What impact has Lakeside had on Oswego’s art scene?
A. “I’m on the inside looking out. I think it’s made an extremely big impact on the art scene. One of our goals was to increase the quality and diversity of the visual arts in Oswego and provide the people with something to be proud of. I think we did that. Every time someone comes into the store they tell us how much they love it, how glad they are we got it going. That’s all I can go by. We’re really grateful everybody accepted it.
Q. How has your creative impulse worked as an artist?
A. “Personally, I never thought of myself as an artist, but when I look back on my life it looks like I’ve kind of always been creative. I was an entertainer for a long time. I opened up restaurants and I was a chef. I created dishes. Then I started painting. In every aspect of my life there’s been a lot of creativity involved. I didn’t realize it then, but I look back on it now and I can see it.
It’s just inherent in me I guess. I just had to wake it up. I didn’t start painting until I was 55. I’m a late bloomer. I needed a hobby so I figured I’d try it. When you’re doing something like this…especially when you’re painting, you really have to concentrate on what you’re doing—the whole world just disappears. It just relieves all the stress. It’s a fantastic hobby.”