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UP CLOSE: Arts conversion at former Keene church

May 1, 2014
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

As the owner of Salt Pond Creative, a company that specializes in marketing using both traditional and new media, Malcomb MacDougall travels extensively.

MacDougall lives in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County with his wife, Zizi, but has been to Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. His clients include Google, Citigroup, the Daily News and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Of all those places, one of his favorites happens to be the town of Keene, where the couple has become involved in the community in recent years. They've done that by establishing Keene Arts, a community program that is run out of the former Methodist Church on state Route 73 in Keene.

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Malcolm and Zizi MacDougall have added to the arts scene in Keene by buying the old Methodist Church and converting it to an art house.

"We sort of have this romantic notion of one day of sort of cinema paradiso, of having a little film house somewhere," Malcomb said. "We've always enjoyed them in certain places around in our travels. On Block island, there are all these converted barns that are sort of community gathering places and film houses, and I think that sort of like kindled the idea."

In January 2012, the MacDougalls bought the old church, which was built in 1836, and quickly put it to use. That summer, they hosted a sculpture exhibit and later showed movies. The Mountaineer in Keene Valley often uses it for showing adventure films and slideshow presentations. Local artists also use it to display their work with shows. This summer, the art house will host shows by Pieter Vanderbeck, who has more than 30 years of Adirondack drawings from the backcountry, photographer Alice Boardman and painter Pat Kirmer.

"It's been really great for us. We've been takers of the community," said Malcomb, who has three adult children. "We come up in the summer and we go up and we enjoy the mountains. We enjoy the restaurants. We enjoy the different shops and the Mountaineer and the things that everybody has up there and make it what it is. And now, to be able to offer something as well. It's really nice. It's nice to not just be a taker but to be a giver as well."

Malcomb said that his family is currently having a house built in Keene Valley and would one day like to move into it full-time. But right now, they visit mainly on weekends. That means he needs help running the programing at the building. He gets that help from various community members, especially Jake Riggins, who owns the Keene Valley Hostel with his wife, Robyn. He emphasized that he has gotten a ton of help from the community with this project, and it's a community endeavor.

"People will often contact Jake and I and will say, 'Hey, there are things we'd like to do. We need a space.' And my feeling is that if it's something that's positive, then by all means (we do it)," he said.

Malcomb is a creative person. He graduated from Duke University as a history major with a passion for documentary photography and filmmaking. While at Duke he produced two documentaries, Tabacco Road and Career Criminals. He said a documentary that he's working on is currently on hold, mainly because of other responsibilities and the need for a financial backer.

Malcomb began his career in New York as a commercial film editor at Pelco, and later became a producer at The Film Consortium working with 12 international directors. After that, he worked as an executive director for the special effects and graphics company, Charlex, and then had various creative jobs for advertising companies. That includes starting an advertising agency with his father in 1990, which was eventually acquired by another company.

In the future, Malcomb hopes to use that creative experience to continue to add to the arts community in Keene with his wife. He's considered having film workshops at Keene Arts and definitely more films. He says they're especially important during the slower fall season when there are fewer activities to do during the evenings.

Keene Arts is a work in progress, but it appears to be heading in the right direction. And it's creating a nice distraction for Malcomb, even when he's not in town.

"The funniest thing," he said, "is when I'm working, and I'm in New York (City), or I'm at a meeting and the phone rings and (and the caller) says, 'Hey, is their anything going on at the church for Saturday?

"It tickles me. It makes me laugh. It brings me back to the Adirondacks and kind of takes me out of my day to day. I don't discourage it."



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