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ON THE SCENE: Mirror Lake Inn brings Joy to the Children

December 15, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Joy to the Children on Thursday, Dec. 7 did not disappoint; it never has. Joy is a benefit like no other.

People come dressed in their finest, the array of delectables to eat are mouthwateringly good, the bar is wide open, the atmosphere is festive, and the cause is worthy.

The not-so-secret ingredient is a passion: the passion of the volunteers, the Mirror Lake Inn staff, and the artists, administrators, and board of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. The community steps up through offering a wealth of gift items and services to bid on, and deals are plenty.

Article Photos

Amy Hajrulla, Tracy Bashaw, Mindy Reyell, Able Strack
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

By any measure, the Mirror Lake Inn is one of the best and best-rated hotels in the country. They are because they provide guests with a great product through exceptional service, ambiance and food. It takes day in and day out attention to quality with a great deal of love mixed in to achieve the level of recognition the inn has earned. No surprise, many of the employees have worked at the there for decades.

On one level, they bring all that experience to Joy, and on another level, they have a lot of fun doing it because on this day all their talents are being put toward supporting arts experiences for kids.

Nearly 30 years ago, the main building was engulfed in flames. What did the Mirror Lake Inn staff do but run into the burning building with chain saws in hand to save the iconic murals created by Averil Conwell that graced the dining room - murals commissioned by the inn's founder Climena Wikoff. Her passion for the arts included performances held and films screened in the living room, housing for artists, sponsoring arts events in town, and being one of the founding investors in the Palace Theatre.

Those murals once again enliven the dining room walls. Like Climena, the Weibrechts and staff have continued a passion for the arts, which is reflected by how they plate the food, carve the ice-carvings, decorate and landscape the inn, and co-owner Lisa coming up with the idea of turning the annual staff Christmas party into a benefit for arts programming for kids - an idea immediately embraced and championed by her husband, Ed.

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts delivers the goods through providing quality programming that touches the lives of thousands of children each year who come from at least half the Adirondacks, if not farther afield. A lot of that programming is free, and if not, made affordable by the money raised through Joy to the Children. Examples include six weeks of free Young & Fun programming in the summer, more than 50 free annual Weibrecht After School Workshops, a Matinee School Day series, and underwriting the cost of the Lake Placid School of Ballet and Dance.

"This event is important because of first of all, you're supporting kids," said Dean Dietrich. "The arts are incredible for children because if you want people to develop as a whole human being the artistic side of them needs to be recognized."

It's also a community event," said Mary Dietrich. "Joy is an opportunity for the community to come together and support the children. It's a win-win proposition. Art in the educational process is a key component as kids who are exposed to the arts are more successful."

Each year the LPCA has a theme. Some themes last a year, and some stretch over multiple years. As an example, last year the LPCA highlighted dance with the return of the Paul Taylor Company and Alvin Ailey II, and hosting two dance residencies, which sparked an idea for their next theme.

"Residencies are part of our legacy," said James Lemons, executive director of the LPCA. "Back when Paul Taylor, Martha Graham and others spent weeks in Lake Placid with us, and they created a repertoire that they then showcased around the country. We're getting back into that; we have several residencies coming up. It's great for us because they get to spend time in the community getting to know the locals. They develop a real affinity for Lake Placid and the region, which helps us spread the word about what we're doing and helps us build the community arts legacy, which I think is underplayed at times."

The benefit for kids is accessibility to leading artists and performers, access that the arts center has provided since its founding. In many respects, Lake Placid's arts legacy is older than it sports legacy as the community's first annual seasonal resident was an African-American musician with the Philadelphia Orchestra drawn to the village by the Timbucto community sponsored by abolitionist Gerrit Smith. As an example of celebrating the community's artistic resources, the arts center has an upcoming art exhibit titled, "Those Who Can," that will showcase the talents of art teachers in the region.

"We have some very distinguished artists teaching in schools, and this exhibit will highlight their talents," said Lemons."

If you ask any who attend, yes, it's fun to have a chance to dress up and connect with others before the winter season begins, yes the food is awesome, and yes there are deals to be had through the silent auction, but underlying all that people want to provide artistic experiences for area youth.

"We are here to celebrate what the LPCA does for kids," said Alex Niefer, attending Joy to the Children with his wife, Mara. "When you look at the impact they make in the community and the way they are able to bridge the gap between culture and education for kids in K through 12, how could you not support it? The LPCA improves the economy of the area and our outlook on life."

"I think the kids' program at the art center is awesome," said Jim Cushman. "As a person in the arts, I see this as an opportunity to give back."

"I've been living in Placid about six years," said Peter Thomason. "Jim and I work together in the studio, and he invited me to come tonight. We do musical productions. I feel that all the people attending tonight feel their contributions are well worth it."



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