By Alicia Dziak
If you’re a regular at Allegany State Park (ASP) during the summer months, you’ve probably seen “Artist in Residence” popping up on the weekly program schedule. This summer series involves musicians staying in the park each week and performing concerts during their stay. This year’s final Artist in Residence concert will be on Friday, Aug. 26 by Katy Webster.
Webster is a singer, songwriter, and teacher in the Hamburg Central School district and performs at many venues such as local coffeehouses and the Explore and More Children’s Play Museum. This will be her fifth appearance in Allegany’s Artist in Residence program. She is very excited to return to the park this year, and to perform her award-winning song, “Allegany in My Heart” along with other folk songs and acoustic covers. Katy will be performing with long-time friend and guitarist Tom Schaner. Tom also performs in coffeehouses and is a former member of the band, ‘The Keepers’.
ASP’s Artists in Residence program unofficially began in the early 1980s. Dan Duggan is considered by many to be the “father” of the Artist in Residence program, and in a 2016 interview by the Ellicottville Times, he explained how it got started:
“I don’t know the exact year, but I believe it was around 1980-81, Mike Kelley was the park commissioner. Our good friend Tom Stocky, a wonderful banjo and guitar player, had a job as the Chautauqua County troubadour, and was hired to go to the park for a two week period to do a few concerts and campfire programs. At the time, Tom was sick with leukemia, so my friend John Kirk and I went to the park with Tom and helped him with concerts.
“The first year, we did concerts mainly on the Red House side of the park, and the Pitt cabin was where we all stayed. That year, Tom passed away and the next year, John and I came to the park for several weeks.”
Originally, Duggan said, “we did a campfire at one of the cabin trails each night and the week would culminate with a concert inside the Administration building. We would go to a given trail late in the afternoon and go door-to-door handing out flyers about that evening’s program at their trail. We actually spent an entire summer one year doing the program. We also did country dances on the lawn of the Administration building on Tuesday nights and campfire sings during the week with a Friday night concert at the Administration building.”
Duggan went on to note that, “As the program progressed, other artists were brought in and I would spend two weeks at the park, usually at the end of August each summer. The program continued to grow in popularity and eventually the Quaker side of the park was included with a program at the Amphitheater. The original concept was a much more intimate gathering designed specifically for a given trail each night with a big concert at the end of the week. In fact, we also did programs at Long Point State Park, which is on Chautauqua Lake, as part of the Residency.”
Duggan recalled that in those early years, the Pitt cabin also was where the naturalists would work and that the crew would go there each week to create the schedule.
While the program has grown and changed over the years, the basic integrity of the program has remained intact and these days, it runs every week during peak season, with concerts at various park locations, including the Quaker Amphitheater, Red House Beach House and Red House Administration Building lawn.
This summer’s artists in residence have included Darrell Porter, Will Lowry, Jess Chizuk, Davis & Eng Band, Keith James, Ken Hardley, Sean Patrick McGraw and Katy Webster, who will perform the last concert of the season on Aug. 25.
For more info, pick up a schedule at either registration building at ASP, or visit the park’s Facebook page.