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New Arts Council director begins work

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POTSDAM — The St. Lawrence County Arts Council has a new director.

Rebekah L. Wilkins-Pepiton took over two weeks ago, replacing Hilary M. Oak, who announced her retirement in September.

Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton was selected in December. She is a photographer, graphic designer and former art teacher who spent the last two years working with the Peace Corps in China before moving to the north country in August.

Before living in China, Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton was an art teacher in Colorado.

“Working with this group really fit with what my personal goals are and where I think I can work most effectively,” she said.

Her husband, Charles M. Pepiton, is a professor of performance and communication arts at St. Lawrence University, Canton.

Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton said she has been surveying the community to find the best uses for the Arts Council’s time and resources by focusing on art education, professional development and cultural advancement.

Long-standing initiatives such as the Special Arts for Special Needs program will be preserved, while new ideas will be implemented gradually throughout the year.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be seeing any changes right away,” Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton said.

The Arts Council is trying to raise $100,000 by April to help with the transition, fund new programs and make up for cuts from the state and St. Lawrence County. The last few years have nearly depleted the organization’s reserves. It has raised $10,000 so far.

The money will fund new programs such as an Art Cafe, a monthly meet-up for artists and art enthusiasts beginning in April at the Blackbird Cafe, Canton.

A Young People’s Art Festival will start in the summer, with workshops for children ages 7 to 11.

Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton said being a stranger to the north country will lend her a fresh perspective, but she is counting on the staff at the Arts Council to help her learn more about the area’s needs.

“This can be an advantage, and this can be a challenge,” she said.

Ms. Wilkins-Pepiton said she hopes to increase the attention local artists receive outside the region by stepping up the council’s marketing efforts.

“We have a lot of really talented artists. I think there needs to be better visibility for them outside the north country,” she said.

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