When you think of the Adirondacks, vast wilderness, expansive views, and outdoor adventure might come to mind. The Town of Jay is no exception. Home to the Ausable River, a famed fly fishing destination, Jay Mountain, and scenic backroads perfect for cycling, it’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors.
What you might not know is that the Town of Jay, which includes the communities of Jay, Upper Jay, and Au Sable Forks, is also home to many talented artists. Area artisans, ranging from potters to painters, wood carvers and more, open their shops and theatres for locals and travelers to enjoy.
Rich artistic history
Apart from the artists living and working in Jay today, the area is also steeped in rich artistic history. Rockwell Kent, a famed painter, writer, and adventurer once called Au Sable Forks home from the 1920’s until his death in 1971. Kent resided on the property now home to Asgaard Farm, a dairy producing farmstead goat cheese and other goods. Many of his paintings were inspired by the property and Adirondack Mountains.
Arto Monaco also left his mark on the region. Monaco was a theme park designer, toy designer, and cartoonist. He began his career designing sets for MGM, Paramount, Warner Brothers, and Disney, but eventually returned to the Adirondacks. After designing his first theme park, Santa's Workshop, located in nearby Wilmington and still operating, Monaco would go on to design many more theme parks in the Adirondacks. One of them, Land of Make Believe, which he also operated, was located in Upper Jay and was open from 1954 until 1979. Though relics of the theme park can be found around the region, the last remaining building of Land of Make Believe was destroyed by flooding during Hurricane Irene.
Studios to visit
On Route 9N, at an old grange hall, you will find the Jay Craft Center. Cheri Cross, along with her partner, has been selling their pottery there since 1980. Cross’ work ranges from mugs to bowls, vessels, and more. Her pieces are hand painted and fired in a kiln in the back of the studio. Apart from her pottery, the Jay Craft Center also features a range of work from other area artists. As said on their website, “We carry everything from hand turned wooden bowls and cutting boards, to jewelry, paintings, greeting cards, children's toys – and even locally roasted coffee.” The studio is unfortunately closed currently due to Covid but their pottery can be purchased through their Etsy shop.
Not far away, on Route 86 you will also want to visit Young’s Studio & Gallery. Sue Young is another potter who crafts beautiful pieces both functional and for the eye to enjoy. Walking into her studio you will find mugs, bowls, teapots, casserole dishes, and more. Like the Jay Craft Center, Young also carries other goods from area artists. Recently, the studio started offering an array of locally made yarns.
In a former Ford assembly plant and showroom on Route 9N, sits a theatre like no other. The Upper Jay Arts Center and Recovery Lounge was started in 2005 by Scott and Byron Renderer. Since then the Recovery Lounge has been a gathering place to enjoy music, theater, and visual art. There is always something new going on at the Recovery Lounge. January Jams, poetry readings, and dance performances, to name a few. The performance space offers three floors which include a main stage and a mis-matched set of vintage chairs, perfect to sit back and enjoy and show in. Another wonderful thing about the Recovery Lounge is that they make their performances affordable (many even free) which brings in a curious and diverse crowd. It’s truly an essential stop that one must see for themselves.
There are so many other area artists I’m sure I’ve missed. Places like Asgaard Farm and Sugar House Creamery, whose cheeses prove farming is an art in itself. Or Allen Aardsma, owner of Pondside Studio, whose animal wood carvings are both accurate and artistic. There’s even someone who specializes in taxidermy.
*The reason you may see media of people not wearing masks on our website is because all footage is from prior years. More than ever we all need to be vigilant about maintaining social distance of 6 feet or more and wearing masks when we cannot social distance.