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Keeping the Arts Vibrant - Diana Nathanielsz
by CAP Board Member Judith Pratt

Diana Nathanielsz explains that she supports the arts in order to “keep Ithaca’s eclectic character vibrant.”

Her own life might be called eclectic. She grew up in England, worked in medical science, then moved to California. When she came to Ithaca, her interest in the arts became primary.

She grew up in Bedford, England, as Diana Crawford. She notes that her extensive volunteering may have come from her parents. Her mechanical engineer father helped their local church, and visited prisoners. Her mother also volunteered through the church, mostly in support of women and children--and the arts.

After high school, Ms. Nathanielsz decided to study business --that is, get secretarial training-- because her mother “always said that such training allowed one to go into any profession.” Diana’s life has proved her mother right.

After working for physicians at the local hospital, she moved to London to work at a medical teaching hospital. She married endocrinologist Peter Nathanielsz, and the couple moved to Cambridge, where Diana continued to work for various physicians. Her medical experience “allowed me to help my then-husband to self-publish his research and that of other specialists.”

The family, which now included two small children, then relocated to California, where Peter did research at the University of California Los Angeles. It was, Ms. Nathanielsz said, “a shocking change from life in the classical university town of Cambridge UK.”

In Los Angeles, Ms. Nathanielsz began to volunteer, first in the primary school classroom, then for an organization that promoted arts appreciation and encouraged local visual artists. She also helped to put on an annual outdoor music festival that raised funds for the LA Philharmonic.

About twelve years later, the family moved to Ithaca, where Ms. Nathanielsz volunteered in the office at the Community School of Music and Arts ( CSMA), “because it was a resource for all ages in all of the arts.” She also joined the Ithaca Community Chorus. There she began her service as a board member--first for CSMA, next for the Ithaca Community Chorus, and for the board of CAP. She was invited to join the board of the Cayuga Vocal Ensemble, where she ultimately became president. She remains very involved in the Ensemble.

Her children were both interested in the arts. Her daughter Julie studied ballet, then modern dance. Now Julie teaches and performs around the Ithaca area. She also loves to travel, and has studied modern dance all over the world.

Her son, David, “briefly thought he would go on the stage, but soon discovered how difficult that would be.” Instead, he got an MBA, and worked for several video game companies before starting his own company. Ms. Nathanielsz recalls her “mental picture of David, now an adult, and his brother-in-law, a composer working for a video game company, sitting next to each other on the sofa, playing video games with each other at Christmas time.

Although a singer and music lover, Ms. Nathanielsz also likes going to CAP art shows, noting that “they are enjoyable and intimate, and it’s always good to see others who enjoy these presentations.”

Giving to CAP means that local arts organizations, young artists, and those new to the area are able to access funding. CAP has their finger on the pulse of ALL the local arts. Those living in Tompkins County benefit from art generated by our neighbors.

Diana Nathanielsz’ eclectic life has benefited all the arts. Thank you Diana!



More Features and Stories - Click heading

The Latest! 

* Donor Feature: Diana Nathanielsz
* Dear CAP Family from Megan Barber, Executive Director
* Creative Recover Grant Awards

Past News and Features:

* Donor Feature: Odyssey Bookstore
* Art and Science Meet - Werner Sun
* Now More than Ever - Pamela Tan
* Succeeding Together from Robin Schwartz, Program/Grant Director
* February 2021 Celebration of the Arts - watch the video
* Dr. Christine Kitano is the latest Poet Laureate
* 2021 NYSCA Grant Recipients Announced
* Ithaca named 4th most arts-vibrant medium sized community



Supporting the Arts through a Bookstore
by CAP Board Member Judith Pratt

(September 4, 2021)

Laura Larson returned home to Ithaca and opened a bookstore. She calls it the Odyssey Bookstore, in honor of Ithaca’s place in Homer’s Odyssey. You may have read the many articles written about the Odyssey Bookstore when it opened in June of 2020. Or perhaps you browsed books there, in that interesting stone building at 115 Green Street.

I have always loved bookstores and libraries,” Larson says. “Corner Bookstore was a childhood favorite. I had dreamed of one day returning to Ithaca and opening a bookstore of my own. Some changes in life about four years ago opened that door for me—and I decided to take the plunge.”

Along with that plunge, Larson has supported CAP by becoming a Spring Writes Literary Festival Sponsor. “I was very excited about supporting the Spring Writes Festival. I love that it celebrates local authors and brings the community together around storytelling. I think that a thriving literate community requires a variety of ways in which people interact with stories, storytelling, and books.” (Right: Laura Larson)

Larson grew up in Ithaca, and graduated from Cornell in 1985 with a degree in history. Before returning to Ithaca, she spent 27 years in Seattle, Washington. There, she raised three children, now in their twenties. During that time, she volunteered as a literacy tutor, and as part of a non-profit focused on changing attitudes about math education. “We worked to ensure that kids do not opt out of seeing themselves as math capable before they turn ten,” she explains. “I love to work on projects and with organizations which help people find their own voice through education.”

She also took an introductory improvisational theater class at Seattle’s Jet City Improv. “It taught me so much about listening and creating true conversations, with each person building on the other’s statements. I tell everyone that improv is the most self-esteem boosting thing I’ve ever done! It’s all about affirming each other."

At Odyssey, Larson wants to affirm all peoples and all cultures. Their website states: Our number one priority at Odyssey is to create a space as diverse as our community, where all voices feel included.

The arts are an important part of this. “I have supported the arts for as long as I can remember,” she says. “As a high-school student in Ithaca, I volunteered as an usher at the Hangar Theater. Ever since then, I have either volunteered or financially supported theaters, orchestra, or arts organizations working for the literary community. The arts are the spaces in which a community comes together to share its culture and the ways it processes the communal emotional experience."

“We experience and ponder the works of those who came before, as expressed by people standing in front of us. In that shared experience and conversation we create a mutual language, which helps us make sense of our own lives and the times in which we live.”

At CAP, we might just use that last paragraph to describe our own work. Thank you, Laura!



Dear CAP Family
Executive Director, Megan Barber

(October 5, 2021)

The other night I got together with friends around a campfire. While the laughs and the potluck meal provided much-needed sustenance, the highlight of the night was the dutch oven full of spiced apples that hung steaming over the fire for much of the evening. When it was time to take off the lid and partake, the soft tangy cinnamony juicy goodness was a comfort to the soul I didn't realize I'd been longing for.

It's apple time!

October is Apples & Arts month here in Tompkins County. Check out our blog post on Visit Ithaca to see a full itinerary of arts and apples offerings across the County all month long. Round out your excursions on Greater Ithaca Art Trail Open Studio Weekends with a visit to some U-Pick orchards and local cideries. Cap off the evening with a concert or play and of course, a piece of apple pie a la mode!

They say you can see the whole world in an apple - the sun, the soil, the flower, the seeds. And you can see the whole world in a work of art - humanity, hope, awakening, gratitude. Open your eyes, open your heart, and enjoy the season!


Creative Recovery Fund Recipients

The Community Arts Partnership's Creative Recovery Fund recently awarded funds to 12 local organizations for projects that will make a difference in our community’s recovery in one or more of the focus areas of racial justice, public and mental health, and economic recovery. The grants aim to help Tompkins County leverage our creative power, putting creative workers to work rebuilding, reimagining, unifying, and healing our communities.

The Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and local donors and groups (including the Ithaca College Esports club) joined in adding to the fund.

CAP Executive Director, Megan Barber, shares,We are so excited about the quality of artistry, community participation and impact among this group of grantees.100% of the grant awards made through this fund specifically address racial equity by funding: artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color; projects that support the creative expression of Black and Indigenous people and people of color; and projects that address racial justice as their focus area.” (Image: Re-Entry Theatre Above)

Adds Janet Cotraccia, Chief Impact Officer for the Community Foundation, “We are thrilled to support the important work of local artists and their rich engagement of our many, diverse communities. Their work both informs our community conversations and takes us beyond, into a space of deeper understanding, empathy and shared experience. We commend the Community Arts Partnership for their collaboration and for creating more opportunities for artist to focus on racial equity.” (Image Above: Village at Ithaca's "Say Their Names Rock Garden" at Ithaca Children's Garden.)

To see longer descriptions for each funded project, visit our grant awardee page Here

  • The Cherry Arts: "An Odyssey," play workshops

  • Civic Ensemble: Re-entry Theatre's "Delia Divided," fully staged production (cast above)
  • Civic Ensemble & Village at Ithaca: Summer Teen Theatre Program

  • Clockmaker Arts: "In Case You Forgot," musical theater

  • Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers: Music Commission for Performance (Right Image)
  • Greater Ithaca Activities Center: MLK, Jr. Breakfast Artist Presentations, and Black History Month Talent Show performers.
  • Sarah Gotowka and Youth Farm: "Fermentation and Appropriation" illustrated and distributed booklet

  • No Mas Lagrimas: Youth art workshops

  • Peaches Gillette: "We Will No Longer Hide," writing workshops

  • Story House Ithaca: "Lifting the Cloud," storytelling events
  • Village at Ithaca: "Say Their Names" rock garden at Ithaca Children's Garden


Succeeding Together
Robin Schwartz, Program/Grant Director

One of my favorite parts of my job is administering our grant programs to local artists and organizations for artistic events, significant opportunities, and community impact. CAP has distributed of over $5.6 million since 1993!

I recently collected quotes from artists who have received our latest Specific Opportunity Stipend (SOS) for a "Thank You" to the SOS funders. I've love to share some of these wonderful quotes with you, which apply to all of our CAP supporters!

I am writing to thank you for your tremendous support of Tompkins County artists, and to let you know how much your influence creates practical and inspirational effects that travel far into the future and into the rest of our communities.

I cannot thank you enough for providing the seeds that blossom into such abundance! Not just for myself, but the many artists I meet and work with in Tompkins County who have also been supported, uplifted, and pushed forward in their work by CAP and CAP's supporters.

Art is made better in a community of flourishing art, and flourishing art makes a better community. I’m grateful for your commitment to make that so.

Art is what keeps me going in these times. I am proud of living in a community where generous supporters for the arts exist.

Good philanthropy is crucial in building a community of people whose collective work has an impact on our culture, our lives, our creativity, and our happiness. CAP is fortunate to have the support of forward thinking benefactors who enable them to make their amazing programs available.

Great, right?! We do good work, thanks to you! If you haven't already (or lately) donated to CAP, please join us as a Partner in the Arts HERE.

Program and Grant Director, Robin Schwartz



Art and Science Meet
CAP Donor Feature - Werner Sun

By Judith Pratt

Werner Sun is the IT Director at the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based Sciences and Education. He is also a well-known visual artist, and a wonderful CAP supporter!

Dr. Sun has a PhD from the California Institute of Technology. When talking about his art, however, he’s called just Werner. His work has been exhibited in Ithaca, Rochester, Brooklyn, and Cambridge MA, among other places, and most recently Aon’s offices at One Liberty Plaza in New York City.

He’s often asked what science and art have in common. To begin answering that difficult question, he quoted American conceptual artist Sol Lewitt: “Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.”

In an interview with Carol White Llewellyn of Rochester CTV Media Center, Werner debunked the notion that scientists are only logical and artists are only intuitive. “Where does the idea for a scientific experiment come from in the first place? If you have a problem with the experiment, where does the solution come from? Also, artists’ ideas may come out of nowhere, but then they have to know their materials and how they behave.” Just like scientists.

For more on this interesting notion, read “Strange Attractors: Art, Science, and the Question of Convergence,” an online symposium held by the CUE Art Foundation in 2017, which has more of Werner Sun’s thoughts about this.

Werner has always had a passion for the arts, playing piano when growing up in Connecticut, and working as a visual artist for the past fifteen years. He began by making mobiles, then became interested in folding paper, taking photographs of those objects and, finally, manipulating the photographs.

 “One piece is the seed for the next piece,” he says. “A single image transforms into something unrecognizable from the thing you started out with. To me, the importance of a piece of art is when I’m making it. Once I’m done, I’m impatient to go on to the next one. I think of each piece as a record of my own curiosity.
A recent piece is called The Marks we Leave Behind, because, Werner says, “As humans, we’ve always had the compulsion to make marks, from plowing a field to making computer chip.” Art, science, and many
other human activities come from the need to make things.

Werner gives to CAP because “It is a hub of arts information and programming, serving as an anchor of the local arts scene. CAP brings artists together, and it gives them new ways to connect with the public. This past year in particular, artists and arts organizations have been devastated by the pandemic, and I want to do everything I can to help.

After all, Dr. Sun concludes, “The arts enrich our community (and our sense of community) by giving them collective meaningful experiences that transcend the everyday.”


Now More Than Ever, Art is Crucial
CAP Donor Feature - Pamela Tan

By Judith Pratt

Pamela Tan didn’t think she was an artist. She’s Deputy Director of Admissions at Cornell and has a degree in conservation biology.

Then, a few years ago, Tan received a Specific Opportunity Stipend (SOS) grant from CAP, to produce a film about local artist Alice Muhlback. She co-created it with Muhlback, by animating her drawings and collaborating on the story.
(It's on Vimeo here:
  She produced it with her husband, filmmaker/writer Chris Holmes. Together, they are Little Whale Productions.

“I never would have considered myself an artist at all before that,” Tan said. “The grant gave me the confidence to try things I never would have attempted before, like creating radio features and acting in the One Minute Play Festival at the Kitchen Theatre.”

She also gives back to CAP in many ways.

“My family and I give primarily to local organizations to support our neighbors and community,” Tan explains. “My mother set that example, quietly, when I was growing up. No matter how tight things were at home, she always found a way to help when she could.”

Ms. Tan was born in New York City, lived with her grandparents in the Philippines for a while, then spent most of her childhood in Florida before returning to New York for high school and college. “My parents speak Tagalog,” Tan said. “It’s one of over 100 languages spoken in the Philippines. Alas, I can understand it and translate it when I hear it, but I can’t speak it!”

Tan studied conservation biology at Cornell. While working for the College Board part time to pay for graduate school, she ended up doing research on the Mongolian Wild Horse at a national park near Ulaanbaatar. “Let’s just say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I was not cut out for field research,” she said. “It was tough to confront that what I thought I wanted was not a great fit. But my work at the College Board opened the door to a new pathway, especially issues related to access to higher education for under-served and under-represented students.”

After a stint in admissions at Vassar College, Tan came to Cornell Admissions in 2011. “I am absolutely passionate about what I do,” she said. In fact, her bio on Little Whale Productions, reads, “Pamela Tan produces films when she isn't growing kale and fighting the good fight to increase access to college.”

CAP also has a special place in her heart. “Part of the reason I love living in this area is that it’s truly a great place for all artists. My friends who are painters, writers, comedians, poets, filmmakers, puppeteers, songwriters, actors, dancers, and cartoonists have all be supported by CAP in some way, shape, or form. Ithaca and Tompkins County would not be the same without CAP.”

When not working, or producing films, Tan volunteers for WRFI Community Radio on the news team, the Board, and as the host of “8 Song Memoir”, where people share their lives through eight songs and stories. Somehow, she also finds time to manage her son’s team at Ithaca Youth Hockey.

“Now maybe more than ever,” she concludes, “empathy, connection, and the openness to the lived experiences of others is crucial. Art plays a significant role in that.


February 2021 Celebration of the Arts

If you missed our February Celebration of the Arts Event, you can watch it here.



Sixteen Arts and Culture Organizations Awarded County Grants

 Ithaca, NY, March 11, 2021 – At its March 3 meeting, the Tompkins County Legislature voted to approve more than $185,000 in Arts and Culture Organizational Development grant funding for 16 local arts and cultural organizations: Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Cinemapolis, Community School of Music and Arts, Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, Hangar Theatre, Ithaca Children's Garden, Ithaca Shakespeare Company, Kitchen Theatre Company, Opera Ithaca, Paleontological Research Institution, Running to Places Theatre Company, Sciencenter, State Theatre of Ithaca, The Cherry Arts, The History Center in Tompkins County, and the Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts.

This year's applicants were unified in their commitment to community health and safety through COVID- smart practices and to expanding diversity and inclusiveness in their target audience, staff, performers, and programming.

Remarks Megan Barber, Executive Director of the Community Arts Partnership, which administers the County’s Arts and Culture Organizational Development grant program, “We are so grateful that the County is able to provide this critical funding, even during this pandemic year. It truly is a testament to the centrality of the arts to our flourishing community. We are all so fortunate to have so many innovative and inspiring arts and culture organizations right here in our area.”

"It's encouraging to see that while our budget has contracted, the Tompkins County Legislature and Strategic Tourism Planning Board continued to recognize the importance of local arts and culture." said Nick Helmholdt, Tompkins County Tourism Program Director. "This last year has challenged many of us to our limits. These local arts and cultural organizations can help us find inspiration through this stressful time and help us welcome visitors back to Tompkins County when they're ready to travel."

Arts and Culture Organizational Development grants support local organizations that enhance Tompkins County’s brand as an artistic and cultural destination and in turn enrich the quality of life for residents through their offerings. They are administered by the Community Arts Partnership with funds from the Tompkins County Tourism Program and provide general operating support and funding for specific organizational development activities.

The Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County provides grants, services, and programs to artists and audiences. CAP connects artists and audiences through the Greater Ithaca Art Trail, Ithaca Artist Market, Spring Writes Literary Festival, and the CAP ArtSpace Gallery. CAP provides grants, a professional development workshop series, and other resources for artists. For more information on the Community Arts Partnership and its programs and services, visit  


2021 Grantees - $60,400 for local arts programming!

Funds for the three grants below are from New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). Every County in the State gets a chunk of money through NYSCA to re-grant with local decision making! We distribute the funds for Tompkins County.

Take a look at all the awardees! Isn't this exciting? As these events are scheduled, you'll find the dates in this monthly Artsletter in the "Local Artistic Offerings" below. And you can always sign up for the newsletters of these organizations, or join them on social media to stay tuned.

CAP's Grants for Arts Programs:
Ballet Guild: Nutcracker virtual performance
Cayuga Vocal Ensemble: Outdoor Spring Concert
Civic Ensemble: ReEntry Theatre
Cooperative Extension: “All Black Everything,” virtual arts festival featuring artists that identify as black by Kenneth McLaurin.
Cooperative Extension: “Ithaca is Black Too.” arts highlighting Ithaca’s rich Black history and culture with Kenneth McLaurin & SingTrece.
Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers: Concert Season
Downtown Ithaca Alliance: First Friday Gallery Nights & Virtual Events
Dryden Intergenerational Band & Chorus: Virtual Community Performances
Greater Ithaca Activities Center: Artists for monthly Senior Breakfasts
Groton Public Library: Family virtual performances
Ithaca Children’s Garden: Haudenosaunee performances
Ithaca Community Orchestra: Concerts season
Ithaca Gay Men’s Choir: Broadway themed performance
Latino Civic Association:  CULTURA Ithaca arts and cultural events
Newfield Public Library: Series of artistic offerings for families
Primary Performance Group: “Dancing Dialogues” performances
Southside Community Center: (sponsor for Ithaca Murals): “ReAwakening” Green Street mural by 4 Black local artists.
Southworth Library: Puppet performances and workshop
State of the Art Gallery: Monthly exhibits and juried online exhibits
State Theatre: Livestream events
Triphammer Arts: “Drive-In LIVE,” series of outdoor, live music concerts
Triphammer Arts: Moving Landscapes/Choreographers’ showcase
Triphammer Arts (sponsor for Kathy Lucas & Megan Omohundro) ”Masters of Movement, performance series with dancers of color
Village at Ithaca: “Stolen Joy,” instagram project - true stories by students of color performed by professional actors virtually
Village at Ithaca (sponsor for Circus Culture): “Circus Season on the Waterfront,” outdoor performances along the waterfront trail
Walking on Water Productions: Virtual performance of “Comfort Food” musical

Arts Education Grant
Greater Ithaca Activity Center: Tap, African Drumming/Dance, Jump & Step Cultural Exchange Program
Greater Ithaca Activity Center: Art Education and Art Instructio
Elisa Keeler: with Russell I. Doig Middle School (T-burg) Voices for Social Justice Project
Circus Culture with Village at Ithaca; Circus Learning
Leanora Erica Mims with DeWitt Middle School: Historical Quilt Project
Kenneth McLaurin with Cooperative Ext: Stories from Not Old People
Groton Recreation with Cheerful & Creative Art Studio Instruction

Artist in Community Grant
Circus Culture: “Under the Bridge,” aerial dance pieces
Elisa Keeler: Social justice music piece with Tompkins county singers
Juan Manuel Aldape Munez: New dance theater in collaboration with Latinx community members
Paulina Velázquez Solis: “A river of all ages” photography and video project with Brooktondale community

Laura Rowley: Collaborative book project with St. John’s Community Services Emergency Shelter and Friendship Center
Candace Edwards: Audio art project centering on local Black-Queer voices


Dr. Christine Kitano is our new Poet Laurate

The Community Arts Partnership administers the Tompkins County Poet Laureate Program. On July 19, 2020, the Tompkins County Legislature appointed Dr. Christine Kitano as the County’s 10th Poet Laureate.

Explains Megan Barber, (E.D. of CAP), “We received nominations for eight outstanding local poets, each with unique ideas about how to put poetry in service to the community. We are so excited about Dr. Kitano’s appointment.”

In her letter nominating Dr. Kitano, Dr. Eleanor Henderson, Robert Ryan Professor in the Humanities and Chair of the Dept. of Writing at Ithaca College, praised Dr. Kitano’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and antiracism, adding “Dr. Kitano has a calm, confident way of bringing people together around language, and I could imagine her doing so again and again in the position of Poet Laureate."

Amanda Champion, Tompkins Co. Legislator, had this to say: "The talent and beauty of our community never ceases to amaze me. We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Kitano in this role and look forward to a year of poignant prose that will capture the moment and inspire us all.”
READ MORE about Dr. Kitano


Ithaca named 4th most arts-vibrant medium sized community

The Arts Vibrancy Index Report, compiled by SMU DataArts, ranks more than 900 communities across the country, examining the level of supply, demand and government support for the arts in each city. And Ithaca ranked 4th most vibrant in medium-sized communities!

The findings help illustrate the critical role of the arts, both socially and economically, in cities and towns around the nation. At this historic moment, the report serves as a pre-pandemic benchmark of where the most arts-vibrant communities are located.

CAP Executive Director Megan Barber says: "The recognition of the Ithaca area as a top arts-vibrant community underscores the importance of the arts to our region, both in terms of quality of life and as an economic engine. During the pandemic, our local artists and art groups are helping people process emotion and maintain connections, and are bringing in new audiences through creative virtual and live events. The fact that Ithaca has been named the 4th most arts-vibrant community means it’s critical that all of us support this vital segment of our economy.