We asked Sue Boyle, the creator of Art On The Porches, to share her personal history of the event right back from when it all started in 1999!

Here is what Sue wrote –

I have recently been asked to recap the history of Art on the Porches for our new blog. I have been stressing out about this task because not only was it a LIFETIME ago for me, there were so many important things going on in our community at that time and so many people involved that I fear I won’t do them all justice in my re-telling.  In an effort to be as accurate as possible I ventured to my basement file cabinet and with much effort pulled out the creaky stuffed drawer marked “Sue’s GSNA stuff”.

I know it all started for me with a phone call sometime in 1999 from my neighbor Twin Hills Resident, Mike Streissgutgh (who as we all know would do a much better job of writing this).  Mike called to ask me to be a part of a group of neighbors who were getting together to build a Neighborhood Organization. I have no idea why I was asked to help out with this project.  I had little volunteer experience and no grant writing experience.  I also have no idea why I would agree to do this and the many, many other huge and wonderful volunteer commitments that were to follow . Maybe it was the fact that I had 3 babies all under the age of 3 years old at the time and maybe I was drinking chardonnay from a sippy cup, but I thought it was a great idea! Down this long and winding road I would meet many other wonderfully busy neighbors who took on huge projects that they had NO time for. Our houses were messy and our kids were eating popsicles for lunch and wonderful things were happening in Strathmore.

Our small group met at Most Holy Rosary parish center (I think) and we made a plan to create the Greater Strathmore Neighborhood Association.  Yeah, it didn’t happen that fast…there were lots of meetings and information gathering that went on. Claire Downey was leading us in a charge to write a grant to the Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative Program for state funding to start funding our organization.  Claire, Mary Jo Spano and I stayed up until 2 am on May 30, 2000 at Claire’s house on Twin Hills Dr. hammering out this grant that was due on June 1. This was the beginning of the GSNA, the Strathmore neighborhood website (pre-facebook) , Art on the Porches, The Patriotic Celebration (remember that one?) and the Strathmore 5K race.

My job was to put on the social events which were the Patriotic Celebration and The Greater Strathmore Art Show and Park Social. Fortunately Strathmore is a home to many talented and well-connected artists including Linda Abbey. Linda is a brilliant artist who lives on Summit Ave. Linda partnered up with me and we were the first Art Show committee.

The first Greater Strathmore Art Show and Park Social was to be held on Sunday, July 30, 2000 from 9:30-2pm in Onondaga Park. Well, that didn’t happen. Apparently we needed a million dollar liability policy to have a show in the park. Our operating budget was $140.00.. So we thought, maybe we could have the show on the front porches of the houses instead of the park. That way we wouldn’t need a policy AND the artists could have bathroom access (and maybe even wine).  Linda lived on Summit and we thought that is a beautiful street…so we will have it there and we called it Art on the Porches.

Linda was a member of the Onondaga Art Guild and was able to convince many very talented area artists to participate in our little show. Being that we had no reputation to go on, we had to allow free admission (and lemonade and sandwiches  .. and rides, babysitting….you get the picture) to the artists. The homeowners were also skeptical.  Nancy Wolcott joined us at some point and went door to door talking to neighbors, explaining the show. Ringing doorbells and leaving flyers and getting petitions signed. Nancy walked for miles.

We worked within our budget and used scrap wood to paint signs directing people to the show, We managed to have a few musicians come for free and play on the porches. We set up a lovely café area and had Biscotti’s Café  come and sell coffee and pastries. It rained really hard all day. But somehow it felt like a success. Our one full page penny saver ad drew a few art lovers from outside the neighborhood and the quality of the work was high. Most importantly, the artists had fun and enjoyed the show and the concept which meant that they would come back again next year!

The following year, I applied for a grant for $1,000.00 from the Cultural Resources Council.  In doing so, I met Mark Wright (RIP). Mark was instrumental in helping me to write the grant and in connecting me with other artists and musicians who participated in the show for years. Mark always had some artists name/number on a scrap of paper in his delicately organized pocket full of scraps of paper that he would pass along to me. Mark enjoyed Art on the Porches and was a very important part of our development and many other Syracuse arts endeavors.

We got the grant! In 2001 we were RICH! I think we stepped up the advertising a bit, made programs and hired a band. Basically, Linda and I did the same thing as in 2000 with slightly better promotion and paid entertainment.. Oh…and it rained ALL DAY. But the artists were happy, the show was a success and the artists wanted to come back again next year!

In 2002, I got the grant again. This was the first year that I had the Hands on Art Center. I thought that this would be a good place for the artists to demonstrate their work, do live paintings, people could sign up to take classes etc..

There were few funding sources at that time for art shows and the fact that we were still simply trying to convince the artists that they should come at all, it was difficult to find income sources. The artists always had a nice time at the show, but the rain was tough on sales and we were still looking for’ that show’ to happen where everything fell into alignment -the art, the funding, the weather….it was going to happen at some time, right? Yes…but not in 2002. It rained ALL DAY.

I think it was in 2003 that we moved the show to Ruskin Ave. This would be the year that turned the corner for us. We had a record number of artists sign up. I think we started charging artists to participate that year. It rained a little, but attendance was good…music was good the café was cute. Mary Jo Spano and I went to the pink Victorian house on Roberts Ave and knocked on her door (we didn’t know her at the time but she had a Fabulous garden!)  and we asked if we could cut some of her flowers to use as centerpieces at the café tables at the Ruskin Café. She generously offered us full access to her flowers. I think that woman was Mary Hershberger. We dedicated the show that year to Mrs. Hartnett who was a long time Ruskin Ave resident and had passed away that year. The Hartnett’s displayed some of their family artwork on their enclosed porch and enjoyed the tribute. The Chaos Productions Youth Performers from Cicero NY started coming to AOTP that year doing Shakespearean performances and comedic improv in the street. They were (are) led by Chrissy Clancy who is a brilliant theatrical organizer and who later provided us with years of pirate shows that the kids absolutely loved!

Sarah Gilbert (Wellesley Rd) was fully onboard at this point in planning with me and Linda Abbey had gone to Italy for the summer. Sarah had brand new babies and toddlers at home so she joined me in this crazy adventure. We made the Hands on Art Center a child friendly art center. Tom Montague (Columbia Ave) was an art teacher at Rosary at the time and was amazing at showing the kids how to make clay pots. He was so incredibly patient and wonderful. He never stopped smiling. The Art Store from Erie Blvd. sponsored the craft supplies and volunteers ran the tent making paintings and clay sculptures with the kids. It was always free.

I’m not really sure how many years I ran that show for….I know that we moved it to Stolp Ave and Beverly Rd in 2004. I thought it was inspiring to see the beautification projects that would happen at the host homes prior to the show and I thought maybe we should move it around! I hired a group out of PA to perform at the 2004 show…maybe a mistake….they were sword and fire swallowers and jugglers. They were a little sketchy.  We had celtic  fiddler Nied Fyre, and local artist Pete Fitzpatrick(California via Robineau Rd)  perform. Pete was performing what he called” indie rock”…(I had no idea what that was at the time. I thought he was going to play Indian music) One neighbor  (the one who put the toilet seat in his front yard years later to protest some political thing) hired a pianist to play his baby grand piano with the windows open at his house. It was beautiful. Beverly  and Stolp Ave.  looked great, but for some reason the quiet, quaint feel of Ruskin Ave won everyone over and it was decided that we should just have it there every year from then on. I believe that was the first year that Erin Nowak (Arden Dr) designed our poster for the show. Erin is a brilliant designer and artist and she captured the essence of the show in the picture. Erin’s contributions of graphic designs and logos and programs and t shirt designs are tremendous and always allowed us to look a little more pulled together and professional than we (maybe) were.

I think Sarah Gilbert took over the show from me in 2005 and it was permanently moved to Ruskin Ave. Sarah grew the show tremendously and it picked up momentum.  We had several years of sunshine. I guess the show was trying to tell us …I need to be on Ruskin Ave!!  So many people participated in making Art on the Porches what it is today. John DeMott  arranged for a variety of food vendors to come over the years such as Lao Village (mmm) Dave Kane (Columbia Ave) took over the booking and recruiting of better bands and got us great names like Los Blancos. Sarah developed the Hands on Art Center and organized artists. I’m not sure how many years Sarah ran the show for, but she worked hard and developed it into a bigger better show every year.  New artists continued to sign up every year and Sarah kept the system organized and professional.

At some point Charlene Bozzi took over the show from Sarah…Sarah and I would laugh as Charlene asked us for spreadsheets and “budgets”. We never had enough of a steady stream of income to have a “budget” or any kind of a “plan”. The show was like a living thing, It just grew and changed and grew some more until one day Charlene was able to grow it up enough to have grown up things like budgets and spreadsheets and we simply could not be more proud.

I know that this years Art On The Porches will continue to build on previous years and will add to the history of the event.


Sue Boyle