( Column 7 / 2002)
"A commentary about creative people living in the small communities scattered through the hills and valleys of Central New York"
Published in The County Review
On the first Monday in April, member artists of the Down Under Norwich Gallery, an artist's commune living and working underground in Norwich NY, will hold an open house at their studio. The exhibit will feature work of these talented people, as well as a few local artists from the community. The entrance to the underground studio is through the small shed in the corner of the parking lot on East Main St. in Norwich, New York.
This is the first time the public has been invited into this unusual gallery. Tours of the complex's working studios will be available, however the living space are private, and will not be shown.
Not many people are aware that, in the 1950's, a large underground bomb shelter was built under Main Street in Norwich New York. It extended from the Post Office to the High School. There were access tunnels from the County Courthouse, the High School, The Post Office, and a couple basements in the business district. There were also outdoor access points behind the Post office, and near the location of the present Library. Some of these access points are still operative, but other are closed down.
The 25,000 Sq. Ft. complex was purchased by the group after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the government saw no need to keep it operative. It has been converted into quite comfortable individual living and working spaces for the eight creative people that form the commune. Living and working together, sharing the chores as well as the financial responsibilities, makes for an affordable lifestyle that allows plenty of free time to be creative.
The members of the commune are:
- Benjamin L. Zeebub.......Ceramist
- Harold and Hanna Dupheey.......Woodwork
- Dee Fonie-Baloknee.......Paper Mache Puppets
- Tommie Fonie-Baloknee.......Portraits
- Gail Galophunk.......Juggling
- Robert Schott and Ben Kendoll ..... Metal Sculpture
Mr. Zeebub, the spokesman for the group, sculpts functional figure studies in porcelain; vessels in human form. He is known as " The Erotic Potter ". He markets his work through galleries in Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.
"Most of our work is very experimental, and appreciated by a more cosmopolitan audience." He said. "Because of that, we are not well known in the area, but usually exhibit at galleries in larger cities."
He smiled and said: "Living way off the beaten path and in an underground complex, some folks have started referring to us as 'Chenangostan'. It's all in good fun, I suppose that's what we get for being so eccentric."
More information about the group's exhibit, the artists themselves, and the history of the gallery, will be on the web site at www.lostvalleys.com shortly after the exhibit opens....look for it there.
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