Oct. 24—Lewiston — At the end of 2022, four members of the arts staff will retire with the group after more than 30 years on the Lewiston Council.
Executive Director Irene Rykaszewski, Artistic Directors Eva Niklas, Catherine Ceriani, and Tim Henderson have been behind the council’s plans for decades, expanding it beyond just the Lewiston Arts Festival to creating several new events that residents look forward to each year.
“Eva, Irene, Tim and Kathryn leave an incredible legacy for Lewiston, Niagara County and the entire region,” said Board President Todd Kiniazuk. “Their retirements are well-earned, and I can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done and for being so willing to help LCA transition into the next leaders.”
They joined the Arts Council around the same time in 1992, already having ties to the group due to Seriani’s family ownership of cataract printing and having worked with the Council’s predecessor. While Rykaszewski’s executive director title was on the business end of the organization, Niklas was the public face of the organization, handling behind-the-scenes tasks such as graphic design and maintaining member and artist webpages and databases, while Henderson worked on programming. and wrote for events such as the script for Marble Orchard Ghost Walks.
Despite their titles and responsibilities, Rykaszewski said they didn’t limit what they did, which is probably one of the reasons for their success.
“Everyone had a title, but everyone brought whatever strengths they had to the job,” he explained.
Henderson was surprised by the response to some of their events, where they would come up with an idea, plan it and then think about funding.
“Whatever the four of us brought to the table worked,” Henderson said. “We had a great time. Because we were enjoying it, it spread to the audience.”
It also helped that village government and businesses are always supportive of the council’s mission, Rykaszewski said.Any elected official they approach from the village, county or state for financial support, all are willing to say yes.
In addition to continuing the Lewiston Arts Festival, the council continues to add new events over the years and retire some to make way for new ones. Some of these events were a human chess game attended by Canadian dignitaries, an Alice in Wonderland tea party, and a Discovery Series where people could present on a topic they were passionate about, which is how the annual tribute to Edmund Fitzgerald began.
When Henderson wrote the first play for the Marble Orchard Ghost Walks, it was held at the First Presbyterian Church in honor of the village’s 175th anniversary. They were looking for a respectable crowd as the church seats 200, with Henderson asking his deceased playwright father for divine intervention. 600 people were seen.
“We have something here to tell us,” Henderson said.
Henderson is the oldest of the four at 75, with the other three not far behind in years. Ceriani said that when they all started working together, they agreed that if one could go, all of them would. Henderson felt the same way, describing it as a band member leaving. Rykaszewski has family back in the Lewiston area and thinks the group was able to accomplish what it set out to do.
“I think I’ve accomplished what I dreamed of because of the great team I’ve worked with,” Nicklas said. “We’ve always felt a lot of support and love from the community.”
Although the four will still be in Lewiston and will be friends, they will certainly miss the creative atmosphere that brought so much programming to the Village and received such positive feedback from the community.
“I hope that whoever follows us doesn’t use what we’ve done as a blueprint, that they bring their own energy and creativity to the village,” Ceriani said. “The only thing they should continue to do is make it great.”
The council is now seeking a new executive director, with a job description available on its website at www.artcouncil.org. Applicants can send their materials to [email protected]. The new executive director will be able to hire someone to do the job depending on their skills.
There is a search committee to sift through applicants consisting of Rykaszewski, Nicklas, outside residents and members of the board of directors. The decision on who will be hired will be up to the council’s board of directors, which Rykaszewski hopes will be in late November so they can be eased into the job by December.