Hanging the art: How artists get featured in Ithaca

Alice Combs "Fierce Shapes" in Waffle Frolic in Ithaca, New York.

Alice Combs “Fierce Shapes” in Waffle Frolic in Ithaca, New York.

Previously published on Premiere, Ithaca’s Art and Entertainment Publication. 

Allison DeDominick sits down with her newly adopted black kitten, Giacomo Puccini, as Italian opera plays softly in the background. Her living room hosts an array of artwork from around the world; Italy, France and the United States. Her personal work is in the process of getting framed. After traveling to Italy, DeDominick returned to Ithaca to help other artists, like herself, blossom in a city already known for its natural beauty.

DeDominick owns her own business, ARTe, that works with non-traditional venues like cafes, restaurants, wineries and public spaces to curate art exhibits on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

When DeDominick saw local artist Alice Combs’s work at Gimme! Coffee in October 2012, she contacted her right away.

“She’s somebody who maybe doesn’t see themselves as an artist first, but I think she should,” DeDominick said.

Combs never originally saw herself pursuing a career in art. She graduated from Cornell University in 2008 with a degree in Biology.

“I was always interested in art, I just never took it seriously,” Combs said.

The Community Arts Partnership in Ithaca is an outlet for local artists like Combs. CAP provides different services, assistance and grant opportunities to artists or art organizations, in addition to public programs supporting art in Tompkins County.

Since 1992, CAP has helped to distribute more than $2.7 million in grants and fellowships to artists, arts organizations and community projects. In 2013, CAP awarded $226,128 in arts grants. Their artist registry features 121 local and regional artists to date.

“Sometimes the artist walking through our door has years of experience but is new to town. Other times the artist is fresh out of school and exploring ways to spread his/her wings artistically,” said John Spence, Executive Director of the Community Arts Partnership. “Robin Schwartz, [CAP Program Director] can help make connections and introductions to like-minded artists.”

CAP hosts the Ithaca Art trail two weekends in October, in which local artists opened their studios to visitors and buyers. The organization also hosts two artist markets. The Ithaca Artists Market was held this summer at the Ithaca Farmers Market, and the Winter Fine Art Market takes place December 14 at the Holiday Inn on South Cayuga Street.

Additionally, the Awesome Indie Art Market took place in Downtown Ithaca December 6-8, which showcased more than 40 different artists.

“In a nutshell, we tried to bridge the gap of artists that you do not always get a chance to see and combine it with music, food and other art ideas; just a space and a chance to be creative,” said Alice Muhlback, one of the Awesome Indie Art Market’s coordinators.

Combs now attends the San Francisco Art Institute pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Painting. Combs made the decision to actively pursue art after taking two painting courses. DeDominick was instrumental in getting her series, “Fierce Shapes,” featured in Waffle Frolic until the end of the December. The piece is inspired by the way letters can occupy negative and positive spaces, made with black and red acrylic ink at a 45 degree angle.

While she was always interested in art from a young age, living in Ithaca made for making art an interest into a career, Combs noted.

“There are a lot of opportunities for showing your work in shops or galleries. It’s a pretty vibrant community for such a small town,” Combs said.


Alexandra Leslie and John Vogan are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can reach them at adleslie13@gmail.com and johncvogan@gmail.com. 


Sideshow performer sets up solo act in food truck industry

Previously published on Premiere, Ithaca’s Art and Entertainment Publication. 

On the chilly morning of Dec. 3, steam pours from the open hatch of the Circus Truck as J.P. Vico prepares breakfast burritos for two of his regular customers. Vico’s is just one of eight food trucks in Ithaca currently dishing up mouthwatering cuisine from their mobile kitchens.

Click here to see what's cooking in Ithaca!

Click here to see what’s cooking in Ithaca!

Crepe Photo Courtesy Mark Anbinder

As the name suggests, the truck is a symbol of not only his passion for cooking, but also sideshow performing, Vico said. When it gets dark enough, he projects old black and white films showcasing circus performances for customers to enjoy while they chow down on alla vodka pasta — a ‘velvety homemade tomato cream sauce accented with vodka’ — or a seitan (gluten wheat) reuben sandwich.

Vico is left with a bad taste in his mouth, however, due to the city’s lack of a mobile vending permit policy hindering his operation. He and other truck owners have been left to negotiate with private property owners for places to set up shop. When a new building development forced him out of his original location on the corner of Seneca Street and State Route 13, he moved to the parking lot outside the Finger Lakes Beverage Center on West Green Street.

“The only reason this truck has even survived here a couple months is because the people who already knew about it from before [keep coming back],” Vico said.

Though Vico sits alone in the West Green Street parking lot, others are also caught in the food truck dilemma.

Amanda Beem-Miller, co-owner of The Good Truck, offering a Mexican-inspired menu that features seasonal and local ingredients, is one of the founding members of the Ithaca Food Truck Association, which began a year ago on Dec. 15.

“My business partner and I had spent years cooking for other people, and we really wanted to do our own thing,” she said. “This was the most economically viable way to have our own business.”

Without a permit in place, mobile vendors are barred from operating on city streets and property, with the exception of a special permitting process for The Commons.

In the meantime, The Good Truck owners, along with other food truck proprietors, worked with the city to create a pilot program that allows for vendors to operate at specific times on public property. This led to the weekly Food Truck Round Up at Thompson Park on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.

“There’s a philosophy in business, especially in food, that the more choices there are, the more people we can get to come,” Beem-Miller said.

Mark Anbinder, a food writer and editor of 14850 Dining, agreed. He said he understands the brick and mortar restaurants’ concerns of increased competition, but thinks there is a benefit to be gained by boosting an area’s attractiveness with more variety.

“It’s also true, maybe especially in Ithaca’s neighborhoods, that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ When there are attractive eateries in an area, people get used to going there for food, so for example I don’t see the Circus Truck taking away from Maxie’s and On the Street, even though they’re in the same area. I see it as one more option that makes people think of heading to the West End for food,” Anbinder said.

A vote on the pending permit proposal is planned for the Board of Public Works meeting on Dec. 9.


John Vogan and Alexandra Leslie are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can reach them at johncvogan@gmail.com and adleslie13@gmail.com. 

The Greek Yogurt Whey

In early October, Chobani partnered with Cornell’s Food Science Department, donating $1.5 million to the school to help with food quality and safety, as well as training programs for those planning to work with yogurt. Part of the department’s research deals with managing acid whey, or the liquid found at the top of traditional yogurt.

Even before this partnership, Cornell already had a number of projects underway related to Greek yogurt and acid whey, including efforts to develop new products that use acid whey as an ingredient,” Dr. Martin Wiedmann, food science professor at Cornell, said.

The by-product from creating this high protein yogurt has been seen as detrimental to the environment. When released into the environment, acid whey can exhaust the oxygen from water, which fish need to survive. This is why dumping the waste is illegal. Instead, Greek yogurt companies have partnered with farmers to recycle the whey, as it is as acidic as orange juice, according to Justin Elliott of Modern Farmer.

However, Tristan Zuber, yogurt and cultured dairy products specialist at Cornell University’s Food Science Department, says acid whey is not toxic, unless it is mishandled.

“Right now, [farmers are] feeding it to cows, and cows like it because there’s a lot of energy content and lactose in it,” said Zuber. “Some of that whey is going into anaerobic digesters to create energy, in some cases it’s dried and used as a food ingredient.”

According to a Chobani spokesperson, other farmers use it as a fertilizer, but only at farms with nutrient management plans in place.

No longer a niche product, Greek yogurt is now mainstream, with several companies competing to have the highest selling yogurt product in the United States, according to Euromonitor’s 2012 report. In only five years since their opening in New Berlin, New York, Chobani rose to the challenge and became the No. 1 selling Greek yogurt in America.

Because of its higher protein content, Greek yogurt is healthier than traditional yogurt, or yogurt that has not been strained. The straining process eliminates the excess acid whey, which helps to concentrate the proteins in Greek yogurt.

“High protein is definitely a trend right now among consumers,” said Zuber.

After Chobani’s rise in the industry, the company began to face intense competition. According to Business Insider, Chobani used to dominate half of the market, but as other brands, such as Danone, starting producing their own Greek yogurt, Chobani’s share has fallen to 39 percent.

While Chobani faces competition, other similar businesses are taking advantage of the popular treat.

“We use Chobani for a number of reasons, the main reason why we use it is because it’s local and because the quality,” Matt Poole, owner of Smart Yogurt, said. “They have such a high standard for their yogurt.”


Alexandra Leslie and Kristen Tomkowid are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can reach them at adleslie13@gmail.com and itskristom@gmail.com.

Beer industry booms in New York state

Ithaca Beer Company’s expansion plan for a new fermentation room with tanks was approved on Nov. 5 by the Town of Ithaca Planning Board.

The company has grown 30 percent annually over the past two years, increasing from 12 to 55 employees said Allison Graffin, marketing director for Ithaca Beer Company.

In 2012, the nation’s craft beer industry saw a 17 percent increase in dollar growth. According to the Brewer’s Association, New York’s breweries ranked among the top for beer sales also in 2012, which meant a higher demand for hops, the flavoring and stability agent in beer .

Hops harvesting begins in late August and lasts through early October, according to the Hops Growers Association of America. Much like the hops plant — which can grow up to a foot in size a day — demand for hops is growing fast as well, which means jobs in the hops farming and beer industries are too.

“When we planted the hops four years ago there was 23 or 24 acres, I think, planted in New York State, and now there’s over 140 acres planted,” said Chris Hansen, co-owner of Climbing Bines Hops Farm in Penn Yan, New York.

This October, Governor Andrew Cuomo welcomed 14 licensed farm breweries to the state. In order to receive a Farm Brewery license in New York State, the beer must be made primarily from locally grown farm products, according to the Farm Brewery Law. Cuomo said he wanted New Yorkers and visitors “to ‘buy local’ and keep coming back for more.”

“The fact that we can make a beer with all the ingredients grown in a three mile radius is pretty cool, because there’s not a whole lot of people in the country right now that are doing that,” said Hansen.

Because the business is booming, jobs in the beer industry are needed more than ever. According to data from The Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, jobs in brewing, wholesale and retail have increased by 127,770 from 2001 to 2012.

Hansen said people don’t realize how much labor really goes into hops farming, but if you have a lot of friends who just want to give you a hand and hang out, it doesn’t seem like work.

“Between farming hops and crafting beer,” Hansen said, “We are really enjoying ourselves and have found a very fun industry to be involved in.”


Alexandra Leslie and Allie Healy are senior Journalism students at Ithaca College. You can contact them at adleslie13@gmail.com and alliemariefarrell@gmail.com.

Members of sustainable community preach gospel of nonviolence in Ithaca

Brayton and Suzanne Shanley, founders of the Agape Sustainable Community in Massachusetts, visited the Ithaca Society of Friends last Wednesday to promote their new book, The Many Sides of Peace.

Started in 1982, Agape promotes an eco-friendly lifestyle. They grow 60 percent of the community’s organic food, and they use solar electricity, a compost toilet and a car that runs on vegetable oil. It also provides an interfaith worship community that accepts people of all denominations, including atheists.

After the couple got married, they decided they wanted to live alternatively. They also started practicing what they called the “gospel of nonviolence.”

This gospel is a system that extends the concept of nonviolence from just between individuals to a person’s relationship to the Earth. Members of Agape live in harmony with nature rather than seeing it as a resource to be destroyed and plundered for profit.

“That lead us to create a place based on the desire to lead a simple life and continuing the teaching of nonviolence to others,” Suzanne said.

Dan Finlay, a member of the Ithaca Catholic Worker, said his group sometimes collaborates with the Society of Friends for occasions like this and that many members of both groups attend the other’s meetings. He has known the Shanley’s for many years ever since living with them at Agape.

“They meditate and pray daily as a basis for changing themselves, and then they go out into the world and do works of justice and mercy, which combines the contemplative and activist aspects,” he said.

Ecovillage at Ithaca, which has two 30-home cohousing neighborhoods, is similar in many ways to Agape. With some land set aside for community gardens and living quarters, 80 percent of the 175-acre site remains green space.

Ithaca is a community with the potential to embody the Shanley’s message, said Kartik Sribarra, a member of Danby’s new White Hawk Ecovillage.

“We’re both primed for it and still have a long way to go,” he said. “Ithaca is home to a lot of people who want to see things done right, but mindfulness is often absent; so I’m doing what I can to improve myself and my family.”

The Shanley’s hope their example will inspire others to take up the causes of pacifism and sustainability. This is especially in an era where, they say, human violence toward each other and the Earth-as evidenced by oil spill disasters in the Gulf of Mexico and long-standing conflicts in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria-seems to be out of control.

“We’re not going to make it the way things are going,” Brayton said. “You have to ask people, ‘Are you happy with this?’ And that’s where the work begins.”


Alexandra Leslie and Kyle Robertson are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can reach them at adleslie13@gmail.com and krobertson1392@gmail.com.

Bed and Breakfasts Map of Ithaca

Click this picture for an flash animated map of bed and breakfasts in ithaca!

Click this picture for an flash animated map of bed and breakfasts in ithaca!

Ithaca Farmers Market Celebrates 40 Years

The Ithaca Farmers Market has several locations, aside from its main market at Steamboat Landing.

The Ithaca Farmers Market has several locations, aside from its main market at Steamboat Landing.

Kristof Ostlund and his crew set up his burrito stand, Solaz, at the Ithaca Farmers Market in 15 minutes, but they don’t start serving until every member of the crew has eaten. Ostlund makes a burrito about every 35 seconds; six hours at the Saturday market means Ostlund and his crew use over 700 tortillas.

Ostlund is one of over 160 vendors at the award-winning Ithaca Farmers Market, which celebrated its 40th anniversary October 27. The Ithaca Farmers Market hosts local produce, baked goods, crafts and wine vendors that sell on one or all of the five market days.

The Ithaca Farmers Market began with a collection of vendors coming together to sell produce in the parking lot of Agway on South Fulton Street. Since 1973, the market has moved five times and expanded to four separate locations besides the main market at Steamboat Landing.

The biggest challenge the market currently faces is making space for all the vendors at Steamboat Landing, and for visitors in the parking lot. Open five days a week, 52 weeks a year, the market often attracts well over 5,000 people a day.

“Now we have a pavilion at a major waterfront site and we’re one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area and one of the most important markets in the area too,” said Aaron Munzer, Assistant Manager of the Ithaca Farmers Market.

Diane Eggert, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York said, “The Ithaca Farmers Market has set an example – the quality of products, the relationships with consumers as a whole – they’ve really served as a role model [for other farmers markets].”

There are markets in other towns, but the Ithaca Farmers Market was a success here because farmers found Ithaca had a large, reliable customer base where people regularly wanted to purchase their produce. The Ithaca Farmers Market is among 600 farmers markets in New York State.

While this may not be different from other farmers markets, it is important for farmers to have direct access to consumers and sell at retail prices because it “provides farmers with a higher profit margin than more traditional marketing outlets,” according to research done by the Farmers Market Federation of New York.

The Ithaca Farmers Market does not solely cater to organic growers, it plays a big part in the local food movement, as all of its vendors must have products grown and raised within 30 miles of the main market at Steamboat Landing, as set by the IFM Board of Directors.

“We don’t really have a role in the organic food movement, but I would say we are part of the local foods movement and I think that’s almost more important,” Munzer said. “Buying locally keeps the economy vibrant and healthy and folks are able to have viable farms.”

Ostlund gets organic black beans for his burritos from Potenza Organic Produce in Trumansburg, and other produce from his neighbor at the weekend market.

“Some products are local and some aren’t,” Ostlund said, “It just depends on the time of year and what’s available.”

While some market locations in Ithaca close in the upcoming weeks, the Ithaca Farmers Market remains open year-round. Ostlund is one vendor who sells at a few markets several weeks out of the year, but in his off-season from January to March he does income taxes for H&R Block.

“Doing somebody else’s taxes is like some huge puzzle you have to solve, it’s really neat. Doing your own taxes sucks,” Ostlund said as he made a customer’s burrito.

Solaz has been at the farmers market for 24 years, but from 1993 to 2001, Ostlund owned Coyote Loco, now Agava Restaurant, on Pine Tree Road in Ithaca.

Though Coyote Loco is now closed, Ostlund said he never gave up his booth at the market “because this is where the fun is.”


Alexandra Leslie and Sara Webb are senior Journalism majors at Ithaca College. You can reach them at adleslie13@gmail.com and sara3webb@gmail.com.