SACKETS HARBOR – Beth A. White became more serious about her painting last year after retiring at the age of 55. She specializes in river and lake scenes, but one of her creations of hers, after a high order, reached new heights last month in a town 200 miles from her residence here.
Ms. White said it started out as an unlikely proposition, but her inspiration and the project that saw results was due to her aunt, June P. Hailer, who is widely known in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as an advocate for rights of the disabled. Ms. Hailer is the Vice President of the Pittsfield Disability Commission and had a vision. For this, she sought out Mrs. White to make it a reality.
“It was a real effort for me to do it,” Ms. White said. “But people do what they do for June because she’s that kind of person.”
Ms. Hailer explained that to celebrate the 32nd year of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a member of the committee, David Twiggs, also CEO of Goodwill of the Berkshires & Southern Vermont, suggested the group’s project and posted a billboard somewhere in North Street, Pittsfield’s main street.
“To do this by the actual anniversary date, July 26, I had to act fast,” Ms. Hailer said. “I contacted Beth for help. It wasn’t long before she agreed to design and make a painting that ended up being the billboard, posters and part of an editorial commemorating the ADA. “
Ms. White’s painting also made it to the commission’s website for the month of July.
“Beth never did anything like I asked her to do, and it was great.” said Mrs. Hailer. “She did it for free too, knowing the commission had little or no funds and yet still having a deep understanding of the importance of ADA.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990 when it was signed by President George HW Bush on July 26. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas of public life, including work, schools, transportation, and all public and private places open to the public.
Ms. White said her aunt, born with cerebral palsy, moved from Roscoe, Sullivan County, to Pittsfield in the 1980s because the town has a reputation for being accessible to people with disabilities.
“Before there was the internet or anything, he found that Pittsfield was the place to be for people with disabilities. The whole city stayed behind, “Ms. White said.” So June moved there. She’s well known in that city. She’s just a source of inspiration. “
Ms. Hailer, who holds a master’s degree from Adelphi University, said she first visited the city for a friend’s wedding and moved to the city in 1986. Her first job in Pittsfield was at the local independent life center.
Ms. White, who works with acrylics, painted a scene on canvas of fireworks over the water and sent the 8 x 12 inch creation to her aunt, who submitted it to the board of the commission, who l ‘she designated for the image to celebrate her ADA celebration.
In addition to the billboard, which measures 22 x 10 feet, Ms. White’s image was used as posters and brochures.
“I was just shocked and happy for June and to be a part of something so special and intimate to me and to support ADA and disability equality,” Ms. White said.
Ms. Hailer has the original canvas on which the billboard was based.
“I’m going to have it framed,” he said.
On July 26, Ms. White visited Pittsfield and surprised each of the commission members with a painting / print from Pittsfield Town Hall.
“We will treasure these,” Ms. Hailer said.
Ms. White said she used a street view from Google Maps to create the Pittsfield scene, which also features a church.
“I included figures in the painting that were representative of different disabilities,” he said.
He gave the original to Cathy Carchedi, program director of the Pittsfield Commission on Disabilities and chair of the commission.
“It was a very special day for everyone involved,” Ms. White said. “It was a moment of inspiration and I was so privileged and lucky to be a part of it.”
He added that everyone seemed to know his aunt in Pittsfield. For example, Mrs. White approached a gardener who worked in the town hall. “And she was like, ‘Oh! I know June! She got a scholarship for us so we could put up a ramp for my grandson. ‘”
Ms. White has had a career in New York State with jobs ranging from probation officer to Spanish instructor at the Department of Corrections. She said she vowed to retire early, and she did so last year at the age of 55. A couple of years ago, she moved from Cape Vincent to Sackets Harbor, where she became active in the Arts Association of Northern New York based in the village and her gallery at 19 W. Main St.
“The Sackets Harbor art gallery was perfect for me,” Ms. White said. “It’s nice to be with other like-minded artists. She inspired me to push myself forward and see what I could do to communicate something in my art, not just dabble myself. “
Regarding the image of the billboard, Ms. Hailer said there were others involved in the implementation of the project: Laura Carchedi, who “improved the painting” with the sponsorship of AdLib, Inc .; Jennifer Jasiorkowski of the Berkshire Community Action Council, who secured the billboard for the commission, and the Pittsfield Commission on Disabilities itself.
But Mrs White gave Mrs Hailer a lot of credit.
“He knows what it takes and is never discouraged,” he said. “If he thinks something is important, he just makes it and makes it. This is his passion: trying to help people “.