The Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA) serves as the Arts Council for Sullivan County, New York. DVAA presents year-round programs in the visual, performing, and community arts, and provides arts resources for a county- and valley-wide constituency of artists, arts groups, and the general public.
To be the Hub for the Arts in the region.
In 1976, inspired by celebrations surrounding America’s Bicentennial, a group of individuals conceived of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA). Having recently arrived in Sullivan County following productive artistic tenures in New York City, DVAA founders Elaine Giguere and Tom DeGaetani quickly found themselves enmeshed in region’s cultural programming for the Bicentennial. They created an instant museum, held workshops and readings and worked cooperatively with Callicoon’s Bicentennial effort, a production of “1776.”
DeGaetani had a vision of establishing an arts center in a rural town of 500 people. He drew nearly 100 people, as well as representatives from both the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Associated Councils of the Arts, to come to the Park Theatre (now the Tusten Theatre) to speak about the power of the arts. What may be understood as common knowledge today – that the arts strengthen communities—was a far-off concept forty plus years ago. The Delaware Valley Arts Alliance was born that evening.
Through the Federal CETA (Comprehensive Employment & Training Act) program, DVAA was able to put artists and others to work. It produced plays, introduced local communities to opera, created Youth Theatre and Band, sent an Artmobile to parks all around the county, established a literary journal, and got involved with issues relating to clean water. In 1977 DVAA received its first general operating support grant from NYSCA.
Following Tom DeGaetani’s sudden passing in 1978, Giguere took on the role of Executive Director.
In 1981, DVAA found a permanent home at 37 Main Street in Narrowsburg which was purchased from Eugene and Elizabeth Kelly. The 11,000 sq ft building which dates back to 1894 originally served as the Arlington Hotel, became the Delaware Arts Center. In 1983 in recognition as the Arlington Hotel, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1984, NYSCA invited DVAA to administer the Decentralization Regrant Program for Sullivan County, a role which continues today and has supported countless numbers of artists, organizations and strengthened the cultural landscape of the region for nearly 40 years.
That same year, DVAA launched a campaign to construct offices and a gallery on the ground floor of the Delaware Arts Center and in 1986, opened its Main Street gallery featuring a group show of community artists.
Gloria Krause and a group of music professionals found the Delaware Valley Opera as a fiscally sponsored project of DVAA in 1986. The DVO continues today as its own vibrant organization.
In 1988 DVAA began to lease the art deco-style Tusten Theatre (formerly the Park Theatre) from the Town of Tusten. In 1989 with the help of Sullivan County and the Town of Tusten, DVAA spearheaded a $300,000 renovation of the Theatre to improve handicapped accessibility.
The Alliance of New York State Arts Councils presented a Partnership Award to DVAA, Town of Tusten, and Sullivan County Department of Planning and Economic Development for the project.
In 1990 the newly renovated Tusten Theatre opened with a series of debut performances including jazz pianist Helen Sung.
In July of 1990, Narrowsburg’ Main Street hosted the first-annual Riverfest which attracting artists, craft-persons, and nature-lovers to Narrowsburg and the Delaware River. It continues to be an annual draw for our community, held on the fourth Sunday every July.
In 1994, renovations begin on the second floor of the Delaware Arts Center to create offices and meeting rooms. That same year, DVAA launched the series JazzFest at the Tusten Theatre and partnered with the Callicoon Theater for CineArt, a series of independent film screenings.
In 1998, construction begins to create a recital hall on the second floor of the Arts Center.
In 1999 DVAA launched the first Sullivan County Cultural Map & Guide.
DVAA began the new millennia with increased commitment direct support of artists and arts organizations.
In 2000, the Dr. Barry & Jane Bodenstein Music Scholarship was established for furthering music education beyond high school for graduating seniors at Sullivan West High School.
In 2001 DVAA partners with Sullivan County to create the Sullivan County Arts & Heritage Grant (SCHAG) for non-profit cultural organizations. As of 2020 the program has provided over $235,000 in regrant funds to support arts and heritage activities in Sullivan County.
In 2002, the recital hall on the second floor of the Delaware Arts Center is dedicated in honor of Gloria Krause, founder of Ill Winds Chamber Ensemble, Delaware Valley Opera, and Delaware Chamber Orchestra.
DVAA expanded its ability to present exhibitions with the opening of the Loft Gallery located on the 2nd floor. The gallery’s grand opening featured a group sculpture show curated by Kathleen Spicer titled “Out of the Woods.”
In 2003, DVAA’s bi-monthly publication, Artsletter, expanded to a tabloid-size, includes color, and triples in circulation.
DVAA launched its first website, ArtsAllianceSite.org as an online home for Sullivan County’s cultural community.
Art in Sixes was launched in 2004 under the direction of DVAA’s new gallery director, Rocky Pinciotti. Featuring works with no greater dimension than 6 inches, today the annual small works show attracts over 150 artists and over 500 works each holiday season.
In 2005, the 15th JazzFest features an appearance by Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Tusten Theatre. To provide greater support for area artists, artisans, and writers, DVAA opens its gift shop, Signature Gifts. In response to the expanding art form of digital media, DVAA launches DIGit, a media festival.
In 2006, in honor of the founders of DVAA, Elaine Giguere and Tom DeGaetani, the Main Street Gallery is rededicated as The Alliance Gallery.
In 2007 DVAA launched an expansion of its media program to include internet and public access television.
In 2009, in memory of his partner and long-time DVAA supporter, Sheldon Soffer established the Stanley Segal Scholarship for the Visual Arts to support graduating seniors in New York’s Sullivan and Pennsylvania’s Wayne Counties who wish to continue their studies in the Visual Arts in college.
DVAA embarked on a major project to rebuild the second story porch along the Arts Center in 2011.
The Big Eddy Film Festival is launched in fall 2012 with screenings, panels, talk backs, and celebrations of cinematic storytelling.
In 2016, through a Regional Economic Development Grant, the position of Performing Arts Director is established.
After 40 years of visionary service, DVAA’s founding Director Elain Giguere retired in June 2017. Her successor, Ariel Shanberg selected to serve as just DVAA’s second executive director since the organization was founded. In fall of that year, Signature Gifts is remodeled with a deepened focus on providing a year-round platform for local and regional artisans and craftspeople.
2018 began with a remodeling of DVAA’s entranceway featuring a welcome desk. In spring, DVAA co-hosted the inaugural Deep Water Literary Festival produced by One Grand Books which featured a multi-arts performative reading of Emily Wilson’s translation of “The Odyssey” and fiscally sponsored by DVAA. A solo exhibition of local resident and internationally renowned artist Frosty Meyers was presented in conjunction with the premiere of the documentary on Myers at the Big Eddy Film Festival.
In summer 2019, the Delaware Arts Center was rededicated as the Elaine Giguere Arts Center in recognition of her four decades of service. The Big Eddy Film Festival opened with the New York premiere of Martha Shane’s documentary “Narrowsburg”.
Amidst the impact of COVID-19 DVAA continued to engage audiences and support artists and arts organizations through new and revisioned initiatives including the Facebook Live series DVAA Live @ Home and the transformation of DVAA’s back lot of DVAA.
Riverfest marked its 30th anniversary with a month-long series of virtual events including environmental calls to action, poetry readings, and an online poster auction. DVAA partnered with Bethel Woods Center for the Arts to present outdoor live screenings as part of the 2020 Big Eddy Film Festival.
DVAA was honored by the Upper Delaware Regional Council for the 2019 Big Eddy Film Festival’s screening of the documentary film, Narrowsburg. Following a 16-year tenure, longtime Gallery Director, Rocky Pinciotti retires with the opening of the 2020 installment of “Art in Sixes”.
In 2021, DVAA launched a new website and logo including an online version of the annual Salon Series, titled “On Location: Artists at Work”. The Big Eddy Film Festival will mark its 10th year in the fall.
We look forward to a vibrant and busy new year.
As the cultural home for arts in the Sullivan Catskills, we are grateful for your involvement and support. We couldn’t do it without you, literally.