GUEST VIEW: Head over the The Other Side

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Call it a collaboration of creativity and social concern. When The Other Side of Utica (TOS) opened its doors seven years ago, it had grown out of the need of the community for a place to meet and discuss and learn. It offered a forum for finding resources on issues confronting society.

Since, the not-for-profit center’s focus has gradually shifted, according to TOS founder Kim Domenico, “to being primarily a space to promote the arts and humanities, especially at the grass roots level.”

She and her husband, Orin Domenico, owner of Café Domenico in South Utica, had been hosting a salon discussion group in their home for years, and it was out of this group’s conversations that the demand for such a place arose. When the storefront next door to the Café became available, TOS was born.

The name, which carries many connotations, arose from frequent inquiries by Café customers about what they were going to do with the other side of the building.

Kim, a former minister who has a spiritual base for community-building work, envisioned a place for scholars to speak, poets to read, musicians to perform and for art and art-making to happen. She credits Adam Spiridilozzi’s Resonance Center as part of her inspiration as well as psychologist James Hillman’s Dallas Institute for Culture and the Humanities.

TOS offerings have included the Imagining America lecture series, in conjunction with Hamilton College; the Talkin’ ‘Bout Jazz series, in its fourth year, led by music director John Piazza Jr.; poetry performances by The Rag & Bone Shop Poetry Theater; a reading group, book signings and an herbal medicine class.

TOS recently hosted the American Premier of Utica filmmaker Lech Kowalski’s latest film, “Drill Baby Drill,” at the Uptown Theater. In addition, TOS publishes the arts magazine, “Doubly Mad,” which will soon produce a series of chapbooks featuring the work of local poets.

TOS officially opens its latest venture, an art gallery at 2011 Genesee St., with a reception today from 6 to 9 p.m. which will showcase art and poetry, along with impromptu performances from the writers and artists of the Utica-based art zine, “Ininterruption.” The zine, brainchild of Utica artist and TOS art director Vincent Brown, will release its fourth issue at the event.

A visit to New York City opened Brown’s eyes to the popularity of zines, self-published, small-circulation magazines that harken back to the Beats. He was wondering what to do with a series of collages he had created in collaboration with “Ininterruption’s” co-editor, poet Pat Scanlon. He had a stack of donated paper and owned a photocopy machine.

The 180-copy March 2012 debut issue included work by eight contributors. The recent 250-copy third issue featured work by twenty-three writers and artists.

“This art gallery,” says Kim Domenico, “is for our local artists, many of whom are young, the treasure of our community.”

Celebrate them today at The Other Side.

Ruth Dandrea is a freelance writer and retired teacher at Remsen High School, where she taught English. She lives in Holland Patent.

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