Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival announces new director

Celeste Friend in studio on Monday, January 16, 2017 in Utica, NY. Photo courtesy Nancy L. Ford

When the organizers of the region’s premier arts festival put out the call for a new executive director last year, they hoped to find someone who could bring both experience and a fresh perspective.

They found the ideal candidate in Utica-area jewelry designer and small business owner Celeste Friend.

“We had an unbelievable roster of candidates, but Celeste really stood out because of her professionalism and her experience in the art festival world,” said Melissa deCordova, chairperson of Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival’s board of directors.

Since launching her line of unique, hand-crafted sterling jewelry in 2008, Friend has participated in art festivals across the Northeast. Her first experience with Colorscape was 4 years ago, as an artist/vendor.

“Colorscape is really a special show because of the depth of the community’s commitment,” Friend said.

Friend’s experience with the art festival world extends beyond simply exhibiting. Since 2013, she has helped organize and promote the Utica Uptown Downtown Art Fair, which began as a casual open studio event and has since blossomed into a full-fledged art fair.

“As a member of the original organizing committee, I’ve been involved in every aspect of running an art fair, from artist selection and management to budgeting decisions, marketing and operations,” she explained.

It’s this experience that helped Friend distinguish herself during the interview process.

“As both a former exhibitor and an event organizer herself, she brings a fresh, experienced perspective,” said deCordova. “I know she will provide valuable insight, strong leadership and be a tremendous asset to our organization as we seek to broaden our reach.”

Colorscape’s board of directors approved Friend’s appointment as executive director at the organization’s annual meeting.

“I am very pleased to have the opportunity to deepen my connection to the festival and, by extension, Norwich and Chenango County,” Friend said.

Friend holds a BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amhurst and a PhD from the City University of New York. In addition to her work as a jewelry designer and arts festival coordinator, she is an adjunct lecturer in Humanities at SUNY Polytechnic. She is a member of Cazenovia Artisans.

Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival is a free outdoor festival that draws 10-12,000 people to downtown Norwich each year on the weekend after Labor Day. The event features juried art and fine crafts for sale in an interactive atmosphere, as well as acoustic music performances by professional singer-songwriters, a competitive poetry slam, creative culinary arts and hands-on art experiences for all ages. Admissions and all activities are entirely free of charge. This year’s event, to be held September 9 and 10, marks the festival’s 23rd year. Learn more at

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