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Loretta Lepkowski's <i>The Cow with the Golden Tail</i>, a pastel of Eric Sherman and Carl.
Loretta Lepkowski's The Cow with the Golden Tail, a pastel of Eric Sherman and Carl.

Old Forge Library exhibit highlights Tug Hill family farms

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Lewis County artist Loretta Lepkowski's exhibit, Farming and Folks of the Tug Hill and Adirondack Region, is on display at the Old Forge Library this month. She says the inspiration for her narrative paintings comes from growing up on a southern Lewis County farm.

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Reported by

Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

Loretta Lepkowski grew up on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau, just south of Potters Corners. She remembers always farming and haying, and having little time to explore the Adirondacks in her backyard.

Loretta Lepkowski presents Ceil Buckley with her portrait last May.  Ceil lived to be 100 and her portrait was gifted to the Old Forge Library's Quilting Room.
Loretta Lepkowski presents Ceil Buckley with her portrait last May. Ceil lived to be 100 and her portrait was gifted to the Old Forge Library's Quilting Room.
When she produces art, she prefers to meet her subjects and get to know them. She interviews the families and includes summaries with her paintings to create more of a narrative and informative experience for viewers.

In 2009, Loretta began to focus on her art more seriously, when milk prices were down and family farms were struggling. She had learned about the possibility of obtaining a grant through the St. Lawrence Council of Arts, and thought that her paintings would lift the spirits of the family farms. She suggested painting various family farm members and displaying them in a traveling art show.

Back in high school, Loretta's art teachers encouraged her to pursue art professionally, but she says she did not have the confidence. Instead, she went to SUNY Oswego to study social work, then traveled to Kentucky for graduate school and worked with community mental health services.

After her father’s passing, she returned home to work on the farm. To pay back her college loans, she started working at the community mental health center in Lowville. She says she was influenced by the range of situations, people and families she has worked with over the years.

She searches for uplifting themes and ways to honor people that are working hard and contributing to their community. The exhibit includes a lot of those paintings, plus more recent paintings and portraits of different people from the Tug Hill region and the Adirondacks.

The Farming and Folks of the Tug Hill and Adirondack Region exhibit is at the Old Forge Library through Friday, August 23. The library is open Tuesday-Friday, 11 am-8 pm,  Saturday, 11 am-3 pm.

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