An artist’s grant from the Community Foundation changed Glenda Blake’s life. That gift inspired Glenda and her husband to give back, establishing the Glenda Blake and Leo Cotnoir Fund in 2016, to support artists and community arts activities. Sadly, Glenda passed away in May of 2020, but her legacy will live on with her fund supported now by Leo.
A graduate of SUNY Oswego, Glenda was born in the North Country of New York but raised mostly in the Southern Tier. She worked for many years in graphic design and communications, including 14 years as director of publications at Broome Community College, now SUNY Broome. She and Leo met after he moved from Washington, D.C. for a job in the Binghamton area.
A later job transfer moved the couple to Manchester, N.H. There, Glenda continued her work in academic publications and rediscovered her studio art roots in oil painting. When Leo retired, they returned to Greater Binghamton, where Glenda established a studio focused on fine art and design.
In 2013, Glenda received a $750 grant from a Community Foundation program designed to help individual artists. “In the proposal, I had to outline my goals—how I was going to stretch myself professionally,” she says. “I said I wanted to paint larger and develop a consistent painting style, which I didn’t have yet. And I wanted to paint traditional dance figures situated in this area.”
Some of the grant money paid for a high-resolution digital camera, which Glenda used to take photos of local folk dance groups. She used those photographs, digitally juxtaposed on local scenes, as reference for her paintings. She also used the grant to buy large canvases and oil paints.
The resulting six-painting series, “Unlikely Dance,” started things clicking professionally for Glenda as an artist. “A couple of dancers whose groups I painted spread my work on Facebook to their dance colleagues, which helped me sell some prints,” she says.
The series also led to two commissions and formed a significant part of her successful application to become an exhibiting member of Cooperative Gallery 213 in Binghamton. One of the paintings, “Beethoven Oaks,” was recently selected for a juried exhibition at the Circle Gallery of the Maryland Federation of Arts in Annapolis.
Glenda and Leo endowed a fund to make grants in support of art projects that will further enliven the local arts scene. “I want to encourage somebody else the way I was encouraged in my second career,” Glenda said.
There’s a broader goal as well—to help nourish the soil for a thriving future in the Binghamton region. “Having a strong arts community creates the kind of energy that will bring people and keep people here,” Leo says.
The Glenda Blake and Leo Cotnoir Fund perfectly marries those interests.