Local Artist & Community Scholar
Loretta is an artist with deep roots in the rugged land of Tug Hill and a folkloristic approach to painting. Her warmth, curiosity, and enthusiasm mean she’s always seeking people with interesting stories and looking for ways to share these stories with others. Besides her interests in local agricultural and woodland heritage, she is especially knowledgeable about the Polish American culture of her own family and of others in the area. Through her painting and project partnerships–including work like her series on family farms and her portraits of long-established Tug Hill residents–she documents not only individual experiences but a way of life and a sense of regional identity. She also shares regional experience through art, nature, and culture-focused workshops for children and families. Loretta is deeply proud of the hardy lifestyle of her community, and she is generous in sharing her knowledge of it. She has contributed endless hours of volunteer time—and hard driving through the Tug Hill snow—to projects for TAUNY and other organizations that present local history and culture to the public.
This feature on Loretta Lepkowski is a segment of the Profiles of North Country Heritage video TAUNY produced in 2017 in celebration of the year’s award recipients.
Listen in to a few samples from when, during documentation for the award in 2017, Loretta sat down with TAUNY Director of Research and Programs Camilla Ammirati (over tea and a delicious meal Loretta had made, inspired by her Tug Hill heritage) to share stories of her experience from childhood through recent work on projects using her art to celebrate local life:
Loretta describes how she and her siblings would “make our own fun” as kids on their Tug Hill farm, from rolling down the hill in an oil barrel to jumping off the rafters into the hay, and more.
Loretta describes how Polish traditions, from rites of passage to ways of passing the time–including language, food, church events, weddings, music, and dance–were a big part of her family and community life growing up.
Loretta shares a story about how, though not as fluent as elders in her family and community, she was able to use one of her own remembered phrases in a pinch to help someone.
Loretta talks about her interest in working on paintings that tell stories, such as the ones she’s done of the hay mow her father built and her sister caring for her lambs.