New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network


Taking Preservation to the Next Level in Your Community! What will Preservation Look Like in 2020? Are You Ready?

Wednesday March 15, 2017 
at Colgate University, Hamilton, NY 13346 
by New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network (NYCHTN)

Click to Register Now For Conference!


The Sustainability Conference is focused on providing relevant information to participants that will allow them a better understanding of how to work outside the prescribed silos of their organizations:


...Taking Preservation to the Next Level in Your Community!
What will Preservation Look Like in 2020? Are You Ready?
(presenters include Land Mark Society of Western NY)

  • Becoming active participants in their communities and regional economic development using applicable statistics.
  • Using best practices to leverage their organization’s assets for continued relevance and sustainability.
  • Working collaboratively with public and private entities to encourage local and regional partnerships in their perspective fields.

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    New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network Presents its 7th Annual State Conference


    Wednesday March 15, 2017

    Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

    New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network (NYCHTN or Network) History & Membership:   The NYCHTN began in 2009 with a small group of individuals seeing the need for communication and education among cultural and heritage professionals. From 10 we have now grown to a membership of 250 with a mailing list of over 2500 individuals and organizations. Membership of the Network includes cultural and heritage tourism professionals, public officials, museums and for profit and not for profit organizations from across the State.  While an incorporated organization with NYS the NYCHTN has an IRS status of 501(c) 6.

    The Conference on March 15th serves as one of two organizational conferences that the Network is currently facilitating, the other being the NYS Women’s Suffrage Conference. 

    Conference goal is to encourage participants to walk away with a better understanding of how to work outside the prescribed silos of their organizations and become active participants in their community’s and regional economic development. Speakers and panelists will focus on best practices, current opportunities available in NYS that can be leveraged for success in their communities, and how not for profits’ and individuals’ participation in economic development has changed in recent years and has become an intricate part of their organizations’ sustainability.


    Conference will be an all-day conference at Colgate University.  

    Registration fee is $55.00 for members and $60.00 for nonmembers. 

    Registrations after March 1, 2017 will be $60.00 for members and $65.00 nonmembers.

    Limited space available for attendees

    Click to Register Now For Conference!

    Conference Schedule:

    8:00- 9:00 ......... Registration and coffee

    9:00 .......... Welcoming Comments

    9:15 -10:15 ........ Key Note Presentation

    10:15- 11:15 ......Panel 1: Preservation and how to leverage it for organizational and community success.  

    Panel Members: Landmark Society of Western NY -  Larry Francer, Caitlin Meives, Dana Saylor & Kjirsten Gustavson from New York State Parks

    11:15-11:30 ...... Break

    11:35 – 12:35 ...... Panel 2: Public Private Partnerships why they work and how your organization can make them work.

    Panel Members:  Auburn Historic District and Cultural Sites Commission Eileen McHugh, Executive Director of the Cayuga Museum and Chair of the Commission. Jim Giannettino, Auburn City Council Member. Christine Ridarksy, City of Rochester Historian, 2-3 members yet to be determined

    12:35-1:35 Lunch ........ Performance Eire Canal Sal

    1:35-2:30 .......... Panel 3: Economic Impact of Cultural Heritage Tourism.  Why is this important to your organization?

    Panel: Emily Zaengle, ED Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, Hector Corrales, Program Officer for Community Investment with the Central NY Community Foundation, Benjamin Bragdon, Board Member with CNY Arts and Data Scientist with Aspen Dental Management, Geoffrey Navias, Committee member with Cazenovia Arts and Heritage Alliance Ron Wright, Professor of Business Analytics with Le Moyne College

    2:35-3:30 ......... Panel 4: Education. Where do we begin and how to make it work?

    Panel: No names given here is Matt’s statement: “Panel two will feature my partnership with the Madison County Clerk’s office and Madison/Oneida BOCES, and hopefully some combination of the Fort Niagara group and how the Broome County Historian, City of Binghamton Historian, Broome County Historical Society and Broome County Library partnered and created the Broom County Local History Room, a repository for researchers”  

    3:35 -4:00 ........ Conference Wrap Up: Collaboration for Sustainability in our Communities - Spike Herzig



    The year 2017 is the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal.  The lifestyle along the Erie Canal, past and present, serves as a great example of how diversity helped to create and continues to create a path through our States history.  It continues to connect the fabric of our communities where we live and work.  Erie Canal Sal performed by Gretchen Murray Sepik will certainly capture the imagination and passion of our Canal’s and State’s rich history. Ms. Sepik’s performance organically spurs conversation of how we can use our past and present to create the tools needed to reach into our communities’ and allow reflection on our values and creative development ideas. 

    Gretchen Murray Sepik’s storytelling career began in Mercer, PA, where her mill-worker father, told her colorful stories about the Pennsylvania coal-mines and railroads; her mother encouraged her to dress up and perform nursery rhymes. Sepik’s professional storytelling career dates from a visit to Albion Elementary School. Though shy, she was able to communicate as “Naomi Brown from the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Storytelling allows her to share history and performance with people across New York State and Pennsylvania in schools, museums, theaters, libraries and private homes.

    Ms. Sepik creates a fictitious character based, in part, on Old Black Nel, a cook on the Erie Canal. Sal talks of life on the canal and tells Irish folk tales from the Erie Canal. The audience participates as passengers on a packet boat in the year 1840. One audience member becomes the captain, another, the hoggee. An attendee is helping to cook, another is looking for a husband. The audience laughs as they learn about the construction of Clinton’s Ditch.


    If your organization is interested in taking advantage of being a conference sponsor please contact  Spike Herzig at or Roxanne Kise at kise consulting.roxanne for more information. See Sponsorship Options

    Gretchen Murray Sepik
    ...theatrical characterization of Sal McMurray

    The New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network will be hosting actress, storyteller, playwright, author and illustrator, Gretchen Murray Sepik, on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 11:45 a.m. when she will be presenting, "Erie Canal Sal". The program is a theatrical characterization of Sal McMurray, an Irish cook working on a packet boat traveling the Erie Canal in the year 1840. The program combines Irish folk tales and facts about the canal that are a very broad sense. You'll laugh while you learn about one of the engineering wonders of the world. The presentation will take place at Colgate University and will be followed by a book-signing of Gretchen’s book ‘Erie Canal Sal’.

    Gretchen was born in Mercer, Pennsylvania and was raised in the country where she and her brother, Greg, would spend hours playing in the woods and fields that surrounded their home. "I guess I'm the result of my father's storytelling and my mother's boundless imagination," says Gretchen. Her father, Michael, worked in a mill and could tell the best stories about the Pennsylvania coal mines, railroads and horses. Her mother, Jinny, was a singer and encouraged her to sing songs, learn nursery rhymes and she always had a box of old clothes for Gretchen to dress up in. "My mother was the greatest influence in my life and was responsible for guiding me toward my life's work. She was my best friend. Before I was old enough to go to school my mother would ask me each morning who I wanted to be for the day. I could be anybody." Gretchen jokingly says that she never knew her real name until she started the first grade. "I've always loved to play 'dress up' and by doing theatrical characterizations I can play 'dress up' for the rest of my life."

    Gretchen says her husband, photographer and designer, Walter A. Jakubowski, is her source of strength as he has supported her in all of her crazy ideas; some successful and some not. He also suggests programs, which she should develop, including "Mary Jemison" and "Susan B. Anthony". "Walt is always saying things that make me laugh. I tell him I'm going to write a book entitled, "The World According to Walt", or "How to Achieve a Waltered State of Consciousness". He's my reservoir of ideas for material and programs."

    Ms. Sepik majored in modern dance at Point Park College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she also studied acting and writing. She has performed with the Paddy Toon Modern Ensemble in Pittsburgh, with the Rochester Philharmonic's "Phil Revue" with mime troupe, Flash in the Pan. Gretchen studied with the Bottom of the Bucket, but, currently Garth Fagan Dance, and worked with them as a rookie. "My storytelling started when a teacher's aide asked me to come into her school and do storytelling. I was too shy to tell stories as myself so I developed Naomi Brown from the Blue Ridge Mountains to tell the stories of Brer Rabbit for me. Storytelling helped me overcome my shyness."

    Gretchen does her form of storytelling across New York State and into Pennsylvania and was the cofounder and director of the Flight of Fancy Experimental Theatre (F.O.F.) and was a performance/teaching artist working with Young Audiences of Rochester for twenty-four years and is currently a performance/teaching artist with Young Audiences of Western New York which is based in Buffalo. She presents 100 to 200 programs a year. In 2004, she was honored by Young Audiences of Western New York for her work with students and her commitment to learning through the arts. The Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council awarded Gretchen a grant in 2009 to adapt her script of, “Erie Canal Sal”, into a children’s book, which she also illustrated.

    Ms. Sepik lives in Albion, New York with her husband, Walter, golden retriever/husky, Buddy, labradoodle, Rigley, and three cats, Jinn Chin Lee, Tig, and Willy. They live in an 1830's cobblestone house one quarter mile north of the canal which was marked on the old maps as ‘Captain Hill’s Farm’. The house is full of antiques and curbside finds and is surrounded by flower, herb and organic vegetable gardens. " I have a great love and respect for nature and I hope that through some of my storytelling I might be able to awaken that love in others."

    Along with Naomi Brown and Sal McMurray, Gretchen also portrays Mary Jemison, a white woman who, as a young girl, was captured by the Shawnee Indians and given to the Seneca Indians. She lived the rest of her life among the Senecas and when offered her freedom chose to remain with her Seneca family and friends whom she loved. Mary is buried at Letchworth State Park which is situated on land she once owned and a statue erected in her honor is located at the council grounds. Gretchen does a characterization of nineteenth-century women's rights leader, Susan B. Anthony, who not only speaks of life in the eighteen hundreds, but also comments on current issues. She also portrays much-loved children's author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, who narrates "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and "The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse" incorporating the audience into the story.

    "I think storytelling is one of the most wonderfully creative art forms because it allows each person to be who they are and use what talents they have to tell a story. If a person can sing, let them sing, if a person can dance, let them dance, if a person can juggle, let them juggle; as each storyteller weaves a story, their own unique individuality adds to the tapestry of the tale they tell. When performing in schools my goal is to awaken children to the joy of learning, the joy of life and the joy of who they are.” As one child so aptly put it, “someone finally got me to like history.”

    Gretchen's new project is 'Mother Nature' who will be dispelling the myths and misconceptions that have plagued humanity for centuries. This program will be done in a stand-up comedic style for adult audiences.

    Click to Register Now For Conference!

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