When Mindy Yanish, owner of Offerings Gallery in Katonah, announced in June that she was closing the store’s brick-and-mortar incarnation after some 30 years in business, she hinted that she was working on a new idea that would open up “the possibility of reinvigorating, not just the businesses, but the energy, the vitality and the heart of the town.”

That idea has now manifested itself in her creation of the Katonah-Bedford Hills-Bedford Village Arts League, or KBBAL as it is called on its website, kbbal.org. And though her focus had always been on Katonah hamlet, she was clearly thinking bigger. Now her vision has grown to encompass the entire town of Bedford.

Indeed, Ms. Yanish is thinking much bigger. She said by spearheading the organization’s first project, the Bedford Fall Arts Festival, “we are creating a hope-filled chapter in the evolution of our nation.”

Ms. Yanish stated KBBAL’s mission is “to provide equal opportunity for artists of every discipline in the three Bedford hamlets to create, exhibit, perform, teach and collaborate for the benefit and enhancement of our town.” And, she said, KBBAL will work with the local government and private individuals to develop and make available the unused and underused properties in town to provide affordable or free workspace, exhibition, performance and teaching space for artists in the creation of their work. “This benefits the residents and the businesses by providing much needed creative support for every hamlet,” she said.

The goal of KBBAL, said Ms. Yanish, is to serve as an umbrella for all the arts, with a commitment to all creative endeavors. “Serving every creative person in our midst will make our town a destination for the arts, which is essential to our future,” she said. 

One way of fulfilling that goal is to create community enhancement projects, such as public art that embraces diversity and allows for greater community involvement. “Nothing is more uplifting to a community than inspiring, enduring beautification projects,” Ms. Yanish said. “We understand a vibrant and supported arts community has always been the most powerful way to reinvigorate businesses, connect people and give greater meaning to our lives.” She said opportunities will be made available to artists of every expression to support their creative endeavors.  

Ms. Yanish was the creative force behind the Katonah Art Stroll, a monthly event of art and music, and she has been looking for ways to continue and evolve that concept. Plans for the Bedford Fall Arts Festival are still in the works, but the programming will be in keeping with the philosophy of KBBAL. 

“We are committed to dismantling racism and injustice through the arts,” said Ms. Yanish. “Art is the soul of humanity and humanity is the soul of art. Creativity is our hope and we welcome everyone, for the renewal of our communities and humanity itself.”

In addition to Ms. Yanish, other founders of KBBAL include Trent Dawson, an actor, playwright and director who founded Katonah Classic StageLaura Malfa, a steering committee member who is the owner of One Heart Healing in Katonah; Carolyn Nielsen, artistic director of Pied Piper Youth Theater and co-founder of Open Arms Theater, who has spent most of her life in South Salem and Bedford; Deirdre Breen, a Katonah native focused on the art of consciousness; and Michele Miller, a writer and fundraising consultant who is co-founder of Open Arms Theatre.

“Visionaries are stepping forward now,” Ms. Yanish said, including “healers, artists, poets, musicians, philosophers, dreamers.” She concluded, “Our efforts to envision a community, a world, for our children must be born from our hope of equity and harmony. No matter how much any of us has, no one is free and safe until we all are.”

Jeff Morris is a staff reporter at The Record-Review where he covers the Town of Bedford and the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. Prior to joining the paper he was a reporter and columnist for the Lewisboro Ledger and a business magazine editor.

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