HOMETOWN: Jay, NY
FAMILY: Two adult daughters and a grandson who is almost five years old
EDUCATION: B.A. Fine Arts with a concentration in Studio Pottery, SUNY Potsdam
OCCUPATION: Sole Proprietor, Young’s Studio and Gallery
CURRENT COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: ADK for Kids (Art and Discovery Kits)
The arts community in Plattsburgh is alive, well, and actively contributing to the beauty of the city, the town and the region. It is hard to take a walk downtown these days without passing by a large outdoor wall mural that has transformed an otherwise mundane cityscape into a beautiful expression of creativity. Our Insight focus this month is Sue Burdick Young, who is one of a number of local artists fueling the creative force behind the bubbling arts scene in the greater Plattsburgh area.
A potter by trade, Burdick Young continues to defy the odds by earning a successful living as an artist in the Adirondacks for more than 30 years. She started on her path by pursuing a degree in Fine Arts, graduating in 1981 in the middle of an economic recession. In spite of bleak statistics predicting that one in five businesses would not survive that turbulent economic downturn, she persisted. “When I graduated, I made it my goal to be a full-time potter
within a year, and I did it,” she recalled.
Young’s Studio and Gallery opened in 1983. The business has expanded over the years, and today is much more than a showroom. “What we are providing here is a kind of cultural experience,” Burdick Young explained, “In the past we have had chickens roaming the grounds. I have a nice garden in the front and the studio gallery looks inviting. People return to the gallery because it has become a destination.”
In addition to running the studio business, Burdick Young has joined forces with other local artists on many creative projects over the years. She sat down with Strictly Business recently to recount her journey and share some insights behind her success.
SB: What important lessons did you learn early in your career?
SY: I had very good role models in my parents. They taught me to treat people fairly and cultivate connections.
SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career?
SY: Keep yourself open to opportunities. My involvement with murals started when I was approached to work on a mural for the Peru Central School District. That project led to all the other murals because I was open to those opportunities.
SB: What does success look like to you?
SY: Art as a business has its challenges. It is not an essential product, so being able to make a living doing this here in the Adirondacks is success. Our business is very seasonal. A big part of our income comes during the summer months. Business is usually good through the holidays but then there is a period from March through May where it is quiet. Being successful means good planning and management for the down times and making sure
that you can still pay your bills.
SB: What habits do you have that contribute to your success?
SY: I am good at listening to my customers. I have a lot of repeat clients, some of whom I have built great relationships with over the years. The kind of business I am in makes for a fine line between life and business. Work and play sometimes becomes the same.
SB: If you could start your professional career over again, what would you do differently?
SY: I probably would have taken a bookkeeping class or two. Arts education does not prepare you for the business and financial side of things. It would have been nice to have learned financial planning and accounting earlier.
SB: What are you most proud of professionally?
SY: The first thing that comes to my mind is the murals I have worked on. It is not so much pride that I feel as it is gratitude. Those were real opportunities for me.
SOME OF SUE YOUNG’S
MURAL WORK CAN BE FOUND IN
CLINTON COUNTY HISTORY
THROUGH THE EYES OF ITS
CLINTON COUNTY GOVERNMENT
CENTER, COURT STREET
MOUNTAIN LAKE MANDALA
ON CITY HALL PLACE
READ AND GROW;
DREAM GARDEN MURAL
PLATTSBURGH PUBLIC LIBRARY,
SB: What do you do in your free time?
SY: I meditate, do yoga, and take care of what is left of the vessel that is my body. I like to learn new things. I recently took a class in Japanese textile techniques, and then a 3-D printing workshop. I am involved in a knitting club, and I like developing projects for kids,
especially now that they are at home more.
SB: How has the pandemic made things more challenging for your work and personal life?
SY: My business is so customer connected that it is hard to work with someone when you are both wearing a mask. It made me realize how important reading a person’s face is to your communication. It was a very difficult adjustment.
SB: Is there anything good that came from the changes you made for the ‘new normal’ that you will continue doing into the future?
SY: The pandemic has caused us to look at what is really important, and let go of what isn’t. The petty things don’t matter when you have to circle the wagons to take care of your family. That is true for both business and personal life. It also made me want to find a way to personally help the community given my skill set. When COVID hit, I felt useless and that led me to think about what I could do to give back. I am great at ordering art supplies so I started a program called ADK for Kids.
SB: How did ADK for Kids help you fulfill
your need to give back?
SY: I recently enrolled my grandson in an art supply subscription kit for kids and he loved it. When I saw that the kids in my community were not going to school, I realized that they were also not seeing their science or art teachers. I thought it would be nice to offer them some direction and a box of art supplies
over the summer. With a lot of support, I started this non-profit organization and
worked to get it funded by donations and grants. As a result, we were able to send out
200 pizza box sized art kits to school children in AuSable Forks and Boquet Valley this past summer.
SB: How would you like to be
SY: I would like to be remembered as a fair person who is skilled and creative.
Young’s Studio & Gallery
6588 NY Route 86
Jay, New York 12941