Playful artwork brings Little York family notoriety

Binghamton museum exhibits works by Ferro family as other groups commission pieces


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Tino Ferro, right, and his assistant Andy Grossi, left, carry a piece of artwork Ferro made for the Binghamton Discovery Center. The piece is a working windmill. Ferro and others in his family own Frog Pond Farm Folk Art Gallery on Route 281 in Little York.

Staff Reporter

LITTLE YORK — A family of artists in Little York is not lacking for work.
The Ferro family — made up of Constantino, 66, Carole, and their children Tony, 41, and Selinda, 40 — have been invited to display 50 of their works at a Binghamton museum, and commissioned to create sculptures for two organizations, as others discover their talent.
The Ferros own the Frog Pond Farm Folk Art Gallery at 5969 Route 281 in Little York. Many know the gallery as the place with those cool metal animal sculptures out front.
While many Cortland County residents have known about the Ferros for a long time — Constantino and Carole have been selling their sculptures, drawings and paintings for 44 years — some outsiders are just getting to know them.
Peter Klosky, director of exhibitions for the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton, said his museum found out about the Ferros after the curator, Catherine Schwoeffermann — who has since left the museum — noticed the sculptures while driving along Route 281.
She was so impressed she told her co-workers, he said. Klosky said he was equally impressed with their work, much of which is made from recycled materials.
“The notion of art being made from junk,” he said. “It’s good from the standpoint of art but also fascinating because it is sort of ecologically sound.”
About 90 percent of the family’s art is made of recycled materials; those materials range from iron to wood. The art has been described as colorful, imaginative and folksy.
The museum ended up inviting the Ferros to display their art. The Ferros accepted, and their exhibit opened Friday and will last until June.
The exhibit showcases about 50 of their works, which range from large animal pieces to human figure pieces, said Carole Ferro.
This is the family’s first exhibit, Tony Ferro said.
The Ferros were also recently commissioned to do a number of sculptures.
Binghamton’s Junior League, for example, asked the Ferros to make benches, a 12-foot-high-by-12-foot-wide tree, a railroad pump car, among other objects, for a storybook garden at the city’s Discovery Center, said Martha Steed, the center’s marketing director.
Steed said so far the Ferros have finished a couple of benches, and she’s already impressed.
“They’re very whimsical,” she said. “One is like a sunburst … they’re just really lovely benches. At first when we got them we said, ‘We’re going to chain these down, they’re going to disappear.’”
Like Schwoeffermann, Nancy Hargrave — one of the Junior League’s leaders —discovered the family by driving by their front-yard sculptures, Carole Ferro said.
“They can’t miss us,” she said.
That’s also how Peter Irwin, of the Jowonio School — a nonprofit school for children with disabilities — in Syracuse discovered the Ferro family’s art.
The sighting prompted Irwin to commission the family to do various metal and wood sculptures and seating for the school.
The works will be placed in the school’s hallways and playground; parents can pay to have their child’s name placed on one of the works.
The money raised will go into a scholarship fund, said Peter Irwin, director of development for the school.
Irwin said the Ferros were hired largely because their work appeals to children. A frog fountain the school recently purchased is one such example, he said.
“They were very excited when they saw it and the fact that it does pump water is an added feature for them,” he said. “The fountain comes out of the frog’s mouth and goes into the basin he’s standing on.”
Ferro said the family has likely succeeded by producing a good mix of things they know will sell and things for the sake of art.
The family has been guided by the legacy of Tino Ferro’s father and grandfather, who were blacksmiths.
“We’ve been lucky,” Tino Ferro said. “It’s kind of a selfish endeavor.”



Former bookkeeper pleads guilty to stealing from church

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A Marathon woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing nearly $100,000 from a city church where she worked as a bookkeeper.
Photina M. Gibbs, 34, of 3782 Route 11, Marathon, pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny, a felony, in Cortland County Court after she admitted to embezzling $90,088 from the United Presbyterian Church at 25 Church St.
She was employed as a bookkeeper from 2000 until early August.
Gibbs would serve four months in jail and five years probation as well as make full restitution under a plea offer written by Assistant District Attorney Erin Pemberton.
The offer hinges on Gibbs’ ability to come up with 10 percent of the restitution before her Dec. 19 sentencing in front of County Court Judge William F. Ames.
“If she has demonstrated little or no effort to repay at least close to the 10 percent of what she stole from her fellow church members, the people will ask for state prison time,” Pemberton wrote.
Gibbs could serve up to 15 years in prison for the class C Felony she pleaded guilty to.
Michael Cardinale, Gibbs’ attorney, could not be reached for comment this morning.
Pemberton also said in court documents that several members of the church community have written her letters, expressing concern over the case.
“This defendant has caused much more injury than the money stolen. Our office continues to receive letters from church members who express anger, a sense of betrayal, hurt feelings, shock and so on,” she wrote. “Some want her to go to prison for a long time, others are more concerned with her children and want her to pay back the money with weekends only in jail.”
Gibbs confessed to the crimes to State Police on Aug. 8, saying she forged the signatures of church officials to checks and cashed them in her own name.
“I probably only make about $19,000 a year and it just didn’t seem to be enough. After I would cash these checks, I would go shopping and feel better. I think I just like to shop and spend money,” Gibbs wrote in the statement to police.
The Rev. James E. Hicks declined to comment on the case.
Gibbs began stealing the money in 2001 and Pemberton believes that some of it may have gone to pay for her upcoming wedding at the Holiday Inn in Cortland.
The plea offer suggests that Gibbs attempt to recover any funds paid to the hotel in order to begin to pay her restitution.



Five teens released from hospitals after Dryden crash

Staff Reporter

McLEAN — Five teens involved in a one-car crash on Sunday have all been released from area hospitals, officials said.
Truxton residents Derek Manwarren, 15, and Chandra Manwarren, 17, were both flown to hospitals after a 1999 Dodge Stratus they were riding in struck a utility pole on North Road in the town of Dryden at 2:40 p.m. Sunday.
State Police said the vehicle was traveling south and veered off the west shoulder of the road for an unknown reason.
Derek Manwarren was flown to University Hospital in Syracuse with a back injury, police said.
A hospital official said this morning that Manwarren was released Monday. Chandra Manwarren was flown to Wilson Memorial Hospital in Binghamton and has since been released.
Hospital officials would not say when she was discharged.
Police said Jeremy O’Brien, 19, of Homer, was driving the car. He and one other passenger, Joshua Hooper, 14, of Homer, were taken to Cortland Regional Memorial Hospital by ambulance and released the same day.
Cory Noble, of McLean, was also a passenger in the car and was treated and released the day of the crash at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca.
Police said this morning that they are still investigating the crash but would not comment further.





C’ville oil change business proposed

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The owner of CNY Power Sports has proposed building an oil-change business and erecting a new sign for the Route 11 business.
The town Planning Board reviewed the two proposals Tuesday night. The meeting had been pushed ahead a week to avoid conflicting with Halloween.
A proposed 36-by-60-foot oil change business, to be located adjacent to Route 11 and the CNY Power Sports driveway, was granted a conditional permit pending the submittal and approval of a stormwater management plan for the project.
The town’s zoning ordinances require a conditional permit for this type of business.
Town Code and Zoning Officer Bruce Weber said he was concerned about the drainage path of water coming off the single parcel that holds CNY Power Sports and two buildings that are leased by CNY Power Sports owner David Law to Empire Tractor.
The water drains into a body of water on Suit-Kote’s adjacent property that was created by the paving company’s mining operation. Weber was concerned that if the oil change business was constructed, it could potentially increase flooding downstream.
“You’re using someone else’s property for your stormwater management,” Weber told Law. “There’s nothing that allows for that.”
Based on a letter from the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District Water Quality Specialist Pat Reidy, Weber said Reidy, acting as a consultant for the town, had determined the project did not require a stormwater management plan.
Law said that discussions between Reidy, county Planning Department Director Dan Dineen, and Law’s engineer, Chuck Feiszli, had convinced the men there was no need for retention ponds to slow the movement of the water before it ran onto Suit Kote’s property.
However, Weber contended more than 30 percent of the parcel consists of impermeable surfaces, which means a stormwater management plan is required. He speculated that perhaps Reidy, Dineen, and Feiszli were unaware that the project footprint was part of the larger parcel of land.
“Anything you start to do on this lot now, in terms of paving or building a structure, you have to have a stormwater management plan,” Weber said. “Either I’m confused, or they’re confused.”
In the original plans, Law said, there was the possibility of separating the oil-change station site from the rest of the property, but that has been abandoned. Perhaps that accounts for the confusion, he speculated. Following conversations with Reidy and Feiszli today, Weber said that Law will be asked to submit a stormwater management plan.
The Town Board will decide whether to issue an aquifer protection permit for the project site, which is located in the primary aquifer area, Weber said. When asked to compare this project with a Tire and Lube Express that had been removed from the plans for the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13 in Cortlandville, Weber said there was a difference, but the Town Board may still have some concerns.
“The Wal-Mart is within the wellhead protection area — this is not.”