Tonight we’re catching up with Rodney Allen Bentley! You’re sure to have seen his artwork all around town, and we’re excited to share our chat with him, including a bit of his history and the catalyst for his amazing artistic journey. Read it all below!
Tell us about yourself!
A native of Glens Falls, I experienced a very successful corporate career for nearly 18 years. I had continual promotions culminating in 5 relocations to 5 major cities. I lost that long career and my last home during the Great Recession. During that turmoil, I suffered a fall at my residence, and Emergency Medical Technicians rushed me to a major hospital Neurological Trauma Unit to stabilize multiple bleeds from a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). I later awoke in the Intensive Care Unit and learned that the severe TBI was the catalyst which called for CAT scans that uncovered previously undiagnosed severe spinal cervical degeneration, which required emergency surgery. I returned to Glens Falls to recover in 2012 and without much idea of what the future would hold.
Fast forward to the present time, I have become an emerging and successful visual artist and my gallery openings are making a mark. My work is admired by business owners, city leaders, hundreds of home owners in the region as well as children. My architectural artistic renditions were recently gifted to Saga, Japan by the Glens Falls Mayor Delegation visit to the city in 2018.
I now reside at a magnificent property known as the Historical McEchron House, built in 1891. It is better known as the 5 star Morgan and Company Restaurant. The property has a stunning canopied wrap around porch, exterior bar, dual stone dining patios, brilliant landscaping, evening lighting and the wonderful summer sounds of a New Orleans Jazz Ensemble.
I also now serve on two separate of Board of Directors. Southern Adirondack Independent Festival and Steps for Stroke. Both not for profit agencies have different resources to provide and fill needs to those attempting to live independently. I happily provide many donations of my work for regional fundraising events in the area, including the Festival of Trees at the Queensbury Hotel.
ON LIFE IN GLENS FALLS
It was a Sunday in mid February when I was introduced to a new world at Glens Falls Hospital. I was a first child for my Mother. Her great faith and fortitude would allow my 5 younger siblings and I to be reared within the Adirondacks in the quaint town of Thurman NY. Winters seemed serene, silent, snowy and included lots of sledding and skating. Summer meant swimming on the shores of the Hudson River, exploring the forests, fishing and berry picking. Looking back, the living space with a family of eight was limited so we all contributed to daily chores.
As I graduated SUNY Adirondack, JCPENNEY recruited me and I was provided a successful 18 year career. I liked experiencing new places, new cities, new friends and new homes long the way. Different cultures, ethnicities, cuisine and led to a bigger world calling me. Relocations allowed new homes in cities like Rochester, NYC, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I still follow the Steelers and the Penguins!
Returning to Glens Falls from Philadelphia occurred through the support of my lovely former fiancé Janet, my Mother and my siblings. My compassionate sister Michelle opened her home for me in South Glens Falls. Reading comprehension, speech therapy and aphasia were a few of the obstacles I faced related to the brain injury. A new life was about to begin and evolve in a way much greater than imagined, although I still experienced the darkness of upcoming corridors before the light. Local Neuropsychologist, Dr. Broege provided extensive and lengthy neurocognitive tests evaluating my abilities. I was very hurt, sad and even more confused to learn that I no longer could successfully navigate previous management job responsibilities. I had not yet understood that the creative portion of my brain, after the fall, was unlocked and was raring to go!
One of those dark corridors took me to a place where the spirit began to become present. I was in a controlled environment undergoing treatment and I was approached by a very big man in his forties. He sat down next me and lowered his head and folded his arms. He was asking if I could draw something for him, a birthday card for his 5 year old grandson. I thought to shrug off the request as it made no sense to me. However, I agreed to make an attempt as I took notice of his emotions and feeling the sincerity of his voice. Paper and pencil were found for use. I sat a few moments looking at empty white space as the pencil began to effortlessly move itself. Not only had I created a wonderful birthday card which a five year old would be proud to have, but I had a nearby audience observing my work with wonder without me being aware. It was then that I knew my most effective way to speak to my new world would be through my hands. Although a long road, I was on my way.
Regardless of the weather, I would begin my early morning trek from South Glens Falls to coffee shops in Glens Falls. Spot Coffee became my home. I would begin creating artwork as the door opened at 7am and many times not leave until 10pm. If I was hungry, I would take advantage of the $1 day old muffins at the shop and I would even trade volunteer time for lunch at the local Soup Kitchen on Lawrence Street.
Spot is where, journey partner, Dr. Karen McShane discovered my passion. Dr. McShane, a volunteer at the Wood Theater and an enormous fan of the arts. Her support of arts goes beyond visual arts. She supports musicals, opera, symphony, film or stage. Her interest in an unknown artist who created artwork at Spot Coffee every day, hour by hour, seven days a week and year after year intrigued her. More local business owners began encouraging my creative process and even publications took interest such as the wonderful Chronicle and Post Star took notice. It would not be long until my work would become artwork hung within local businesses including Davidson Brothers Restaurant and Brewery, The Queensbury Hotel, Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council, Adirondack Trust Co., Glen Street Associates, City Hall, Spot Coffee, Wood Theater, Samantha’s Cafe, Lake George Olive Oil Co., and more.
A Perfect Glens Falls Day
I feel connected to water and I crave biking and find morning trips along the Feeder Canal to Haviland Cove, the canal locks and turbines in Hudson Falls and of course the Warren County Bike Trail to Lake George all inspirational.
I am finding the more that I exercise in moderation, it provides more clarity in my mind and expands my creative process. City Park is beautiful and I truly appreciate the evening summer events. Seeing the morning Tai Chi class on the lush green lawn calms the mind. Evening sunsets are unique and I relish each one. Stepping away from my studio and drafting table lets me connect with the energetic evening soul of Glens Falls. Meeting new and old clients and friends, catching up with local business owners and servers or just feeling the vibrant social atmosphere including Downtown Social, Fenimore’s Pub and Davidson’s Brothers Brewery, just to name a few.
On the Past
Fond childhood memories include South Street and the taste of New Way Lunch “Dirt Dogs”. Gurney Lane Community Pool and occasionally an evening at the Glen Drive-In on Route 9. Saturdays during summer I would receive five dollars to clean the Catholic Church or rake the lawn in Warrensburg. The five dollars I received were given to my mother to support upcoming school clothing shopping. My first official job came about when I was sixteen years old with the Thurman Highway Department. I mowed grass and “threw” rocks from the many dirt roads in Thurman. I later would make money before graduating high school at Sitting Bull Ranch Resort and 1000 Acres as a dishwasher, prep cook, waiter and a recreational director.
On the Future
I have had many requests by local friends to write a memoir (which I have started). I have been approached by a few screenwriters that find my experiences worthwhile and intriguing. I’ve been told to not be overly concerned about writing everyday as each day’s experiences become a new chapter for me to write.
I look forward to bringing an easel and creating new works once the new Farmer’s Market on South Street comes to fruition.
By the way…
For those interested in my work, it can be found here.
Personalized Holiday gift art requests are already pouring in. Whether charcoal holiday theme home renditions, pet portraits, children portraits, family portraits, boats or whatever can be personalized thru an original piece of art and a wonderful gift.
My recent “Adirondack Winterludes” gallery exhibition at Tannery Pond in North Creek was such a huge success that I have had requests to bring the exhibition to the Glens Falls Region. I am very happy to announce that Paula Traina from State Farm is welcoming “Rodney Allen Bentley’s newest Winter Collection” for an opening evening on Friday November 15th, 5pm to 8 pm at 736 Upper Glen Street, Suite 200A, Queensbury NY.
P.S. Check out more of our My Glens Falls series here.