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Step into the Closet: an African-American experience in the segregated Adirondacks

July 17, 2018, Blue Mountain Lake, NY

Adirondack Experience, the Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, is pleased to announce a new acquisition on view in its Life in the Adirondacks exhibition: a cramped, dilapidated shack, known as “The Closet”, that for two summers was home to a young, talented African-American tenor, Fulton Fryar. Through the combined efforts of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, the Seagle Music Colony, and Adirondack Experience, this historic artifact was saved from demolition and will enlighten thousands of museum visitors on the history of racial discrimination in the Adirondack Park.

A student at the Seagle Music Colony in Schroon Lake in the summers of 1957 and 1958, Mr. Fryar was invited by the colony’s founder John Seagle to travel to the Adirondacks from North Carolina to train and perform with Seagle’s accomplished teachers and his fellow students. He was the first African-American to attend the prestigious camp. While Fryar’s admission to the all-white camp was a progressive move toward integration, it was not an uncomplicated one. Rather than house him in the comfort and comradery of camper bunkhouses, Fryar was given his own accommodations ­ a one-room shack off the laundry building that he dubbed “The Closet”. Having worked as a sign painter back home, Fryar put his artistic skills to work, dressing up his dark quarters with bright colors. “Always welcome to `The Closet’, the home of Fulton Fryar,” was emblazoned cheerfully on the front door, and inspirational quotes adorned the walls. Despite his social isolation, Fryar made the most of his time at the music colony, participating in theatrical productions and decorating stage sets while also learning how to train his voice and hone his talent.

His story was recently captured by Mountain Lake PBS  and Fryar will himself appear at Adirondack Experience on the evening of Monday, August 6th, for a panel discussion of racism and the Black experience in the Adirondack Park (https://www.theadkx.org/exhibitionsevents/lectures/african-american-experience-adirondacks/).