Communities and Creatives working towards a better life.

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble cutting the ribbon at the Midtown Arts District opening celebration

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble cutting the ribbon at the Midtown Arts District opening celebration

It is so exciting to see the dream of a community come to life. It must be close to 10 years that I’ve been hearing about midtown Kingston, NY and people wanting to create an arts district. Publishing for 33 years has given me quite a prospective and I have seen these dreams fall apart and I’ve seen them succeed. It was a great pleasure to attend the Midtown Arts District’s (MAD) inaugural event last fall. The Spiegeltent was packed with residents, politicians and creative people: Musicians, artists, Manufacturers of art supplies, filmmakers, actors and writers.

There was quite a program that included music by Jay Unger & Molly Mason, David Temple, Peter Wetzler & Eleni Reyes, the Guild Hope Duo, Pauline Oliveros & Ione and others. Speakers included a welcome by Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, Linda Marston-Reid, Executive Director of Arts Mid-Hudson, Guy Kempe of Rupco, several business owners and then the Energy Dance Company, a group of young people that blew away the audience.

There are nearly 200 arts and crafts workrooms, manufacturing sites, showrooms, studios, live/ work lofts, galleries, video and recording facilities, performance spaces and nonprofit arts programs that are providing 300+ jobs and arts livelihoods in Midtown Kingston and the numbers keep rising. Learn more about MAD at madkingston.org

The re-use of old factories is creating live/ work space for Creatives. Over the past 20 years I’ve seen this in numerous cities and countries including: Singapore, Beijing, San Antonio, NYC, Germany, & Nashville. I visited Spandau Citadel in Berlin, Germany a former prison (most recently WW II and a horrendous place) but architecturally considered the best-preserved Renaissance fortification in northern Europe. There has been a fort on this site since the 11th century. When I last visited there were tenants that included potters, woodworkers, theater and dance troupes and schools.  What a way to transform such awful energy.
Nearly 20 years ago Judith Weber began  and paved the way for rezoning of work spaces to be work/ live. Media Loft is in New Rochelle, NY and remains a vibrant community of Creatives.

This is a movement that makes great sense, utilizing buildings, and making sure all zoning and safety no longer viable as factories or warehouses and transforming them to housing and workspaces. In Kingston RUPCO, the region’s leading provider of and advocate for quality, affordable housing and community development programs aimed to provide opportunity and revitalize communities has reused the Lace Mill for affordable housing and workspace and is in the process of developing several other projects in Kingston.

Made in Kingston is a project organized by the Business Alliance of Kingston, NY. Kingston’s Creators Artists and Arts Manufacturers held the 4th event with 52 different participants selling and showcasing the creative work they do in Kingston. There were 2 Jazz groups as well as food vendors. Keegan Ale provided Wine and Beer and monies from drinks are being donated to a Kingston Scholarship to be given to a graduating Kingston High School senior who plans to study art and/ or technology in college. This year it was held at the Ferrovia Studios on Railroad Avenue. This artist-owned and occupied former warehouse, bowling alley and coat factory will offer a select number of artists’ studios, exhibition space, a large ground floor space, and two storefronts. Each studio has high ceilings with ample natural light and most of the building’s electricity will be generated by solar power.

It was very well attended, vendors reported that they had good sales and as I wandered around it was great to see so many people supporting the event and having a good time.

In November 2015 we published an article by Lawrence McCullough (http://bit.ly/2gP5VEq) about designing a successful arts district and several communities wrote in appreciation. I hope some day we will also have a report from Kingston that can be a guide for other communities that are recognizing the value of reuse, and the economic return for supporting the creative community. And, as we were reminded in California, it is critical for safety inspections and proper permits to be in place.

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