Exploring the Arts in Newburgh, NY

A few months ago I met Keith Nieto at a party. As is my nature we began to speak about the different things we enjoy and how we spend our time. Keith is passionate about classic films. I asked if he would consider writing for us about film and he readily agreed. Our Film writer Henry P. Raleigh has retired after 30+ years contributing his tongue-in-cheek comments about film. Keith lives in Newburgh, NY and has become quite involved with the arts community. When he invited me to come to Newburgh and explore I quickly accepted. Over the past 34 years, publishing ART TIMES and now as a digital publisher, I have been to Newburgh numerous times. We sent papers to a variety of locations for distribution; Raymond had a solo show at the Karpeles Museum; I visited and wrote about several exhibits and other happenings in town.

Newburgh is one of the oldest towns in NYS, organized in March, 1788. There were woolen mills and grist mills among others, as well as a black powder manufacturing complex. The many grist mills sprang up to serve the farmers who brought their grain to be processed.

gomez mill house

Gomez Mill House

The Gomez Mill House, located on Mill House Road off of 9W near the Ulster County border, is the only remaining paper mill in the Town with its mill still intact. Today, there are exhibits about the history of early pioneer Sephardic Jews in America. The mission is to preserve the historic Mill House and to make the public aware of the long history and role of American Jews that predated the Revolutionary War. It is one of the oldest continuously lived in residences in the US and the oldest surviving Jewish dwelling in North America. (www.gomez.org)

Keith and I met up at a local coffee shop and I wasn’t sure why there were so many young people sitting around and working on laptops. Then I realized that Orange County Community College was only several blocks away.

Space-Create Judy Thomas

Gallery space at Space Create, work on view is by Judy Thomas and the hallway leading to shared offices

We renewed our friendship as we enjoyed coffee and a quiche. We began our walking tour at Space Create, a collaborative workspace and gallery. There are shared offices for several businesses, non-profits and entrepreneurs; workshops, performances, and exhibitions frequently take place in the “raw” commercial space and conference room.

Paintings by Anna West will be up thru May 13. For more about this innovative space check the website http://www.spacecreate.co.

Mrs. Max

Leetha Berchielli, proprietor of Mrs Max Boutique

Keith introduced me to Leetha Berchielli, proprietor of Mrs Max Boutique alterations and costume design, jewelry and t-shirts. My brain clicked in and I asked her if she made ballet shoes. Over 20 ago we ran ads for Mrs Max. What a pleasure to see her (don’t think we ever met face to face) and to see the excellent work she is doing designing costumes & jewelry, reworking t-shirts into new designs and doing alterations. Her motto: “We can fix, fit or make fabulous, almost anything you wear.” More at mrsmaxshop@aol.com
The Ritz Marquee
From there we walked several doors down to The Ritz. The original structure that would become the home of the Ritz Theater was constructed in 1883 at 107 Broadway. Over the years many big name stars such as: Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Prima, Mary Martin, Peggy Lee, Wood Herman, Dick Powell, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Eddy Duchin, Red Skelton, The Inkspots,  Les Brown, Ricardo Crotez were featured there. On November 3, 1940, an unknown Frank Sinatra was backed by the Tommy Dorsey Band. As per Wikipedia, The Ritz Theater is most notably famous for being the stage where Lucille Ball made her stage debut. “On December 17th, 1941 she performed for the first time on stage and for the first time with her new husband, Desi Arnaz. It was on the Ritz stage that they planted the seeds for their sitcom, I Love Lucy.

In 2002, empty after numerous years, the Ritz Theater was purchased by Patricia Haggerty-Wenz, who was the Executive Director for numerous years of Safe Harbors of the Hudson, a “nonprofit organization that is committed to transforming lives and building communities through housing and the arts in the City of Newburgh.” Haggerty-Wenz’s mission for the only remaining historic theater in the City of Newburgh, was to “provide a venue for live performances in a city that had none, educational programs for youth, employment opportunities for the community and to create an active cultural and tourist destination. Lisa Silverstone is the current Executive Director. Coming up at the theater are concerts and dance programs. Ann Street Gallery is also part of the Safe-Harbor (www.safe-harbors.org) complex and has ongoing exhibitions.

There is a sculpture park just around the corner from the Ritz where performances take place and on the side of the is a large mural and an installation of Photographs by Dmitri Kasterine, Portrait of a City.

We walked along Liberty Street, stopped at Caffé Macciato, another distribution spot for ART TIMES, and met Jodi Cummings, owner and chef. Further down the street is The Wherehouse, a place for food, wine, artisanal beers, live music, films, an open mic, and spoken word programs.

Washington’s Headquarters is also on this street. Formerly known as Hasbrouck House (built in 1750), it served as Washington’s headquarters during the last years of the Revolutionary War. It was chosen for its comparatively safe location north of West Point and was here that he signed the Proclamation of Peace in 1783, ending the Revolutionary War. It is also the oldest house in the city of Newburgh, and the first property acquired and preserved by any U.S. state for historic reasons.

The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and today, it is a museum furnished to recreate its condition during the Revolutionary War. It covers an area of about seven acres (2.8 ha), with three buildings: Hasbrouck House, a museum (built in 1910), a monument named the “Tower of Victory”, which was completed in 1890 after four years of construction in order to commemorate the centennial of Washington’s stay, and a maintenance shed/garage built in the Colonial Revival style in 1942. There is a statue entitled “The Minuteman”, by Henry Hudson Kitson, erected on the grounds on November 11, 1924.


Karpeles Manuscript Library,

Our last stop was the Karpeles Museum. Director Brian S. Denniston gave us an update about the Karpeles. The Karpeles Manuscript Library is the world’s largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents. The library was founded in 1983 by California real estate magnates David and Marsha Karpeles, with the goal of stimulating interest in learning, especially in children. There are 11 Karpeles Manuscript Libraries and all entry and services are free. Items are rotated between museums quarterly and each location has a general exhibit and one or more specially scheduled exhibits throughout the year. In Newburgh, the special exhibit is a solo show by a regional artist.

There is much more culture to explore in Newburgh including dance, theater and music. The annual Newburgh Illuminated Festival will take place at the crossroad of Liberty and Broadway on June 3, 2017 celebrating Newburgh with music, art and food. Check them out at http://www.newburghilluminatedfestival.com

And, thank you Keith for being such a good tour guide, for your support of film (he’s a locations/ site manager for production companies) and for contributing essays to arttimesjournal.com.


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