David Wilkes - Ghana March 2016
Creating a Collaborative Community
By Mike Jurkovic
After slowly strolling humid Huguenot Street, Emily and Susan were girlishly intent on shopping along Main Street. I, being from Mars, was in a whole darker frame of mind. Because with seventeen years of Beacon under our belts, I was hoping Calling All Poets wouldn’t be rent-chased away from home. So I had no idea I was walking into CAPS new hub when I first entered 69 Main Street or, as it’s now well known as Roost Studios and Art Gallery. Truth be told, I quickly caught the buzz of possibilities when I read their mission statement suspended in no uncertain terms above the gallery entrance: Actively seek unique voices and new audiences. Foster collaborative partnerships. Build community.
“You belong here,” Marcy Bernstein, Roost’s founder, told me a few days later.
“This is what Roost Studios does: it becomes whatever its members want, whatever sparks their interest, and then goes off and takes a life of its own and we forget how the whole thing even got started.” – David Wilkes, artist and Roost Studios member
“So, well, what’s the question? How did we start?”
“Yeah,” I said, as several of the curious climbed the stairs from Main Street to check out Deidre Leber’s reflective and fluid exhibition. Stacie Flint, another Roost Studios member and buoyant water colorist, greeted and guided those venturing in.
“I’ve lived in the New Paltz area since ’86 and I’m an artist who, like most artists, knows a hundred other artists who, over the years, always talked about a space to present ourselves, hold art events, classes . . .But everyone has busy lives so nothing ever really gets started.”
“Then unexpectedly, two years back, I was in a bad accident that brought my overloaded life to a halt. I couldn’t teach due to an extensive and extended recovery period, so I was home, in between multiple procedures, feeling sorry for myself. David Wilkes (“Her significant other,” Stacie adds) was looking for industrial dark room space when he found this beautiful, inviting room. I quickly got bigger ideas.”
“David Kanney, our landlord, generously suggested we invite everyone up for chocolate and cheese to check out the room and the vibe (that vibe, I might add, is decisively Soho, with the windows on Main open to the vibrant hum of touristy chatter and SUNY exuberance. The sunset over Mohonk in the western window ain’t shabby either.)
“So I Facebooked everyone and, in the spirit of a pop-up gallery, got some art hung on the walls and all these people showed up. The story gets into the paper and before you knew we had eighteen artists who signed a year long agreement to be part of it.”
“I called it the Roost Studios because we’re a flight up, and it feels like a loft, right on the corner of Church and Main and you can see all the activity and the mountains and it felt like we were roosting up here creating.”
“I was born in Szechuan, China and belong to the 16th generation of Wu Dang Taoist martial art protégées. I don’t just have a responsibility to teach Tai Chi and other Taoist martial arts, I have the responsibility of carrying on the principles of Tao, which includes creating opportunities to bring everyone together to work in harmony with nature and one another. At Roost Studios I can reach much more people and help them to experience the serenity and growth that comes from the study and practice of Tai Chi. Roost Studios is a bridge which brings people together via art and I hope that I will create more meaningful art of Tao through this wonderful bridge.”
- Jing Shuai, Martial Artist & Roost Studios member
“A huge source of the energy here is our proximity to campus. The students are so excited. We actually have seven student interns working nine hours a week, earning three credits by being involved in all aspects like gallery sitting and various gallery responsibilities. I can almost see it becoming a practicum course as an extension of their art courses.”
“One is focusing on art education and running workshops. Another is an art history major and wants to run a gallery someday and is working on outreach to art buyers to come by appointment to see what actually going to bring buyers to the gallery. Another is studying art marketing. Another is a graphic designer designing our flyers. . .and since I’m planning to return to teaching after one more major surgery, all this student interest and activity is a huge, huge, help.”
In a little over a year, Roost Studios has expanded its reach to include not only Calling All Poets but an exhaustive array of workshops and classes that include: Paint & Sip classes every first Saturday. Akimbo: Theater Classes for Girls ages 11-14. Dinner Date/Kids Create, a unique program that allows parents to drop their children off for two hours of creative fun while they dine at select local eateries with a 10% discount. There’s also Goddess Dancing, Model Mondays, Tai Chi Classes for Children and Adults, Creative Tango Classes, Ballet for Kids, Final Friday Films . . .
. . . A special summer series for kids includes classes in the Art & Culture of Kung Fu and Artist Corner Workshops. Upcoming gallery exhibitions include Five Series by photographer David Wilkes (June 8 – July 2); Susan Slotnick (July 6 – July 30); Jing Shuai and Chris Moratz (August 3- August 27) and The Ekphrasis Project (August 31 – October 2) a highly anticipated collaboration between Roost Studios artists and CAPS poets blending the visual and the written.
“I have long wanted to bring to life the visual aspects of creativity with the written word.
Our move to New Paltz, and to Roost Studios especially, has begun to manifest that dream. We are all eagerly looking forward to the Ekphrasis September gallery.” - Glenn W. Werner, VP, Calling All Poets and Ekphrasis project co-ordinator.
“As an artist who typically chooses to disappear into my studio to swim in my thoughts while wading though a variety of hand-made props and equipment to bring life to my vision, Ekphrasis has offered me the opportunity to share my work and space with artists outside of my standard working process.”
– Tom DeLooza, Kingston artist, wet-plate collodion photographer
Did you have all this outreach in mind when you first envisioned Roost Studios?
“Y’know I did,” Marcy says confidently. “The mission statement was in my head right from the start. That’s why we incorporated as a non-profit to serve the broader community.”
Mission point #6: Build community by bringing artists, patrons, students, teachers and enthusiasts together.
“The Roost is a home for art and artists. What distinguishes it is the inventive leadership, especially regarding programming. The Roost Studios folks know an artist’s life is complex, and art is woven into so many aspects. From Tai Chi to life drawing, to dance workshops and movie discussion nights, Roost goes beyond 2D and 3D art to embrace the creative life. And it’s a home to CAPS poetry! – Greg Correll, artist, writer, CAPS webmaster
“Creative educational partnerships was a key concept for me. How exactly that was going to manifest was not that clear at all. I’m guessing now it was a good way to start. Get the bigger idea out there and see where the enthusiasm is and who shows up and steps up.
The two main areas that really developed was our partnership with SUNY New Paltz and New Paltz High School. We’ve already given a $500 scholarship to a graduating senior going into the visual arts and we have six high school students working on community mural projects.”
“They’re working on their third mural right now,” she says, pride and exuberance mixing freely. “The first was a mural at the New Paltz Reuse & Recycling Center. Roost provided the materials and the mentoring. It was a huge success and won a $1500 grant from the Maya Gold Foundation, a new non-profit empowering teens to access their inner wisdom and creativity.” (www.mayagoldfoundation.org)
“Then Chuck Bordino, director of the New Paltz Recreational Center called us to do a mural in the entranceway to the center where the town hall meetings are held and televised. The kids designed a Walk Through Time In New Paltz and it should be completed this summer. What’s additionally very cool is that a college student interested in teaching high school just stepped in to direct and mentor.”
“The mural starts with the Lenape Indians, the stone houses, Sojourner Truth, the diversity banner, and Aunt Judy.” (Aunt Judy Lefevre was a slave who, at 14, was given as a wedding gift to Ulster County residents Andries Lefevre and his wife Magdalene Elting. She was freed by state edict in 1827 and lived until 98 in the Clintondale area.)
“I think the greatest surprise, and delight, for me has been the students who have rolled down the hill from SUNY requesting internships. They bring fresh energy and ideas and we offer them an opportunity to try out those ideas in a ‘real world’ setting. Some have defined projects and receive college credit for their work with Roost Studios. Others volunteer because they want the experience of working in a gallery or creating and implementing arts programming. These past 14 months have been a wonderful experience for me personally as I’ve worked with my fellow Roost members creating an arts presence on Main Street that responds to the needs of the community. It’s astonishing, really. If you build it, they will come.”
- Lauree Feldman, Treasurer, photographer
Marcy and I begin to wrap our conversation. “I should also mention we leave space in the gallery calendar for three community based exhibits. Two for younger, emerging artists (ages 21-40) and a third we hold as part of a holiday gala that brings in art from the surrounding community.”
“I have taught art for many years and may be the most public face of Roost Studios but we have some really amazing and energetic people on our board. A lot of this wouldn’t be possible without Lauree’s boundless energy, business acumen, and commitment. Jeff Goldman, Jonathan Pazer, David, and Stacie have truly all been truly invaluable getting Roost Studios up and running and sustaining our momentum.”
Once more, from the self-fulfilling mission statement: Provide a gathering place for artists, audience, teachers, students and enthusiasts.
“From this place I wish to contribute to what is really good in life.” - Stacie Flint, Roost Studios artist member, Secretary
I’m telling you as Marcy told me: You belong here too.
For exhibition times, class and workshop schedules, membership information, email newsletter www.roostcoop.org