Body of work: Kingston’s Cornell Street Studios

Renée Darmstadt.

In the past half-decade, Cornell Street Studios have emerged as a beacon of culture and community in Kingston’s Midtown industrial district. Located at 168 Cornell Street next to the railroad tracks, on the second floor of the building occupied by Darmstadt Overhead Doors – distinguished by the roof covered with solar panels – the suite of large, loftlike rooms has hosted numerous art exhibitions as well as classes in Zumba, yoga and even hula hoop dancing, attracting hundreds to its openings and building up a dedicated base of students for its classes.

The place has blossomed under the direction of Renee Darmstadt, daughter of Ken, owner of the overhead door company. Tired of the expense of living in New York City and missing her upstate friends, Renee returned home for good in 2008 and started working for her father. That December, she showed the work of three artists; it was like discovering her calling, and today, as director of the studio, she continues to expand the roster of activities and bring people to an often-avoided corner of Kingston.

“I never thought I’d work for my dad,” Darmstadt said. “I started the classes in June 2010, and now I know how to balance the classes and the art shows. I’m still growing and pushing to have more workshops.” Coming up this month: a beaded-flower workshop.


Cornell Street Studios host two large art exhibitions annually, in the spring and fall. “Passion for Fashion” opens May 12 and will feature the watercolor sketches of Helen Schofield, a European designer in the 1950s who showed her clothes in Austria, Italy and Switzerland. “She would design all the clothing and then draw it for the promotion of the line,” said Darmstadt, noting that Schofield, now a resident outside Boiceville, had approached her about having a show. “They have a vintage quality and are pretty amazing.”

Schofield’s work will be shown alongside fashion illustrations and photographs by 40 other local artists and designers. At the opening reception, scheduled from 6 to 10 p.m., there will be a fashion show of vintage and handmade clothing, along with music by Deejay Rodan and comestibles; admission is $10. Accessories, including handmade jewelry and hair ornaments, are for sale in the gift shop. Each participating artisan updates his or her case to harmonize with the theme of each exhibition, according to Darmstadt. Darmstadt said that she has a regular stable of some 25 artists who participate in most of the shows and are creative about adapting their work to the specific theme, such as making a painting of a high heeled-shoe for the fashion show.

One particularly popular retro activity at Cornell Street Studio is the pin-up workshops, in which women have the opportunity to see what they’d look like back in the glamorous 1940s. Each participant spends four hours with hair and makeup artist Heather Williams, with the makeover and results recorded in dozens of photographs by Drew Tynan, which are then put on a CD for each participant. “I’ve had ages from 20 to 60,” said Darmstadt. Sometimes the look “is very rockabilly, with curls on the top of their heads.” The workshop, which is scheduled once a month, costs $175.

The hula-hoop class – it’s not just goofy fun, but gives the arms and torso a good workout – is held in the nearly 1,000-square-foot dance studio; the hoops of the eight students need a lot of clearance. Last month, hula hoopers had a chance to make their own hoops, using tubing and tape. Each of the fitness classes has six sessions, costing $72. There’s “Butt & Gut Boot Camp with Che,” which will help get rid of all that unflattering middle-body flab, and “gentle-flow” yoga. The Wednesday and Thursday Zumba classes cost $10 a session; Darmstadt said that instructor Catherine Schoch was the first in the area and has been offering the class since 2007. There’s also a four-week West Coast Swing class for $50.

Rounding out the roster of events are a small art exhibition in February and two craft shows, in September and over the Christmas holidays. The lousy economy led to a slow February and March, but Darmstadt expects things to pick up this spring, noting that the opening for the show “Wild about Butterflies” held last October attracted 300 people. For more info, visit