Raleigh Green, who owns a branding consultancy, moved to the Kingston area a year ago from Manhattan, lured by the region’s natural beauty and cultural vibe. While he technically doesn’t live in Kingston – his home is located in the Town of Ulster – much of his professional life is centered in the city, where many of his local clients are based. Green bemoaned the fragmentation of the city, and in particular, the underwhelming appearance of Midtown, even as he has connected with the local art scene.
The Greenkill Avenue railway overpass, which he passed under daily when traveling up Broadway, seemed to epitomize the problem: an industrial-era eyesore located “smack-dab in the center of the city,” he said. Wanting to “benefit Kingston by bringing a second look to an area that could use a little TLC,” Green realized that the overpass was the perfect candidate for the striking display of artwork that was the specialty of ArtBridge, a nonprofit based in Manhattan that wraps scaffoldings and buildings under construction in large vinyl sheets reproducing original artworks. “I felt, as a brand strategist, the key to facilitating more cohesiveness for the identity of the city could be art” – a natural, given the abundance of talent in the area, he said.
ArtBridge was founded by Rodney Durso, a friend of Green’s, four years ago in the hip Chelsea area as a way to beautify the scaffolding over sidewalks accompanying new development. Its clients have heretofore been limited to property managers and real estate developers, but Green thought that the concept could easily be adapted to the public space of the Broadway railway bridge. His hunch proved to be right on the money: Green obtained the core funding for the project from Rondout Savings Bank, as well as support from numerous other businesses, including free installation by Timely Signs and donated advertising from Ryan and Ryan and WDST.
PDQ Printing, based in New Paltz, was another contributor, and local arts groups – including the Arts Society of Kingston and the organizers for the O+ Festival – offered outreach via their digital e-mail lists. Plus, Mayor Shane Gallo and the members of the Kingston Common Council enthusiastically supported the project, which will cost approximately $5,000, minus the free ads and marketing and Green’s volunteered time as organizer.
Beginning November 18, emerging artists – defined as artists lacking representation by a commercial gallery – are invited to submit up to three digital images of their artwork to a local panel of curators. The application process will be closed after eight weeks. The selected pieces, which will cover both sides of the bridge, will be digitally photographed in super-high-resolution and blown up to a mural format on vinyl banners. The banners will be installed in mid-March, right before the Shamrock Run, and stay up through Labor Day. When they are taken down, the banners will be cut up and made into tote bags, which will be auctioned off to benefit an organization that aids homeless women.
The ArtBridge project in Kingston could serve as a template for other communities looking to beautify the urban environment, Green said. But mainly, he sees it as “bringing a lot of value to promote this city, which has so much to offer. This can be part of art tourism. I’m really excited about it.”
Green added that he considered himself a member of that creative class from New York and other metropolises that is helping bring new life to Kingston: creative entrepreneurs who are seeking a better, more affordable quality of life and are now able to make that transition thanks to Internet technology, which gives them more flexibility in running their businesses from anywhere. For such individuals, Kingston has growing appeal: “We’re at a tipping point. There’s a lot of New Yorkers who would love to move up here,” Green said, noting the interest from his New York friends who “love visiting the area and want to come up again.”
For information on the ArtBridge project in Kingston, e-mail Raleigh Green at email@example.com or visit the organization’s website at www.art-bridge.org/kingston; the call for entries for artworks for display on the Greenkill Avenue Bridge will be posted on November 18.