What’s old is new, and what’s vintage is at Midtown’s Cornell Street Studios. Twenty-eight-year-old Renee Darmstadt repurposed the 5,000 square feet upstairs of her father’s overhead door warehouse into a multi-use art studio. A studio replete with an exercise studio, fashion show runway, massage table and five gallery rooms chock full of handcrafted jewelry, art, recycled goods, kitsch and vintage clothes. (Some 50 different area artists and vendors pay table or display fees and a small commission to Darmstadt to exhibit their work.) It’s like visiting an Etsy and Pinterest storefront in real life.
Cornell Street Studios exemplify mixed-use — local art hangs on the walls of the fitness studio, which sees Zumba, Pilates, Boot Camp and even hula-hoop classes. Another room houses a massage table and a soothing set-up for a relaxing hour under the strong hands of massage therapist and hula-hoop instructor Elizabeth McGovern. One room hosts a children’s boutique filled with whimsical children’s art, such as decoupaged plaques, boxes, onesies, magnets and more.
Another studio wall supports an array of colorful, handmade and decorated hula-hoops for sale in the $20 range. Next to it is a display case filled with a high-end line of leather and dichroic glass jewelry. Across the hall from it is a room awash in elegant, playful, zany and tasteful women’s vintage dresses, shoes, scarves, jewelry, contemporary pottery and hand-crocheted scarves and sweaters, the sales of which benefit wildlife rehabilitation for birds of prey.
Why vintage? “It’s fun!” said Darmstadt, whose enthusiasm for era-clothes is apparent as she grabs beautifully tailored, pin-tucked dresses with brocades and rich fabrics off the racks to croon over while chatting on the topic. “I was inspired by vintage fashion coming out in my age group. Vintage was new again. And really fun.” Darmstadt said vintage is a passionate hobby to many, one collector and artist being a local psychiatrist.
Charlie Wesley of Port Ewen recently spent more than an hour casually perusing the studio for Christmas gifts, attentively studying everything, as one might stroll through an art gallery. Wesley said he grew up in Kingston and once-upon-a-time worked at long-gone Uptown store Yallum’s. “You knew all the shop owners,” lamented Wesley. “You talked to them. Uptown Kingston was all there was for shopping, even grocery shopping. That was it. There was nowhere else to shop, and no reason to go anywhere else. It had everything.”
Wesley recalled Wall Street’s decline once the mall was built, and how plans were discussed to close Wall Street from North Front to Main Street “and make it into a mall,” Wesley said, while rolling his eyes heavenward. (Poughkeepsie tried something like this, but now the Main Mall is back to being Main Street.)
A mother/daughter duo is responsible for creating colorful burlap, jeweled and felted floral wreaths and ornate paper fairies. The gallery room in which the paper art is exhibited also has vintage dolls and stuffed animals, clever handmade and heirloom Christmas decorations, vintage clothes, modern, edgy cross-stitch art, hand-painted vintage wallets, a steampunk necklace display and much, much more. There is even a steampunk snowman.
Cornell Street Studios’ primary focus is upon the themed art events in February, May and October, as well as a “Retro Rally” classic car event in June. Themed events include outside vendors, sponsors, music and a live component as well, such as music or demonstrations. Darmstadt says the events are her passion and now going into her fifth year, she has kicked it up into a new dimension. February’s upcoming event theme is architecture, a theme suggested by her father, Ken Darmstadt, who is a self-proclaimed architecture enthusiast. The event will include classical guitar music by David Temple. A garden party, art show and wedding expo fashion show is on docket for May. A prior fashion show was nautical-themed, featuring summer fashion, and brought more than 300 people into her studios and 30-50 artists. “I feel like I have grown with the studio shows,” said Darmstadt, who was only 23 when she first started putting them together. “I feel like I have taken them to another level.”
She also hosted “I Love Kingston” art show, with representatives from local nonprofits as well as local and local-themed art.
Darmstadt grew up in Kingston, graduated from Coleman in 2003 and has an art administration degree from Wagner College. Though her degree didn’t actually prepare her to own and run her own gallery, she said, an internship with a textile company did. Darmstadt herself does not do any art, however she does graphic designs.
Her mother, Michele Darmstadt, who also dealt in art and antiques, passed away when Darmstadt was only 14, leaving Renee to be raised by her father, Ken. “My mother was my best friend,” said Renee. “Mom loved selling art and antiques, and this place was like keeping her spirit. I thought doing this would be temporary, but I saw how much this inspired my dad.”
Darmstadt and her father brainstorm event themes and ideas, and he sets up the lighting and every event for her. In turn, she helps with operational stuff downstairs in his overhead doors business. “My dad tried to be there for me so much after my mother died, like I ran track and he was at every meet,” said Darmstadt. “I used to think he was annoying, he doesn’t stop talking about history. But now I find it so interesting. I’m the youngest one at the Buried Treasure history talk series.”
Darmstadt said her dad and she bounce ideas off each other for events, themes and arrangements. “He’s a dreamer,” she said, rolling her eyes and laughing. “He’s got big dreams for this place.”
Cornell Street Studios, 168 Cornell St., is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday by appointment. Closed on Sunday. Check ’em out on Facebook or at cornellstreetstudios.com.