Ever wonder what goes on in that building tucked away behind the Big Cheese, in the alley connecting Main Street/Route 213 with the Rosendale Theatre parking lot? You may have noticed it being used during the Rosendale Street Festival as a hospitality area and “Information Central” for bands, or as the site of a series of daily hands-on sustainable food workshops that ran from Earth Day to May Day this past spring, in conjunction with the Global Climate Convergence campaign. Other times you might spot folks in formal attire heading in or out of the space for a pre-wedding brunch or rehearsal for their fancy event at the Belltower next door.
The eclectic nature of the happenings at the Creative Co-op makes it hard to pigeonhole the non-profit community space’s mission, as does organizer Stacy Lipari’s determination to let the community itself decide how best to utilize it. “I wanted to create a place where I could experience people having joy and doing what they want,” she says. “The space is available for anyone to do anything that benefits individuals or the community. It just has to be something positive.”
With its warm wood paneling and cozy-feeling low ceiling, the Creative Co-op’s 17-by-30-foot main room lends itself well to all sorts of events geared toward small groups. Regular users of the space at present include Stephanie Rose Bifolco’s yoga classes on Wednesdays at 5:15 p.m., followed by Beginner Conga Drumming workshops with Pablo Shine at 7 p.m. A women’s vocal ensemble meets there on Mondays, and on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. the folks from Whirligig Farm in Hurley stage a weekly farm market.
Other uses tend to be more sporadic or one-time-only, including private parties. There are musical performances, like the Co-op’s inaugural event featuring the Balkan ensemble Rosza during a January ice storm — “the perfect tiny Grand Opening,” according to Lipari — or a show last Saturday night by the New Paltz-based band Adamana Clan. Native American history and folklore expert Evan Pritchard has used the Co-op as a lecture space. The site has hosted introductory Pilates classes, rehearsals by the memoirist theatrical troupe TMI and a couple of Vine Van Gogh workshops, during which adults drink wine and socialize while getting a hands-on painting lesson. “People who don’t ever come to Rosendale came to that,” she reports.
Laura Conklin of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ulster County has brought Kingston kids to Rosendale for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and another such event with the theme “Of Dragons and Princesses”; a charming dragon made from recycled materials for that party by artist Dawn Meola still hangs from the Co-op’s ceiling. In fact, the majority of the events staged at the space so far have been “art-based,” says Lipari. “I wanted it to be nature-based as well, so we take kids to Willow Kiln Park.”
A former teacher and preschool co-director who relocated to the mid-Hudson after her pay was frozen during what she calls the “education crisis” in Richmond, Virginia, Lipari says that she arrived here looking for ways to “use my expertise in education to do something that bridges the gap between homeschooling and public school… Parents want an alternative to public school that doesn’t cost $9,000 a year” like private schools. At first, her answer was a short-lived project at the Unframed Gallery in New Paltz, where she collaborated with Waldorf educator Jessica Koock, Michelle Riddell and Jill Olesker to organize afterschool activities as the Creative Kids’ Cooperative. But registration rates didn’t prove high enough to sustain the initiative.
Through volunteer work at the Brook Farm CSA and then the Rosendale Theatre Collective, Lipari became aware that Theatre director Ann Citron had decided that she was wearing too many hats and wanted to bow out of the Canaltown Alley entity that formerly occupied the building at 402 Main Street. On a hunch that she could make the space work as a flexible community resource, Lipari took over the lease with owners Yuval and Lisa Sterer of the Big Cheese. “I was making the rent in the beginning,” she reports, but she’s finding that this is the slow time of year in terms of community demand for one-time rental space. “The winter months are the time when it’s going to be easier. In summer people have lots of outside options.”
So for now, the single mother is enjoying her opportunity to spend time with her daughter Sarah before she goes away to college in September, while brainstorming and experimenting with potential uses for the Creative Co-op. Last Saturday it hosted its first daycare “mini-date,” enabling parents to drop off their toddlers for two hours while they “get to go out for a meal without cutting up someone else’s food.” Lipari is hoping that such services could become a regular offering once word-of-mouth gets around that they’re available.
Another aspect of this community resource that has not yet reached its maximum potential is the Co-op’s fully equipped kitchen. It has not yet gone through the demanding Board of Health certification process, so “We’re only allowed to sell food if it’s wrapped,” Lipari says. But the space is ideal for educational presentations on alternative, sustainable and traditional food preparation. Already it has hosted workshops in fermentation, yogurt-making, growing sprouts, sourdough breadmaking, ginger ale-making and beer-brewing.
Such events tend to bring out the mix of users that she envisions as ideal to keep the Co-op going: tourists who can afford to pay a workshop fee of $25 to $50 and locals, including seniors and teens, who need to be subsidized at the lower end of a sliding scale. “We’re looking for people who don’t want to overcharge” to offer classes at the space, says Lipari. “We really want it to be about the community. We want to allow the space to answer people’s needs.”
The “official” rental rate for the Creative Co-op is $30 per hour for a single event, with a two-hour minimum, and a conference rate of $125 to $225 per day. Ongoing classes qualify for a discount, and Lipari sometimes makes the space available for free to not-for-profit organizations whose missions resonate with her. To discuss terms or book the space, call Stacy Lipari at (845) 527-5672. You can find out more about the Creative Co-op, including announcements of upcoming events, by visiting its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/creativebcrosendale.