Lumberyard opens $7.2 million arts facility in Catskill

The Lumberyard complex

Following an inaugural summer season of performances at various area venues, Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts launched its first fall/winter season in its new permanent Catskill home last Saturday. The Lumberyard complex consists of the main building at 62 Water Street in Catskill – recently completed for use as a theater, film and television soundstage and artist residency space – and three large adjacent structures along Catskill Creek, yet to be addressed.

The $7.2 million, 7,000-square-foot facility that opened on September 1 will have multiple purposes. As an incubator for the performing arts, it will host artist residencies that allow performers the technical support they need to develop new works. As a performance venue, the 400-seat theater on the first floor will feature both acclaimed performers and work-in-progress residency showcases. And without fixed seating in the theater and its interior being column-free, the space can double as a soundstage for film and television shoots and serve as a studio for postproduction work. 

The new home of Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts was once the Dunn Builders’ Supply Corporation, established in Catskill in 1946 and in business until 2015. The site functioned as a lumberyard prior to that, dating back to the 19th century. Curved beams from the old barrel roof of the Dunn Builders’ garage were salvaged and repurposed throughout the building, and an interior courtyard was constructed from a former storage area for lumber, with its original 19th-century shelves intact. The space will be an exhibition area for sculpture and other local visual art, as well as a site for musical performances and community events. Twelve rooms on the second floor will house 20 to 25 artists in residency annually. 

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Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts is a not-for-profit organization based in New York City, where its founders plan to maintain a presence in addition to the Catskill expansion. “We help artists make the work they imagine” is the philosophy under executive and artistic director Adrienne Willis. The organization was founded in 2000 as the American Dance Institute, based in a Maryland suburb. Over time, as its mission evolved beyond dance to focus on all contemporary performing arts, a rebranding became necessary.

The economic effect of Lumberyard on Catskill is expected to be significant, with the new contemporary arts center bringing a projected $13 million into the area through 150 permanent jobs and an estimated 10,000 visitors annually. 

Lumberyard joins a Greene County creative renaissance that already includes the 84-seat Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill, which presented its first performance in 2016; the Hudson Valley Dance Festival, founded in 2013, held annually in a 115-year-old warehouse at Catskill Point; and the Catskill Mountain Foundation, founded in 1998, which recently hosted choreographer Twyla Tharp for a monthlong residency in Tannersville.

The Lumberyard arts center was financed in part through a $5 million impact investment loan from the Rudolf Steiner Foundation in August of 2017. Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged $800,000 for the project in grants and state funding, and US senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has said that he was interested in helping the organization find federal grants.

While the completion of the main building marks the end of Phase One for the project, Phase Two has yet to begin. The Lumberyard project will ultimately be a $15 million multiyear effort. Phase Two will address the three structures across the street from the main building, along the banks of Catskill Creek. One building is unstable and will be razed for parking and a community garden. Another is slated to become offices and a dance studio, with the third to be renovated and possibly house a restaurant or other commercial development. All of those efforts will be done in collaboration with the Village of Catskill and in line with the municipality’s Downtown and Waterfront Revitalization Strategy.

The opening season kicked off last weekend with a sold-out gala featuring Scottish actor Alan Cumming, tap-dance icon Savion Glover and jazz drummer Marcus Gilmore.

Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts; www.lumberyard.org.

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