It’s a relatively big deal when an organization obsessed with a sense of place decides to move from one place to another. Explanations are in order.
The move after 45 years of the Center for Photography in Woodstock (CPW) from its iconic Tinker Street location — in whose upstairs Bob Dylan allegedly wrote Mr. Tambourine Man — to a former bakery in Midtown Broadway in Kingston is a major place change. The event was marked by an open house last Saturday evening at the new Kingston outpost at 474 Broadway, with Monkey Joe as one next-door neighbor and Stone Soup as the other. Meanwhile, a gun buyback was taking place at the Andy Murphy Midtown Neighborhood Center directly across Broadway from the open house.
About 150 people attended the photography open house. On display was a thought-provoking inaugural exhibition called “Wild Place, People of Kingston,” by photographer Doug Menuez, who had lived in Woodstock from 2003 to 2008 and moved from Manhattan to Kingston in 2016.
“To me, small-town America, cities like Kingston, interest me,” explained Menuez in his introduction to the show. “I’ve documented the reality of everyday lives in small towns my whole career, always trying to highlight the core humanity. I want people to feel the surprise I have at the joy, creativity, and fascinating people found in this formerly beat-up old river town. It’s changing fast.”
Menuez’ long career has included extensive work with people famous and obscure. He’s practiced in documenting transformations. The best-known of these came when he met Steve Jobs and became the most prominent visual chronicler of the digital revolution in Silicon Valley from 1985 to 2000. The book that came out of that long project is called “Fearless Genius.”
Menuez says he doesn’t pretend to have the answers. He just goes out exploring. He photographs and interviews people in situations. It’s a process of both discovery and self-discovery.
Menuez thinks of his adventures as exercises in visual anthropology.
“It’s grown into a really satisfying project,” he reported about his Kingston work to Camera World in February. “It’s like going full circle to being a kid and shooting photos near where I lived.”
“Wild Place, People of Kingston” is on show in part on the ground floor of CPW’s leased facility at 474 Broadway and in part across a city parking lot at nearby Rezny Studios at 76 Prince Street. More information is available at www.cpw.org.
For several centuries, Kingston and Woodstock have been vastly different planets co-existing in the same universe. Kingston, the county seat, is a charming small, dense and diverse Hudson Valley ex-industrial community blessed with a heterogeneous population and a checkered history dating back to Peter Stuyvesant’s time. Woodstock is a sparsely settled agricultural and forestry community of almost incomparable environmental beauty that became an artists’ colony early in the twentieth century and is a favorite location for well-to-do second-homers from New York City.
The two communities are not rivals. They are complementary, and fast becoming more so. The move by an artist-centered organization whose mission it is to develop and promote contemporary photography from a well-known but problematic central arts location in Woodstock to roomier and far more efficient digs in Kingston is a significant commentary on inter-community complementarity.
“The proud two-story building [in Woodstock] has served us magnificently, but we have unfortunately outgrown it with regard to square footage, as well as our future plans,” CPW said in a press release last September announcing its move to Kingston.
Like its inaugural show, the Kingston location provides CPW the opportunity for both discovery and self-discovery.
Not-for-profit organizations are no stronger than their leadership.
Founder and chair Howard Greenberg is a pioneer in the creation and development of the modern market for photography. The Howard Greenberg Gallery, founded in 1981 and now located on 57th Street in Manhattan, was the first to consistently exhibit photojournalism as an important component of photographic art.
Greenberg was rumored to be in Berlin last Saturday, but showed up at the Kingston opening. He had been in Mexico the day before, he said, and he could not resist the opportunity to come up to greet old friends.
CPW has two co-presidents, New York Times visual editor Clinton Cargill, who has a residence in mountaintop Glenford, and retired radio business executive and photographer Barry Mayo of Stone Ridge.
The nine other board members and additional 25 people on the CPW advisory board are a formidable asset. Barry Mayo expects that additional board strengthening, particularly of persons with connections to kindred philanthropic funding sources, will open new doors for wider financial support of CPW. The move to Kingston should greatly enlarge its audience as well, he thinks.
The financial dimension of the change in real estate should not be ignored. Reportedly, the asking price for the former Café Espresso building was $950,000. According to CPW co-president Mayo, there were two final bidders. Bearsville entrepreneur Lizzie Vann took the prize for $999,000.
The transaction certainly improved CPW’s cash picture. It has a three-year lease on the Kingston location, said Mayo. He envisages CPW as soon needing twice the space of that former bakery building.
The sale of the Woodstock building also made staff salary adjustments possible. All but one staff person, operations coordinator Nicole Leonardo, are part-timers. The board gave all four part-timers modest raises, said Mayo, and provided them the opportunity to work more hours on their jobs. They included digital lab manager Sarrah Danziger, program coordinator Sarah Jurgielewics events and development coordinator Dani Cattan, and web designer and developer Sean Hovendick.
Growth and sustainability
The organization says it is conducting a search for a visionary and experienced executive director “to lead the organization and support growth and long-term sustainability in all key areas, including strategic planning, programming, education, finances, fundraising, marketing, community relations.” The move to Kingston, the CPW says, provides a great opportunity for it to re-envision mission, vision and programs for the next 50 years.
A salary range of $85,000 to $100,000 is advertised.
The tax form 990 required by the IRS from not-for-profit organizations indicates that the compensation package the prospective new executive director will be paid represents about a doubling of what the two previous CPW directors, Johanna Frieser and Ariel Shanberg, had been earning through 2019, the most recent year for which Form 990 data is available.
But the data’s incomplete, according to CPW co-president Mayo. He says Greenberg had been compensating the previous directors an additional $20,000 or so annually out of his own pocket. With a stronger board now in place and money in the bank, it is anticipated that the new executive director will be paid entirely from the organization’s own funds.
Mayo concedes that the financial picture remains a mixed one. An agreement with the Dorsky Gallery in New Paltz to store CPW’s extensive collections will expire in two years and will not be renewed. The revenue stream from workshops with famous photographers has been substantially weakened by on-line competition.
But what about the name? The organization couldn’t very well become the Center for Photography in Woodstock in Kingston. Or could it? For guidance on its own nomenclatural transformation, the board turned to member William van Roden, a design director. Van Roden provided several options. The Center for Photography in Woodstock board, according to Mayo, chose CPW in Kingston as the new moniker.