For artist Angela Rose Voulgarelis, the former warehouse on Kingston’s Railroad Avenue beckoned to her because she had grown up in and around brick buildings in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. She and architect Turi Illgen purchased the Midtown building in 2015 and set about establishing Ferrovia Studios, affordable studios for artists to rent. In transforming the long-neglected building, a key precept was: Let the light in, as they removed the brick that covered the windows. Today, Voulgarelis creates figurative works as an artist in a light-filled front studio and is a commercial landlord as the owner of a 15,000-square-foot. Ferrovia has 100 percent of the studios rented, she says. Her continuing objective is to “keep working artists working.”
On North Front Street in Kingston’s Uptown, Pinkwater Gallery owner Anne Sanger made a “deliberate choice” to take a retail space to establish her gallery in 2019. She wanted a gallery space that would be “not so mysterious” down some side alley or obscure location. She also sought for the space, with its skylight, selected furnishings around the art, and a well-tended back garden (shared with two commercial neighbors), to be welcoming and comfortable, not off-putting. Her gallery features abstract art by artists living in and working in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, most of them women.
As Sanger, Voulgarelis, and other artists get set to participate in the annual Art Walk Kingston on the weekend of September 17-18 from 12-5 p.m., they understand that the event combines and entices because it is one of art and architecture, design, streetscape, and neighborhood. The annual art walk, which is primarily set in dozens of studios and galleries in three distinct neighborhoods — Midtown, Uptown, and the Rondout – provides exceptional opportunities to view and perhaps purchase marvelous art, including paintings, sculpture, mixed media, photographs, and other forms. Not to be missed, however, is its wealth of architectural history, design, and features in the buildings and their surroundings, and the connections between the artists and their distinctive spaces and settings.
Start out with the Art Walk Kingston Digital Map, which one can access from its site at: https://www.artsmidhudson.org/artwalkkingston. Printed maps will be available at select locations throughout the city during the week prior to the event.
Within the experience of Art Walk Kingston are tales of huge buildings and small decorative details and embellishments, which reveal themselves in walks of the sites and nearby streets. They are complemented by many dazzling murals that make highly visual Kingston’s embrace of art. It is, indeed, a place in which to look up and around, peek around corners, and read inscriptions and the ghost signs of the past (like “The Jennifer Shop — Distinctive Women’s Fashions” for a store that closed decades ago).
Kingston’s Midtown Arts District is the major confluence of artists’ studios and galleries, as well as artists’ residences, particularly in its large repurposed former factories. Their very names tell of what Kingston used to manufacture or of the manufacturers who owned these mills, including the Lace Mill, the Shirt Factory, and the Fuller Building.
In the Fuller Building, you can see various signs of its former life as a factory in its now-bright, airy, high-ceilinged spaces. The building at 45 Pine Grove Avenue was a factory for the once-thriving Fuller Shirt Company, which Isaiah Fuller constructed in 1906 as he expanded operations. At one point, Fuller manufactured 1.4 million shirts, and was one of the largest shirt manufacturers in the state. The Stetson Hat Company purchased the company in 1956 but closed it in 1965.
If taking in Art Walk’s offerings at the Fuller Building, you can see features and characteristics from its former life in manufacturing. Architect Scott Dutton, who with his firm Dutton Architecture, has been a central catalyst in the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of many of Kingston’s industrial buildings for two decades, says this is intentional and important in such places. When the project began, “everything had been caked over,” and those working on it found original shiplap siding and elevator machinery. In places where paint lines ran down the length of the building on an upper floor, the lines were left, not removed by more sanding. On one area of the third floor, Dutton says, there are grommets from the factory machinery pressed into the floor. Large posts and beams remain. Dutton’s goal, as with other adaptive reuses, is “intervention that celebrates the building.”
Quite fitting to the structure’s setting and history, Stephen Blauweiss and Blauweiss Media’s multimedia exhibition, “Kingston Then and Now,” will be on view in the Fuller’s main viewing space on the first floor. It opened in August and will remain on view until September 21. The spacious walls contain a large selection of vintage signs, blow-ups of historic flyers such as one advertising passage on the steamer Mary Powell, rare images that convey Kingston’s rich history, and much more, accompanied by text. Other works on view at the Fuller Building for ArtWalk weekend range from sculpture, multimedia, and clothing to artists’ books and posters and ceramics.
At the Shirt Factory at 77 Cornell Street at Smith Avenue, artists will exhibit painting, mixed media, drawing, and other artwork in eight studios. With its live-work spaces, it has been known for drawing a wide-ranging group of artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs. Yet those who head into the Shirt Factory’s entrance should pause outdoors to take in its design elements and consider its history. Architectural historian William Rhoads cited the Shift Factory, constructed in 1917 and 1925, as “evidence that a factory could be a work of architecture,” as he wrote in Kingston, New York: The Architectural Guide. The former Jacobson & Sons Shirt Factory had modern steel sash windows, which composed more than three-quarters of the wall area (something artists today relish). The stair towers broke up the long Cornell Street exterior façade with distinctive panels in yellow brick. Myron S. Teller, Kingston’s leading architect in the early 20th century, designed it.
When it opened in 1917, the factory had a state-of-the-art sprinkler system. A1920s brochure promoting Kingston boasted of the Jacobson factory’s abundant light and air. However, Rhoads quoted one of the many young women who were employed by the factory during the 20th century, Ruth Barringer, as saying she did not enjoy ironing shirts on a top floor, which had no fans. She called the factory “a true sweat shop.”
As many times as I’ve walked into the Lace Mill, at 165 Cornell Street, I’ve not stopped to look up at the behemoth of its furnace. It stops you in your tracks for a moment. Such features signal its early 20th century history. Opened in 1903, the textile mill was known as the United States Lace Curtain Mills. Many of its employees were young women. It is a handsome building, with striking vertical brick panels; multi-paned sash windows, with stone sills and lintels; and brick decorative embellishments across the top. It had become a boarded-up warehouse when RUPCO purchased it in 2013 and hired Dutton as the lead architect. They undertook an adaptive reuse project into affordable housing units, providing a preference for artists, and innovative galleries and community spaces. Its gleaming, light-filled, public-welcoming spaces are a far cry from its beginnings. Dutton recalls a discussion about eliminating the physical structure of the boiler, remembering, “I said `no, it’s like the bleeding heart of the building’.”
For Art Walk weekend, the Lace Mill’s Main and West Gallery will continue to have on view the Inaugural Exhibition of the Women Photographers Collective of the Hudson Valley. The exhibition opened on September 3. A reception will be held to coincide with Art Walk, on Saturday, September 17, from 4-7 p.m. Thirteen participating artists will showcase their art in a separate show in the Lace Mill’s East Gallery.
If you want to understand as a piece, so to speak, many, many years of garment manufacturing in Kingston, the newly renovated Gallery of the Reher Center for Immigrant History and Culture is sure to provide it. Its current exhibit, Sewing in Kingston, will be on display at the Rondout center during Art Walk Kingston. The exhibit delves into Kingston’s multifaceted history of garment manufacturing, and the immigrant communities, entrepreneurs, and women who were integral to it. The exhibit will connect local experiences to broader historical, cultural, and economic stories. Ten artists are participating in the exhibit, which includes a variety of programming.
No matter which area of Art Walk you choose, it’s well worth a stroll to find small architectural treasures, stunning murals, and pieces of history. The building that houses the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW), at 474 Broadway, is a three-story gem. It has decorative golden-yellow quoins setting off the tidy red brick, and at the top the signage is “Teichler Building – 1912” The building’s original owner, Gustav Teichler, moved his third-generation German bakery to this location. Arthur and Lillian Nazginov received the Friends of Historic Kingston’s Stewardship Award in 2017 for their restoration of the building to its appearance in 1912. Dutton was the architect for this restoration. The CPW will present “Of Objects and Shadows,” works by Latinx artists living and working upstate, a show that will be up from September 17 through December 21 of this year.
Less than a half-mile away, the Pajama Factory will have a Midtown Arts District (MAD) group show for the second year at 49 Greenkill Avenue. The intricate brickwork of this three-story building, with a low-slung, one-story building attached at the back, is eye-catching. It is another of Kingston’s renovated spaces geared toward artists, musicians, writers, small businesses. Why the Pajama Factory? In his guide Street Whys, Kingston city historian Edwin Ford listed 49 Greenkill as a place that Charles A. Blatz purchased for manufacturing men’s pajamas, according to CJ Ansorge in her column, “The Walkabout: Sense and no sense,” last February 11,
Two murals a short distance down Greenkill Avenue have brilliant colors, superb forms, and very moving messages. Robin X, 59 Greenkill Ave., by Michael Fusco and Christina Fusco, shows a common robin next to and facing a fossilized version of itself. The artists aimed for this 2019 mural to evoke strong feelings in the recognition that climate change could potentially cause mass extinction. We’ve Always Found Our Way Home, on the wall of the Brush Factory, 107 Greenkill Ave., by Dine (Navajo) and Chicana artist Nanibah “Nani” Chacon, is a mesmerizing homage she painted to the indigenous people who have lived in or passed through the Catskill Mountains.
The vibrancy, vast creativity, and diverse communities of Kingston’s arts and culture scene are center stage for Art Walk Kingston. Yet those who are armed with an Art Walk map and a good dose of curiosity surely will understand how its architectural heritage, history, streetscape, and resilience over time engender the serendipity of this event.
Susan DeMark is a writer who explores architecture, history, and nature through her Mindful Walker stories, blog, and walking tours.