Ferrovia Studios: The Art of Business in Midtown

Artist Angela Rose Voulgarelis and her husband, Turu Illgen, an architect, have lived in the area since 2010 and drove by 17 Railroad Avenue in Kingston many times over the last few years. “We wondered who was going to ‘do something’ with that building,” Voulgarelis says. “It looked like a great opportunity … for someone else!” Both were interested by the location and size of the building in Midtown and saw it as a great opportunity for artistic intervention. “It’s huge. I grew up in brick buildings, so I have an affinity towards them,” she admits. “And who doesn’t love a corner property?”

In 2015, with an opportunity to invest, the couple revisited the building, which was on the market. They began to realize that they could become the somebodies who could ‘do something’ with the building. The seller, who is still in business in Kingston, accepted their offer and became their first tenant for a year before relocating his business. “This gave us time to design the studios and secure financing,” Voulgarelis says. “Turu designed the spaces, based on our mutual input, to optimize the unique shape of the building and its ceiling heights.”

Socially Conscious Artistic Renovation

There was considerable work to do as the building had been neglected and many parts were literally bricked up. Three construction crews—ANVO Construction, Avery Carbone and TJM Construction—were hired to work with them on the project.

The couple chose a creative solution to parking and power by installing a 75 Kw solar canopy over the private parking lot, thus providing a majority of the electricity for the building at 17 Railroad Avenue. “Keeping things simple in regard to our design choices meant keeping cars protected from weather all year while maintaining the building’s industrial chic,” Voulgarelis explains. But their ultimate purpose—to provide spaces for artists to work and to create a sense of community for people who don’t want to work in isolation—was the driving intention behind their project.

Their process of renovating an old building and learning to meet its challenges with acceptance of imperfections is documented on Instagram @ferroviastudios. “It’s been a great way to communicate, and we were able to rent the first five studios in less than a month,” says Voulgarelis. She moved into the front of the building and loves the light-filled rooms where she works on her own art, which she describes as “influenced by incidents of human tragedy and my own personal landscape.” She uses found images as reference and draws upon childhood memories as source material. “I juxtapose images, overlap shared experiences, perform private acts in public, and turn most paintings upside down to evoke non-narrative associations between historical events and my everyday life.” And, in keeping with her interest in history, the name Ferrovia was a perfect fit for two reasons: “Ferrovia means ‘railroad’ in Italian, and I’m half Italian.”

“We wanted to keep artists working, including myself, and this building is intended to hold space for artists in a time when federal arts funding and independent creative enterprise are under attack more than ever,” says Voulgarelis, who lost every previous studio she ever had due to increased real estate prices and high turnover. “I wanted to create a different model for this endeavor and, if this project can make it through this Presidency, I’ll consider it a success.”

Artist-Owned and Operated

Today, Ferrovia Studios is an artist-owned and operated studio space housing a mix of artists and artisans at 17 Railroad Avenue. The 15,000 square foot mixed-use building offers a select number of artist studios; a 7,500 square foot ground floor space; gallery and exhibit space; and two retail storefronts. Each studio comes with high ceilings, ample natural lighting, wi-fi and full electrical hook-ups (mostly generated onsite by solar power).

A ground floor tenant—Village Coffee and Goods—occupies one of the two storefronts and other spaces remain available on both the first and second floors. “We are weighing the options of dividing the (rest of the first floor) space or keeping it whole,” Voulgarelis says. “It was a roller rink at one time and still has great maple floors.” Current tenants also include Eighth Belle, Reva Vespera, Oolaloom, Noel Benson and Ali Palmatier.

For more information, please visit www.ferroviastudios.com.