How do artists celebrate living – and creating – in a building that’s 100 years old? With a building-wide Open Studio Tour, Performance Art, Pop-Up Galleries and a Special Historic Exhibit, of course!
On Saturday, September 16, the Shirt Factory at 77 Cornell Street in the Kingston Midtown Arts District is hosting a Centennial Celebration from 12-5 pm, followed by an opening reception until 7 pm for a special exhibit in partnership with the Ulster County Clerk’s Office. The public is invited to join in the celebration of 100 years of making and creating at the Shirt Factory.
When F. Jacobson and Sons built the Shirt Factory, it was the largest factory in NYS and distinguished by a state-of-the-art sprinkler and fire safety system, plus employee perks such as a cafeteria and dance hall. Throughout the decades, the building housed various industries and by the 1990s, when the Luksberg family established Romain Handbags Company there, a new era emerged with the opening of artist workspaces too. Mike Piazza bought the building in 2002 and brought the artist workspace concept to the next level. He’s since made many improvements to the Shirt Factory and its two sister buildings, the Brush Factory and the PJ Factory.
“It’s very fulfilling to have the opportunity to create something – you make a painting and someone buys it, it’s a thrill that someone would be interested in your work – the same thing applies to real estate,” says Piazza.
Today, the Shirt Factory is home to 60 working artist studios and Piazza’s vision has been nourished by the City of Kingston’s burgeoning creative economy and become a linchpin for the MAD. “We provide an opportunity for people to grow and meet and communicate with each other,” he explains. “What we’ve developed is a community of like-minded individuals, creative people, entrepreneurs.”
From noon to 5 pm, almost every artistic discipline will be on display in Open Artist Studios. Participating artists and businesses include Ashware Ceramics Studio, Sergio Barrale, Leslie Bender, Amy Coté, Counterpublic Productions, Design Yourself Strong Fitness Training, Rosalie Frankel, Grace Exhibition Archive, Ann Haaland, Jennifer Hicks, Hudson Valley Pole Arts, Hudson Valley Silverworks, Innate Movement Parkour, Nina Isabelle, Kingston Ceramics, Robert Kressler, Brad Kunkle, Melissa Lockwood, Physique, Piazza Pendants and Tapiwa Muronda Photography.
Pop-up Galleries curated by tenants Ann Haaland, Nina Isabelle and Leslie Bender will utilize exhibit space in common areas of the building, including hallways and vacant/available studio spaces. Pop-up artists include Mernie Baker, Clara Diamond, Joan Ellis, Kate Hamilton, Christina Varga, Frank Young, Riva Weinstein and Jennifer Zackin. Performance Artists, assembled by Shirt Factory manager Lisa B Kelley and Isabelle, will perform throughout the building, including Nurya Chana, Clara Diamond, Matthew Gioia, Nina Isabelle, Lisa B Kelley, Stephanie Loveless, Jennifer Maharry, Linda Montano and Valerie Sharp. Some of their thematic explorations will be creative productivity, women and work, the essential and social values of art to life and community, deep listening, weaving and stitching, assembling and construction of forms.
The 5-7 pm Opening Reception features a collaborative pop-up exhibit, presented in partnership with Nina Postupack, Ulster County Clerk. It showcases documents from the Ulster County Archives and from the collection of the Friends of Historic Kingston. The exhibit details the large manufacturing prominence of Midtown at the turn of the 20th century when Ulster County was a hub of industrial activity. Stephen Blauweiss will also screen his film documenting Piazza’s vision of adaptive re-use of an artist building.
“We are happy to be able to bring the records of this time out to the public,” says Postupack. “They represent an important part of our shared history as Ulster County residents.”
Visit the Facebook event page for more details about all the festivities. See you there!