Hudson Valley Towns » Kingston

Kingston: Capital of Culture

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Midtown restaurants are melding cuisine with the arts scene. Peace Nation Café;, serving Latin farm-to-table fare, and southern eatery Pakt have both recently launched monthly art openings, while gastropub/cocktail bar The Beverly presents events like film screenings and burlesque shows.

Several more multi-use Midtown cultural institutions combine gallery showings with regular cultural programming, like Cornell Street Studios, A.I.R. Studio Gallery, and the year-old Green Kill Gallery. Look out for neighborhood arts stores hosting classes and workshops, like R&F Handmade Paints and Bailey Pottery, along with artists-and-musicians supply shops, Rhinebeck Artist's Shop, and Barcone's Music.

Longstanding cultural anchor Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) – a 1,500-seat historic show palace on Broadway, dating to 1927—programs a slate of year-round entertainment spanning concerts, comedy, theater, dance, and film. Run by the Poughkeepsie-based Bardavon since 2007, the venue is gearing up for a major $4.7 million renovation, which will see it close for six months starting in June.

For live music, bands regularly play at craft-beer-and-burger joint The Anchor and microbrewery Keegan Ales.

Uptown Rhythm

The heartbeat of Kingston's music scene, though, emanates from the landmarked buildings littered throughout Uptown's historic Stockade District. BSP Kingston (Backstage Studio Productions), set within an early-1900s vaudeville theater/movie house on Wall Street, is one of the Hudson Valley's top spots for live music, DJ-helmed dance parties, and special events.

More music venues line Wall Street: Alley Cat Blues & Jazz Club opened over the summer with live blues and jazz bands most weekend nights. The LGBTQ a cappella chorus Key of Q frequently performs at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center; the center also runs art openings, Latin dance nights, and film screenings. The 1852 Old Dutch Church hosts a regular series of concerts, as well as occasional theatrical productions. Around the corner, year-old event space Senate Garage recently introduced a series of Thursday- night jazz performances.

Diego's pairs Mexican fare with live music on Fridays; Two Ravens Tavern features an Irish band the first Sunday of the month; and Stockade Tavern hosts occasional jazz nights. Uncle Willy's and Snapper Magee's, two North Front Street dive bars, tout active live music calendars for touring and local bands.

North Front Street proposes one-stop-shopping for musicians and connoisseurs alike, with music/bookshop Rhino Records and vinyl-specialized Rocket Number Nine Records (around the corner, on Wall Street, Blue-Byrd's Haberdashery & Music sells new and used CDs), along with two guitar shops: Saker Guitar Works and Stockade Guitars.

Naturally, where there's music, there's movement. At the BSP complex, the Dance Studio at BSP hosts weekly scheduled dance classes; Uptown Swing runs a monthly night of live jazz and swing dancing; and the 2016-debuted Hudson Valley Circus Arts school leads circus and aerial arts instruction.

Connor Brainard and friend at Half Moon Books. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Connor Brainard and friend at Half Moon Books.

Beyond beats in Uptown, check out bibliophile haven Half Moon Books; bi level arts-and-crafts emporium Catskill Art & Office Supply; bazaar-style shop Bop to Tottom; upscale home design boutique Exit Nineteen; the June-debuted doll artists showcase Uncanny Gallery; the street-level studio of Kingstonian artist and diorama fanatic Matthew Pleva; and The Yoga House, for its original mandala mural and artsy yogic community.

Downtown Arts

Kingston's maritime-flavored Downtown area—dubbed the Strand or the Rondout (thanks to its waterfront location on the Rondout Creek)—touts more traditional art galleries.

The nabe's cultural heavyweight is the Arts Society of Kingston (ASK) on Broadway, which puts on two visual arts gallery shows per month; upstairs, a performing arts space was added on in 2015 to host a range of concerts and events. More notable neighborhood galleries beckon: the One Mile Gallery, Donskoj & Co., and The Storefront Gallery.

On Broadway, the May-debuted Clove and Creek boutique vends a selection of handmade crafts and housewares from local makers; two-year-old Brunette wine bar hosts author book readings, art shows, and a monthly vinyl music night; and Pivot Ground Cafe & Workspace—a coffee shop/co-working space—likewise puts on music events and art shows. Nearby, the nearly 70-year-old theater troupe Coach House Players is billed as the longest-operating community theater company in Ulster County.

The Rondout's culturally flavored festivals and events include the 2016- debuted, Brooklyn-transplanted foodie fest Smorgasburg Upstate, featuring grub and live music at the historic Hutton Brickyards; Broadway's Kingston Night Market, matching live music with 40-plus artsy vendors; and the quirky Artist Soapbox Derby, a "parade of kinetic sculptures" held on Broadway each August.

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