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A Guide to Columbia and Greene Counties: Hudson and Catskill

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Last Updated: 09/14/2018 4:02 pm
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Jakawn Heath, Cassidy Bua, Mama Llama, Jasean Edmonds, Devon Gaillard, Jay Jay Williams, Jason Edmonds, and The Awakened Rip (artist, Matt Bua) in Catskill. - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Jakawn Heath, Cassidy Bua, Mama Llama, Jasean Edmonds, Devon Gaillard, Jay Jay Williams, Jason Edmonds, and The Awakened Rip (artist, Matt Bua) in Catskill.

Formerly the American Dance Institute, Lumberyard has transformed the former Dunn Builders Supply, a creekside industrial complex, into a $8.2-million state-of-the-art performance center and certified soundstage for film and TV production. The location will serve as the home of the nonprofit's technical residency program and main performance venue. Artistic and executive director Adrienne Willis believes Catskill is the right home for her organization. "We wanted to find a place that was not only right for us, but where we would have economic impact," says Willis. "We wanted to find a town that was on the verge of revitalization so we could leverage resources for one another and became part of the fabric of the community."

After a summer performance series at locations around the region, Lumberyard is ready for the big reveal of its 7,000-square-foot building on September 1 with a grand opening event featuring tap dance virtuoso Savion Glover and hosted by actor Alan Cumming. Year-round programming will follow, and Willis hopes to capitalize on the booming film and TV production in the region—aided by generous state tax cuts specifically designed to draw projects to the Hudson Valley region—to help defray expenses. Lumberyard also has an ambitious outreach program, training local high school students in tech for the performing arts and doing work inside local correctional facilities. The day before his show in Catskill, Savion Glover will perform for incarcerated teens at the Hudson Correctional Facility. Willis hopes to incubate a statewide arts reintegration program for incarcerated teens at Lumberyard.

Another project with transformative potential for Catskill is Foreland. Slated to open in fall 2019, Foreland is the brainchild of artist and real estate developer Stef Halmos. She is currently overseeing the rehabilitation of an historic 50,000-square-foot-building, which she describes as a "contemporary arts ecosystem" that will include galleries, artist studios, a restaurant, and a special project space. When asked what such a space would like look like, Halmos responds: "A visually striking environment for people to make and show work, cutting-edge programming to engage a regional and national audience, and a spot to sit and stay a while."

Unlike what happened in the village's small-business boom prior to the Great Recession, these new, well-financed operations are unlikely to go away. "The opening of Lumberyward and Stef Halmos's Foreland show the long-term commitments people are making to Catskill," says Dorell. "If all these long-term projects come to fruition, it will bring people and prosperity to Catskill."

But Koppel, who was drawn to Catskill for its inexpensive real estate as much as the sense of a community discovering itself, says be careful what you wish for. "In three or four years, it may be too much like Brooklyn here, and maybe we'll move to Syracuse," he says with a laugh.

Hudson: The Price of Success

David Marston and Peter Spear on Warren Street in Hudson - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • David Marston and Peter Spear on Warren Street in Hudson

"The city of Hudson's last comprehensive plan, written in 2002, was aspirational," says Carole Osternik. "It painted a picture of a city back from the edge. Now, the population more than doubles on the weekend in the summer. People are saying the city is too expensive and too crowded on weekends. We're at a point where we truly need to assess what's happened. It might be time for Hudson to manage its success." Osternik, who's lived in Hudson for 25 years, has served on the city's Common Council, was a founding member of Historic Hudson, and is a de facto one-person newsgathering organization on her blog Gossips of Rivertown, where she publishes information from various municipal meetings and publicizes community events.

Another independent media outlet working on covering Hudson (and all of Columbia and Greene counties) is local public radio station WGXC. Launched in 2011 on the FM dial as an extension of the community radio work done by Tom Roe and Galen Joseph-Hunter of Wave Farm, WGXC is a hands-on, participatory radio station that not only reports on the region but also serves as a public platform for information, experimentation, and engagement. Three full-time staffers and 90 volunteer programmers create an eclectic mix of programming. "There's something for everybody," says Lynn Slonecker, station manager. "If you hear something you don't like, wait a half hour and you'll hear something completely different."

Hudson's diversity—religious, ethnic, personality, age—is what Mayor Rick Rector refers to as the city's "greatest strength." It also makes the radio station studio on Warren Street a pollinator of community interaction. "If you spend any time at the radio station," says Slonecker, "you'll see a cross-section of people under one roof that you wouldn't see anywhere else in Greene or Columbia. There's a combination of people who love radio and young people who are experiencing radio for the first time." (WGXC features a block of programming in the afternoon created by and for youth.)

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