In April of 2020, after three years of planning and construction, the Cornell Creative Arts Center (CCAC) officially opened its doors on Cornell Street in Kingston—right as the region ground to a halt at the start of the pandemic. The timing could not have been more unlucky. As it turned out though, there was perhaps no organization better prepared to clear the hurdles of the pandemic over the next two years than the CCAC.
The CCAC’s entire mission is to provide inclusive, accessible, multi-disciplinary arts opportunities to all members of the community, regardless of ability. “We take access to the arts seriously,” says CCAC Director Shanna Nigro-Gonzalez. “With all of the barriers that presented with the COVID pandemic, we needed to think outside of the box to engage our community.”
The CCAC got to work rolling out a robust weekly schedule of virtual classes that included everything from adaptive dance to chair-based yoga to visual art workshops for both beginning and advanced artists. It also piloted a program that brought professional artists and supportive staff directly to individuals for in-home art classes, providing those without the ability or means to safely get out of their homes the opportunity to engage in creative expression. The initiative has been so successful that the CCAC expects to make it a permanent offering, and extend the program to more people this fall.
In late 2020 and 2021 as restrictions eased and in-person programming returned in full force, the CCAC was finally able to ramp up its 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility and began providing the accessible community arts space that Kingston needed.
Now on offer are a wide variety of in-person art, dance, and movement classes, which take place in its dedicated art classroom, ceramics studio, and movement studio. Artists getting serious about their clay craft can purchase monthly ceramics memberships, which includes key card access during business hours and use of the studio, tools, and glazes, and access to kiln services.
This fall, the CCAC also launched art classes at a new satellite location in Ellenville to expand arts access to children in rural communities. The initiative was spearheaded by Nigro-Gonzalez, whose prior community work as a program manager for Population Health and Ellenville’s Rural Health Network was recognized by former State Senator Jen Metzger and the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
As part of an effort to connect the arts to everyday life, the center also developed a program that blends ceramics with the culinary arts. For a previous two-part workshop focused on fermentation, participants created their own fermentation crocks in the ceramics studio, then learned how to ferment vegetables. This month, students will make ramen for their new noodle bowls and later this winter there will be a gingerbread house workshop.
For those who prefer to enjoy art rather than making it themselves, the newest exhibition at the CCAC’s art gallery is sure to delight. “Holograms: Dimensions in Light,” is a guest show from New York City’s HoloCenter, an organization dedicated to the holographic arts, which is calling the CCAC its home away from home while it relocates permanently to Kingston. “We’re so excited to show the work of world-renowned holographic artists here in our space,” says Nigro-Gonzalez. The exhibition will be on view through October 31.