The first Saturday evening of the new year—January 2, 2010—was cold and wintry, but that didn’t stop hundreds of art lovers from flocking to Kingston’s gallery openings. The monthly event has been a huge success, giving not only residents a reason to get out and experience a night on the town, but also attracting visitors from outside the city. Last Saturday, at least seven venues, collectively spanning all three business districts, hosted new art exhibitions, which also boosted business for nearby bars and restaurants.
At Surprenant Art & Design, on Wall Street in Uptown, at least 100 people, including a city alderman, stopped in to view installations by Highland artist Joe Venditti and Rosendale artist Sean Sullivan, according to owners Brian Early and Anne Surprenant. The mostly younger crowd of art aficionados came from New Paltz, Gardiner, Highland, and Esopus. “They love Kingston,” said Early. “We have a great scene, and we send people to local stores. If you go to the local pubs at this hour, they’ll be full.”
Around the corner, on North Front Street, Half Moon Books stayed open late, with landscapes by Marcia Gordon-Sank on the walls. A selection of small works on paper by Todd Samara were also for sale, priced at $20 each, making this artist’s popular fauve paintings of Kingston scenes affordable for everyone. A few doors down, at the Living Room gallery, Sigrid Sardo’s compelling installation Family Portrait 2008, a tableaux of a dispossessed family featuring wax casts of a real mother and two daughters who were homeless due to the foreclosure of their house, was displayed in the storefront window.
Next stop was the 721 Media Center, located on upper Broadway, in Midtown. An embarrassment of riches could be found on the second floor, with a total of 177 works of art by 14 artists displayed in the long hall, several offices-cum-gallery spaces, and the huge, loft like space in the back, which is rented by Louis Spina. The art ran the gamut from the abstract lyrical paintings of Emily Thing, who lives and works in Midtown, to exquisitely painted traditional still lives and landscapes by Paul Abrams and Susan Godwin, and other artists to the small painterly romantic landscapes of Connecticut artists Dennis Sheehan. Spina, who runs several businesses from the space, has been organizing the monthly art shows.
“We’ve probably had 125 people tonight,” Spina said, noting that one appeal of showing art in the center is the media related tie-ins. For example, videos taken of the participating artists were being aired in a studio off the loft. The monthly art showings “have been very positive,” he said. “I try to bring the community together. I’ve spent time walking through Midtown, letting people know I’m here.” Overflow from the opening benefits local businesses, he said. For example, many of the participating artists and people attending the opening head next door to the Broadway Diner afterwards for a bite to eat.
Downtown, on Abeel Street, the Kingston Museum of Contemporary Arts, or KMOCA, was packed to the gills; one had to muscle through the crowd to view Michael X. Rose’s mythological fantasias, lushly painted on wood panels. Co-owner Adam Snyder said First Saturday is one of the best things about Kingston. “Whenever I have visitors from other places, I invite them to First Saturday,” he said. “People who attend think this is the most happening town in the world. We need other events like this, because once a month people are dazzled.”
More crowds clustered outside the Arts Society of Kingston’s handsome 1920s building, located at 97 Broadway. The fanciful acrylic landscapes of John Druppa were on display in one gallery, with an expansive group show in the large gallery in the back. As with the other galleries, cups of wine, crudities, and crackers and cheese were offered to the crowd, no doubt a popular feature of the openings.