Mark Gruber, in business three decades now, keeps reaching new collectors with the area's top traditionalist painters, almost singlehandedly keeping the finer sides of the Hudson River School's renowned heritage alive. And most importantly, it seems that every time one looks these days, new galleries are opening up, creating venues for the ever-increasing numbers of emerging artists coming to, or emerging forth within, the immediate era.
I'm not going to talk about renaissances or the like - at least not quite yet. But come this weekend - on Saturday, May 16, to be exact - New Paltz's cultural scene will be getting a major new boost via inaugural events for the new Third Saturdays component in the region's ongoing, and highly successful, Art along the Hudson push to cement the connection among our artists and commerce, history and culture. "New Paltz has a spirit of independence and vision that goes back more than 330 years, when French-speaking Huguenots struck out on their own, eager to create a special haven for themselves," reads the promo pitch put together by the 11 venues coming together for a new Art Loop each month featuring the town's key spaces for visual, musical and theater arts. "The town features an eclectic mix of art venues, a university museum that has a special focus on Hudson Valley art and artists, restaurants, unique shopping, a strong agricultural community of family farms and orchards, hiking, biking, a college that has been here over 100 years and a six-acre National Historic Landmark District - all with a view of the magnificent Shawangunk Ridge."
In recent meetings with Third Saturdays organizers Brian Wallace of the Dorsky, Melanie Cronin of Cronin Arts and Art along the Hudson and Shari Osborn of the Hugenot Historical Society and New Paltz Village Board, the emphasis was put on the town's new diversity of cultural offerings, as well as the down-home fun that folks would be able to expect making an evening of New Paltz arts.
Coordinated opening events, artist receptions and open houses will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. each third Saturday, starting this weekend, with evening fun running later into the evening at one location each monthly Loop. This time around, they pointed out, the "after-hours" element would entail an "art mixer" for all involved at the Water Street Market from 8 to 10 p.m.
The current configuration of participating venues - including Gruber's Gallery in the New Paltz Plaza, Van Buren Gallery at 215 Main Street, the Dorsky Museum at the center of the SUNY-New Paltz campus, Transcendence Gallery at 175 Main Street, Inquiring Minds Bookstore on Church Street, the Historic Huguenot Street complex and its spaces, Cronin Gallery, G. Steve Jordan Gallery and Celebration of the Arts (CoTA) in the Water Street Market and Upstate Lights Photo and Graphics at 3 Water Street - provides a fine trajectory down the hill into town.
Some of the town's Opening Night Art Loop highlights include HHS's "Before Hudson" exhibit - based on and inspired by recent archaeological finds on the Indian-treasured site where 12 Huguenots and their families founded New Paltz in 1678 - at the entity's DuBois Fort Visitors' Center; National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier's work at Transcendence; Ryan Cronin's always-engaging Basquiatlike works at the gallery open in his name; an intriguing new glimpse into the Dorsky permanent collection; some fine turn-of-the-century works by one of America's pioneering women photographers; and a retrospective of an influential locally based sculptor at the college's elegant gallery spaces, which are also showing student works and all agog with this weekend's commencement fun. And don't forget the latest developments as part of Simon Draper's Habitats for Artists project: a truly local endeavor of national consequence that looks at our relationships with home and environment, design and space, permanence and impermanence, via artist-creators' presence in their new "homes" near the Water Street Market and nearby on Huguenot Street.
The idea that Draper is developing - for eventual rollout to the Dorsky and SUNY campus as well as other sites - is to demystify artmaking and make it more accessible as a process as key to our understanding of communities as street work and pizza-making, car repair and governmental meetings, by having artists work right in public - as well as in a truly ecologically responsible fashion. Talk about fitting into this new idea that is New Paltz - as well as pushing us all even closer to that inevitable term "renaissance."
It all goes down in New Paltz starting at 4 p.m. For further information and a full schedule, visit www.newpaltzarts.org.