Prattsville Arts CenterPrattsville, NY
The hamlet of Prattsville anchors what is now one of the poorest townships in NY State, but it was once a bustling community with an opera house, an academy, and regular events attended by thousands of visitors. Following devastating flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011, the local community came together to create an award-winning plan for long-term community recovery, which would address not only the community’s flood damage, but its future. The Prattsville Art Center and Residency, grew out of this planning process and has been one of the early signs of this renewal. Founded in 2012, we ran programs on Main Street for the first year without heat, water, or electricity. The recognition by ArtPlace of the value of art in a rural community has taken many in the area by surprise and given Prattsville’s residents a new sense of pride and hope. Artists from the prosperous nearby town of Windham were among the first to express that, in winning community and funders’ support for the arts, Prattsville’s Art Center was achieving “what others could only dream of.” This comment shows the interest in the Center from neighboring towns, as well as the potential that the Art Center’s philosophy of putting rural residents on an equal footing with avant-garde artists from New York, Berlin, and Paris provides, as a model for inclusiveness and dialogue in the rural US.
Construction has begun at the Art Center site, led by a second homeowner, his son, and a crew of local volunteers and interns. The backyard has been cleared and the flood-damaged Art Center now has water and temporary electricity. There are new floor joists and a subfloor in the “coming soon” wi-fi café, and a front walk of local bluestone. The basement, once filled with 8 feet of river mud, has been cleared, and a new slab is being poured this week. When our first summer show opens July 5, visitors will see the Art Center as a work in progress. The exhibition itself echoes this theme; local residents are encouraged to hang art and memorabilia next to well-known artists, and every Saturday new work will be added to an expanding exhibition in an evolving space. Visitors will encounter creativity and change, in the diversity of the artwork, the exhibition on view, and in the Center itself.
This month the Prattsville Art Center was featured on the cover of the Windham Journal (the largest newspaper in the area) with a story on its ArtPlace award.
The Art Center received a New York State Main Street grant, for restoration of the building façade.
On Wednesday, the Town held the first site visit for a $200,000 Streetscaping Project, which will repair flood damage and enhance Main Street. The Art Center’s Director, Advisors, and Artists in Residence will participate in the community planning process as well as the design and fabrication of original art for the town.
The new NYSCA REDC funded “Mainly Greene” arts consortium, “Art on Main Streets across Greene County,” went live with its website, coordinating events and exhibitions from The Prattsville Art Center, the Pratt Museum, the Catskill Mountain Foundation, and Greene County Council on the Arts in Catskill.
As disaster recovery funds become available, the Town of Prattsville is opening and re-opening businesses. On Memorial Day, following the Main Street parade by veterans, the high school band, and volunteer fire departments, Prattsville opened its first general store and car wash. The store is part of a newly completed shopping plaza, which also includes the Town’s first laundromat and a new wine store. In the following weeks, rebuilding was completed on the Town’s Baseball Field, which was destroyed by flooding in 2011.
As diverse groups come together to imagine the future of art and community, we new realizations are being made. In planning this summer’s youth workshops, we discovered several professional filmmakers, who had already shot features in the area, were willing to teach local youth over the summer. A new feature film is being cast, and discussions have begun about turning the town firehouse, across the street from the Art Center, into a film studio.
Art Center internships will provide Summer jobs for 5 Prattsville youth, and young artists from neighboring towns are already becoming involved in the Center. One of the foremost goals of the Center is to enrich the perspective and creative confidence of the next generation of young people on the mountaintop, through workshops, and by creating networks between creative youth from surrounding towns. One issue we are sensitive to is the potential for differences between teens from varying social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. We are on the lookout for positive ways to keep less privileged youth from feeling intimidated by those with different advantages.