Prattsville Art Center and Residency

Prattsville Art Center and Residency

Funding Received: 2013
Prattsville, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 26, 2014

By Nancy A. Barton

This Spring has brought a new round of 7 national and international artists to our Residency Program to participate in the life of a rural mountaintop community. Iranian artist and Metropolitan Museum of Art Educator, Azi Amiri, taught a children’s art workshop that was so successful that local residents have adopted her methods to create a weekly children’s art workshop taught by rural community members in partnership with visiting artists. Dorothy, who hails from Hong Kong, and Sam, from the rural Midwest are current NYU students who recently studied in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. Curator and artist Joseph Imhauser fabricated models for an indoor growing station for year-round fresh produce, Caribbean-born interior designer, Leyden Lewis consulted with us on the Center’s furnishings and construction details, and Robert Tomlinson of Oregon created 25 distinct bodies of new work during his month-long stay.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the Art Center's synergy with the Town's disaster recovery planning is the inclusion of the Art Center as a core element of Prattsville's NY Rising flood relief proposal, and the designation, in both the NYRCR and Town's Long Term Community Recovery Plan, of the central thoroughfare as "Creative Main Street." The “Creative Main Street” concept is clearly a reference to creative placemaking and ArtPlace's influence on the Town's goals. "Creative Main Street" was also the title of Prattsville's recent $2,500,000 proposal to NY State Capital Region Economic Development Council, which linked major building projects at the Art Center, with the restoration of the Zadock Pratt Museum, streetscaping, riverwalks, hiking trails, and a second historic home repurposed as a residency for visiting scholars - modeled on the Art Center's residency. "Creative Main Street" includes the town's first comprehensive tourism and marketing plan, and portrays the hamlet's Main Street as an arts, heritage, and nature destination for community culture and experiential tourism, creating jobs, encouraging new investment, and homeownership, and engaging visitors and local residents with artists and creative activities as a core element of their experience of this beautiful mountain valley. The NY REDC proposal includes matching support from the Greene County Office of Economic Development, Planning, and Tourism, NY State DOS, OPHRP, DEP, & Main Street Grants, and private foundations.

Haying season has presented a unique stumbling block to our construction schedule. We have all heard the saying, “make hay while the sun shines,” what this means is that when the hay is ready for harvest, and the sun is out, our local construction team is in the field doing the seasonal work which is a staple of this rural community. A new code enforcement officer without a background in commercial codes arrived just in time to quash our July exhibition and deter several new businesses from opening in the town. For the first time, our programming is being interrupted by construction issues, and we are growing anxious about the deadlines for our upcoming exhibition.

AgriForaging's Nicole Day Gray with Prattsville's edible streetscape AgriForaging's Nicole Day Gray with Prattsville's edible streetscape[/caption]

Recent Wins
The newly incorporated non-profit Prattsville Art Project is thrilled to have used a portion of its ArtPlace grant to purchase the Art Center property, with the unanimous support of our board. Work on the town streetscape is beginning, highlighted by handpainted signage created at the Art Center at the request of the Town Board. We are now completing a new 4 x 8 foot sign for historic Pratt Rock Park.

The Center is now offering classes three days a week, with a wealth of free and donated equipment. Our new computer class, taught by mountaintop resident Otto Ohle, is using iMacs donated by New York University. This is the first time Macintosh computers have been available to the public in Prattsville. The Experimental Painting and Drawing Class taught by Kate Milo has drawn participants from 16 to 60 years of age, who are working with new easels handmade for us from recycled lumber by a local artist. Donated tires have been decorated by local children and serve as planters in our front yard for strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries, and squash to be shared with the community.

The Art Center is also honored to be included in several forthcoming research studies and books on Placemaking in the US, including the San Francisco Federal Community Development Journal on Creative Placemaking.

Rural poverty is a major element in Prattsville, and the Art Center has deliberately sought out disadvantaged youth and adults for key internships and planning positions. As the Center moves closer to being fully open, new participants are becoming involved, from business partners and volunteers to year-round visiting artists. This influx of new influences and energy can be unsettling for some of our longstanding local team members, who have lived insular lives. Some visitors have initially been nervous about local culture due to media representations of rural values. An important part of the Art Center’s mission is to work closely with all of our participants to develop relationships and experiences that cross boundaries of class and geography, and undo stereotypes that create mistrust.