Prattsville Art Center and Residency

Prattsville Art Center and Residency

Funding Received: 2013
Prattsville, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
May 6, 2014

By Nancy Barton

The idea that the Art Center will be open and we will be finished with the first phase of restoration in a month and a half is beginning to sink in. The winter has been so cold that we have been in survival mode, working bundled up against the chill. It seems almost surreal that we are really getting the heat installed this week, and our June Artists in Residence will have heat and hot showers.

These miracles come to us through the expertise of Elmer Penate, a native of El Salvador who now runs Winter Tech heating. The installation of a boiler in a flood zone is truly a challenge, requiring the construction of a 5-foot-tall reinforced concrete base to support the 500 lb cast iron boiler. Miraculously, Elmer finished this Donald Judd style minimal sculpture in a mere two days. During an interview with a visiting curator, Elmer revealed that he had spent his early years in the US working for famous art restorer Daniel GoldRyer and had seen more De Koonings and Rothkos than all of us combined.

Our all-girl intern crew is spackling and repainting the residences where two years of sub-zero winters have cracked the plaster. Our lead plasterer McKayla shyly asked for an advance on her salary so that she could purchase her first prom dress, so there you have it: ArtPlace sends rural kids to the prom!

Michael, Calvin and Gerry behind the coffee bar

 Michael Cohen, Calvin and Gerry Robinson behind the new Art Center coffee bar

Our next set of challenges will be to shift gears from rebuilding to public programs. Can we finish all the work in time to be ready for summer’s Artists in Residence? We must curate the opening exhibition “Homeland,” make painting easels for classes, tables for the computer studio, seating and lighting fixtures for the café, order coffee and juice bar equipment, and learn to make the perfect latte by June. So far, we have been doing extremely well keeping to our construction schedule, but if we haven’t finished every detail, we know that come June, everyone from artists to students, will pitch in to help us with the last minute details.

Recent Wins
The Art Center has been developing relationships with the acclaimed Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, where Art Center Director Nancy Barton will be speaking with a French commissioning body, Les Nouveaux Commandiatires, to consider issues in creative placemaking and opportunities that arise within locally specific, participatory, and public projects. Graduate Student Jocelyn Edens visited the Center last week, to discuss the project and have lunch with interns and carpenters and Elmer, our heating guru. Diann Bauer, an artist who has recently moved from London and Berlin to the Catskills, visited this month as well, and was inspired to propose creating one of her signature large-scale murals on an exterior wall across from our garden and café. And speaking of internationally, another article about the Center was published today in Italy.

Diann Bauer installation at Socrates Sculpture Center

Diann Bauer, Artist in Residence, installation at Socrates Sculpture Park, 2014

Artist Diann Bauer and Director Nancy Barton had a lengthy discussion about issues of gentrification that haunt artists’ interaction with low-income communities. Bauer felt that the Prattsville Project offered a model for avoiding exclusionary practices because of its rural location, and the integration of grassroots interests in every aspect of the project. The Art Center’s strategies for including low-income residents are an integral part of our vision, and everyone who participates in the building of the Center has had a strong voice in the major and minor decisions made about our programs, building design, and financial strategy. By expanding our purview into exploring a role for the center in town planning, food, energy, and housing, we can advocate for the inclusion of low-income residents in the broad recovery strategies in the town, and if we can find ways to increase creative sector jobs in the town, we will have already established a base of local residents who are prepared and interested to work in these fields.