I feel very lucky to live in an area with access to all the great cultural offerings of the NY metro area. The great restaurants, parks, museums and natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley region are an additional bonus. Additionally, I am enamored with the “Brooklynization” of suburban pockets which recognizes the importance of historical mixed-use and walkable urban spaces. This cultural array makes me grateful to be an “East Coast Girl”.
Forms of art and entertainment bring revenue and added value to a community and allow people a healthy diversion from the mundanity of day to day life. Believe it or not, 35 miles outside of NYC is an artists’ enclave tucked in the suburbs of Rockland County, NY and a gem to discover.
The Garner Arts Center, (formerly GAGA) is a not-for-profit visual and performing art center located in Garnerville, NY. It is a historic 375,000-square-foot 18th century textile mill where artists work, exhibit their work in gallery spaces and hold artistic programs to enrich and educate the public.
Several times a year they hold events where the public can visit artists’ studios. The center includes painters, sculptors, woodworkers, metal smiths, film makers and photographers. The public can also tour the Creekside Sculpture Park with master gardeners and sign up for educational programs for students of all ages.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene (August 2011) caused the Main Gallery to collapse therefore suspending daily operations. Since then, Robin Rosenberg, president of the board along with the Board of Directors, has been on a mission to transform Building 35 into a new gallery, media center and base for operations. In order to transform the building, a $500,000 capital campaign was started to raise money through artists’ exhibitions and a chance to see artists in action in their studios.
This year I attended the Re-Imagine Garner event held on October 12th and 13th, where 200 artists came together in order to raise money to rebuild the damaged building. Thousands showed up last year for a similar event and this year was no exception. Visitors had access to artists’ studios during the day on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday a party was held with live music by Rouge Neck, AndJam, Dr K’s Motown Review, food, cash bar and a silent auction. An estimated 400 people showed up that evening.
The event took place in the DyeWorks gallery, a space so massive that you must see it to believe it. It made me nostalgic for the studio spaces at SUNY Purchase where I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Imagine ceilings with wood beams, exposed brick walls, old wood flooring and big windows. This is the venue where artists, art lovers and curious visitors witnessed works of art on every wall.
Finally, I would like to point out the specialness of what makes Gaga so unique. The center almost shut down in the 80s due to disrepair, yet there was a group of dedicated people who devised new ways and resources to preserve the site. This site allowed artists to use available space to create their art which in turn eventually brought in businesses to keep it running.
Currently, the big news is that artist/photographer Spencer Tunick will be an “Artist in Residence” for two years starting in October. Spencer is known for his temporary site installations that encompass hundreds or thousands of live, nude volunteers in public spaces, which he photographs and records in video. His ongoing work will be showcased at his Garner Arts Center studio every month and he will be there personally every other month. You can find more info about his openings at www.spencertunick.com or visit the Garner Arts Center website for dates of his upcoming visits.
So often historic buildings are torn down because the owners do not foresee a profit. They don’t always have the vision, patience and wherewithal necessary to carry through to fruition a time consuming project such as a historic preservation. The key is to build a revenue stream to sustain and preserve these landmark places. When the vision is nurtured, not only is history preserved for future generations, these spaces are often profitable. As evidenced with current trends, there is demand for mixed-use spaces which harken back to the charm of past eras rather than building new spaces.
This kind of vision has seen similar success across the country and has become a very important trend. Here are some examples in NY state:
The Highline in NYC – a 1-mile park built on a section of an elevated railroad spur.
Grand Central Station – New York City
The Edward Hopper House Art Center – Nyack, NY – The former home of artist Edward Hopper
Dia – Beacon, NY – A former printing plant built in 1929 by Nabisco which is now a museum.
The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls – Beacon, NY – a former hat factory and 19th-century mill which is now a hotel, restaurant and wedding events hall.
Chelsea Market – NYC – A former National Biscuit Company factory complex which now houses a food court, shopping mall and office space.
The Victorian Pier – Yonkers, NY – A Victorian-era pier, which has been restored and is now lined with condos, restaurants and office space.
Glenwood Power Plant -Yonkers, NY – which is being converted to a hotel, conference center, wedding venue and restaurants.
The Garner Arts Center aims to bring cultural enrichment to the community and New York State. There are several ways you can help in its expansion and preservation efforts.
View more art and scenes from the DyeWorks Gallery
You can volunteer your time, join a workshop, intern or rent a studio to create art. The Center also offers programs for kids in the arts.
Calling all artists: Rent a studio from 275 square feet to 1000 square feet and share your vision with everyone.
Or please consider making a financial contribution to rebuild Building 35.
Find the Garner Arts Center on Facebook and sign up for future events on their website.
The office is open Monday through Friday, but the gallery is only open during events.