KINGSTON, N.Y. — The Department of Regional Art Workers recently opened its new Neighborhood Print Shop in the Pajama Factory on Greenkill Avenue.
The new shop represents an expansion for the organization known as D.R.A.W. from its nearby location less than a block away next to the Center for Creative Education in RUPCO’s Energy Square.
Lara Giordano, a retired Kingston High School art teacher who serves as D.R.A.W.’s education director, said they are trying to be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. She said the space is offering classes in various printmaking processes like collagraph and silk-screening.
Open studio time will also be available for rent. That will include access to plates, pallets, drawing materials, screens, inks, tools, access to the exposure unit, cleaning chemicals, press for silkscreen, relief, intaglio and lithograph print.
Lisa Kelley, the organization’s excutive director, said they are also working with Cosmic Doghouse Press as the organization’s business incubator partner.
The building also serves as the headquarters for the Midtown Arts District. Kelley has her office in a space that once housed the factory manager.
Kelley said they ultimately settled on the name Neighborhood Print Shop over Community Print Shop after going back and forth for a bit.
“It’s open to the neighborhood in name,” Kelley said.
At the center of the shop is a fully-restored press that once belonged to Ben Wigfall, a SUNY New Paltz professor who pioneered the idea of a community print shop and arts space in Kingston with his Communications Village in the city’s Ponckhockie neighborhood in the 1970s. Wigfall died in 2017.
The Communications Village trained students to make prints for mostly African-American artists who traveled from New York City to visit the shop, according to a profile article produced by D.R.A.W. The shop’s clients included now well-known artists such as Benny Andrews, Charles Gaines and Melvin Edward. They would talk with the students and make themselves available to the youth, the piece stated.
“Communication Village provided a venue for them at a time when they were shut out from the mainstream art world, while the local teens found a creative outlet, as well as a second home, presided over by a nurturing mentor,” the article stated.
Giordano said the press was customized for Wigfall and even features his name. It was last used by Wigfall in 1979 and later passed to artist Pat Chow, who last used it in 1989, Giordano said.
It wasn’t used again until it came to D.R.A.W. in June, Giordano said.
Giordano said continuing Wigfall’s legacy loomed large in her founding and running both D.R.A.W and the Pop-Up Gallery Group, or PUGG, program, as well as everything they are doing at the Neighborhood Print Shop.
On a recent afternoon, D.R.A.W. staff, including several PUGG students both in high school and college, were working to finish T-shirts, stickers and other items for D.R.A.W’s expanded Draw-A-Thon. It took place in August for the first time as a block-party-style event on Iwo Jima Lane.
Stacks of T-shirts pressed in another corner of the factory floor featured two designs. One stated: “Un-Crayon.” Another, created by artist Chris O’Neil, depicts a T-Rex creature holding a pencil called “Drawzilla.”
In another corner, designs were being prepared for a unique print event during the Draw-A-Thon that was set to feature a steamroller typically used for paving projects, Giordano said.
The brick industrial building, which dates back over 100 years. has housed a number of tenants over the years. They included a T-shirt company, a dog-training facility and, most recently, an art gallery.
Giordano said the numerous outlets on the floor are a hint to a time when the floor was filled with sewing machines when it was a pajama factory.
On a recent afternoon Midtown Arts District Treasurer Jason Mones reflected back to days when he worked to print a poster he designed for the Neighborhood Print Shop.
“It was probably a sweatshop with the boss in his office at the back,” he said, as he used one of the outlets to plug in a press.
Giordano said she sees the Neighborhood Print Shop fitting into a much larger vision for the arts in Midtown.
She envisions Midtown becoming something of an “arts campus,” featuring not only D.R.A.W. but also other organizations like the Center for Creative Education, Bardavon/UPAC and the Center for Photography at Woodstock, which is in the process of moving into a new home at a former cigar factory at 25 Dederick. St. This vision also encompasses arts-related businesses like Bailey Pottery and R&F Handmade Paints, she said.
“That’s a goal of the Midtown Arts District,” she said.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment