By Anne Pyburn Craig
The Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) got its start 45 years ago, in a rental on Rosendale’s Main Street. But founders Tatana Kellner and Anita Wetzel soon realized that their idea’s time had come—women artists wanted to come to Rosendale and work with them, and needed space to work and stay. In the process of making that space, the WSW has carefully transformed the micro-community on Binnewater Lane—and with their Terrace Project, this internationally-recognized arts center is creating a public space that will connect it to the community in a whole new way, creating a public open-air exhibition and gathering space directly adjacent to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.
“Ever since the trail’s opened up, we’ve been developing an increased connection to it,” says Managing Director Rachel Myers. “When we opened up our newest building, we gained a lot of administrative and office space and that enabled us to invite the community in, in a whole new way. The Terrace will expand on that and allow a lot of public art to happen.”
The Terrace Project has received a boost from the public sector, a Mid-Size Capital Facilities grant of $70,000 secured with the support of the New York State Council on the Arts through the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) and the Arts and Cultural Facilities Improvement Program.
The terrace space will be located between two of the WSW’s renovated historic properties, and continues the WSW track record of hard work and placemaking. Their first Binnewater Lane property had been the headquarters of the Rosendale Cement Company in decades past and a bait and tackle shop after that, and when Kellner and Wetzel moved in in 1980, their work was cut out for them. According to the Workshop’s history blog, “the building was filled with random parts for outboard motors, worm breeding bins in the basement, a bone crusher for soap-making and barrels and barrels of liquid soap.” After three years of painstaking renovation, they were welcoming women artists to the new studio spaces.
It was just the beginning. When a derelict property came up for sale down the street, the WSW purchased and gutted it, creating housing for interns and an accessible artists’ living space, christened the Anne Atwood House in honor of the mother of board member Joanne Steel. A third building, with four acres attached, provided more housing and allowed the creation of the on-site ArtFarm, where papermaking fibers are homegrown.
The organization’s primary mission has never wavered: “to operate and maintain an artists’ workspace that encourages the voice and vision of individual women artists, provides professional opportunities for artists at various stages of their careers, and promotes programs designed to stimulate public involvement, awareness, and support for the visual arts.” To that end, they maintain facilities for etching, letterpress, papermaking, book arts, silkscreen, 3D work, ceramics, and photography. Over 5,000 artists from around the world have studied and worked here, and over 6,000 Ulster County youth have been involved in the Workshop’s Art in Education Program. Artists’ books from the WSW are in special collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Tate Modern, and The Library of Congress, among others.
Locals, even those who don’t give a lot of thought to artistic matters, benefit from the WSW’s placemaking endeavors every time they drive Binnewater Lane. In 2009, a matching grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation covered half of the cost of the purchase and exterior rehabilitation of a fourth property for the campus, rescuing yet another slice of Rosendale history from oblivion.
Construction of the terrace is projected to take place between April and June of 2019 and will provide an additional ADA-compliant exhibition space, a natural extension of WSW’s mission and work in supporting artists through artistic development, exhibition and community-building opportunities.
“Mid-size capital grants are highly competitive and we’re grateful that the Mid-Hudson REDC has provided us with the opportunity to expand our facilities and programming in this way,” says Myers. “WSW is always aiming to produce programs that meet at the intersection of art and community. Through the Terrace Project, we’ll be able to provide artists with more opportunities in the form of public art commissions, and invite the public to join us on-campus for events that bring together our international and regional artist communities.”
If you’d like to stop in the gallery and offer a congratulatory word, you can enjoy “Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear” through March 11; the gallery’s open 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.