Creators, Makers and Shakers Come Together
in Greene County
By Dave Hoffman
Photography and Video by Kevin White Productions
A lot of people visit Greene County to get out of the city and find inspiration in the splendor of nature. And inspiration they find.
The only thing more robust than the Catskills ecosystem is the creative economy of Greene County itself. Artists and creators of all kinds abound in the mountains of upstate New York, and the community offers plenty of structure to support anyone who is inspired to create and display their work.
The CREATE Council on the Arts supports artists on multiple levels. Most of their support comes in the form of a community arts grant program. Funded by the NY State Council on the Arts, CREATE provides grants for artists, nonprofits and arts educators.
“All the projects have a community focus, as they involve members of the community or provide opportunities for community involvement,” said Nathan McLaughlin, Interim Executive Director. “We fund everything including performing arts, theater, visual arts, ceramics, musicians, theater groups and public workshops.”
Projects funded by CREATE include a stone carving seminar at Hunter Mountain that is free and open to the public each summer. There are also platforms where local musicians perform and film screenings on the Athens waterfront.
They guide artists looking for galleries to showcase their work or musicians looking for places to play. This includes smaller grant programs which support young artists in the area who may want to help in promoting or framing their art, or attending an arts workshop. They recently started a new percussion workshop for young percussionists in Greene County.
CREATE Council on the Arts hosts an annual members show at their gallery on 398 Main Street in Catskill and early this year they hosted a show featuring David McIntyre, displaying portraits of residents of Catskill.
They are a membership organization, providing benefits to artists and patrons who receive discounts at local retailers and arts organizations, as well as giving artists a chance to display their work at the annual membership show.
An outlet for artists and art appreciators is the Athens Cultural Center, a non-profit arts organization based out of a historic building. The Center hosts five to six major exhibitions a year, two are member shows, which can feature more than 50 artists.
“It’s a wide range of artists, including people who live locally and people who visit the region,” Director Jeremy Bloom said. “The population is changing a lot, and we want to be a resource for people whose families have been in town for generations as well as people who have relocated to the Hudson Valley.”
The region is fortunate to have both local artists and visitors to the area looking to display.
“Historically, we have the Hudson River School artists who were drawn to the area for its natural beauty, Impressionists from the 1800s,” Bloom said. “But because we have proximity to New York city — only two hours by car — a lot of artists who have had careers in the city will relocate to this area.”
Bloom makes an effort to include makers of all different backgrounds and experience levels, juxtaposing more renowned artists with people who are more novice.
“It’s a really diverse mix of art,” Bloom said. “We want to celebrate all the diversity our region has to offer. Part of our mission is to promote appreciation and understanding of the arts for all.”
Another forum where visitors can enjoy the creative spirit of the Hudson Valley is at Kaaterskill Market, a store providing sustainable housewares and gifts. The site has quite a range of items including ceramics, woodwork, candles and greeting cards, as well as pantry items such as maple syrup or honey jam.
“Our first focus Is local makers,” owner Katie Hartsough said. “We work with at least 30 Hudson Valley and New York makers, and where there is an area where we can’t find a local maker, we’ll source elsewhere.”
Like many residents of Catskill, Katie and her husband relocated from New York City several years ago.
“We had both kind of done what we needed to do in the city and we’d come to appreciate the nature, the quiet, the forest, the mountains and the river,” she said. “We landed in Catskill and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Hartsough began by selling at farmers markets and pop up shops in sympathetic businesses like yoga studios and gift shops before opening their Main Street Catskill location two years ago.
She has enjoyed the collaborative nature of the arts community.
“One of my favorite things is when people come into the shop and say ‘I made this, what do you think?’” she said. “Often we’ll collaborate on something to bring to the community. The creative community of the Hudson Valley is especially supportive of creators and makers. Our town is a real place that creates a bond between makers and customers.”