Arts Mid-Hudson breathes new life into urban spaces

Queen City Arts initiative is part of the Arts Mid-Hudson organization that encourages coordination between residents and local businesses. The photo above is from last year’s Quuen City Arts Festival. Photo By: Queen City Arts
Queen City Arts initiative is part of the Arts Mid-Hudson organization that encourages coordination between residents and local businesses. The photo above is from last year’s Quuen City Arts Festival. Photo By: Queen City Arts
Queen City Arts initiative is part of the Arts Mid-Hudson organization that encourages coordination
between residents and local businesses. The photo above is from last year’s Queen City Arts Festival. Photo By: Queen City Arts
Art can fill the empty spaces of a city and make people pay attention to things they might have once passed by without a glance. Arts Mid-Hudson is a local organization whose mission is to create community through the arts and aesthetically reflect the character of quaint towns and vibrant urban settings like Poughkeepsie.

Their website reads, “Established in 1964 as a private, nonprofit arts service organization [it is our mission] to promote and coordinate cultural activity and development in Dutchess County.”

This spring, Arts Mid-Hudson will celebrate 50 years of artistic activism and recreation in the Dutchess, Ulster and Orange Counties. Since its inception, they have evolved from their original Arts Council to Queen City Arts to their present-day Arts Mid-Hudson while always staying true to this objective.

When she joined the Arts Mid-Hudson team two years ago, President Linda Marston-Reid decided that this central mission needed to be flexible: That is, it should be fluid and evolve as communities evolve. She said, “I decided that we needed to reinvigorate the organization and make it more contemporary to tie into the local citizens and what the area needed.”

Part of working towards this goal is the hosting the Queen City Arts Festival, an event in its second year that is to take place this spring. It will include pop-up galleries, booths featuring local businesses, music, and spoken-word poets all on Main Street in downtown Poughkeepsie, or The Queen City of the Hudson.

The name “Queen City” comes from Poughkeepsie’s placement of government centers on one street and its placement on the Hudson river. Arts Mid-Hudson is utilizing this concentration of government, commercial, and even residential communities to play host to their festival.

This collaboration among local artists, residents and business owners are essential to its success. Through these arts-driven partnerships, Arts Mid-Hudson continues its work to revitalize Poughkeepsie and fortify its sense of unity. Marston-Reid said she would like to include more students from the city’s colleges as well.

While the festival does have much already in place in terms of organization, it is still looking for artists to participate. “One of the things that is missing from this is the younger adults that are considering what they can do,” said Marston-Reid. There are many opportunities from art gallery exhibition to musical performance to stage performance.

“The nice thing about performances is that you can just you sign up to play,” said Marston-Reid. “If you are an emerging artist wanting to perform on a stage this would be a great way to get some experience. We would love for people from Vassar to come down here.”

She continued, “There are many amazing cultural assets in this community, but they are not close together. They are very spread out. That has been the issue with connecting with schools like Marist, Bard and Vassar.”

By bringing together different communities, the arts can work to large-scale issues through artistic immersion and activism. “Poughkeepsie…[has] urban blight problems and issues with crimes. This is the starting point. We developed this as an initiative because there are a lot of towns similar to Poughkeepsie that have similar problems like empty buildings. Newburgh has had some issues similar to what Poughkeepsie is dealing with like crime, empty buildings and gangs. They have tried to change some things but they have had more of a challenge because they are a little bigger and they have had bad publicity about their problems,” said Marston-Reid.

In addition to the annual festival, Arts Mid-Hudson has programming for every third Saturday of the month called Queen City Saturday. During the winter months this consists of a self-guided art tour with a focus on the Main Street of Poughkeepsie.

“We will encourager restaurants to have tastings out in front of them. We will ask landlords to borrow empty buildings to create…galleries, we will have a line up of  music, spoken world poetry and vendors,” said Marston-Reid. “We want to connect more with local community to help them understand, participate, and look forward to trying things in the art world even if you aren’t an artist.”

Thus far, many landlords have been happy to help with the events, she said. Last year, the organization borrowed an empty four-story fire house, filling it with paintings, drawings and traveling performances across all levels of the building.

Later, Marston-Reid spoke with someone involved in the fire house exhibitions about how the space seemed like a perfect area to live in. Later he bought it and moved in.

“Last May, I remember looking up and down Main Street, and there were a lot of people walking, people laughing, people with their families, and there was music playing on both ends,” said Marston-Reid. “This seemed like the perfect way to get people to be excited about being a part of a city and using the arts to effect positive change. We are trying to build pride in an area.”

If you would like to become involved with Arts Mid-Hudson, the festival, or would like any further information contact Linda Marston-Reid at [email protected]

The Queen City Arts Festival will be held on Saturday, May 17.

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