We will host our first One-Day Retreat of the fall season in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley on Sunday, September 16th. Our day will be spent in a restored nineteenth century factory and will feature local food from Barbara Goldstein of Blima’s.
We were able to talk to friend Melissa Auf der Maur from Basilica to find out a little more about the history of the space, future plans for the center, and where to spend the rest of our weekend in the Hudson Valley.
Below we share what learned – which includes lessons on historic preservation and roof gardens.
AC: As we are preparing for our trip up, we’ve read a lot about Basilica. We’ve gathered that it is an incredible community arts center with galleries, performance areas, a theater, and workshop spaces all wrapped up into one. How did you and Tony Stone come to transform Basilica into this grand place?
MA: The central muse of Basilica Hudson is the space itself. The former owner named it the Basilica after an architect friend walked into the Main Hall and said it was reminiscent of Byzantine era Italian churches. It does feel like you are walking into an ancient and holy building. Before we took over the property from the former owner, we had visited, worked in and dreamt about the endless creative, productive, festive and community based uses of the space. Anything can happen in this large and rugged of a space. From performances, expositions to the construction of just about anything, it seems this space could have seduced just about anyone to take it over and make something out of it. We found ourselves in the intimate and dynamic community of Hudson, New York, just over 4 years ago and quickly developed a friendship with the building and the owner. The next thing we knew, he made us an offer we could not refuse – to take over the place. He chose us to complete the mission he began over a decade ago when it was just a neglected and abandoned old glue factory. We were not looking for a 17,000 square foot compound without plumbing, but she has quickly inspired us to put all of our passions, abilities, and work into her! It has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to work on this scale of space and public space.
AC: The images we’ve seen of the interior are gorgeous (like the one above). We can’t wait to gather and work in the space – so much natural light and beautiful architecture. How has the community responded to Basilica’s revival? Is this a growing trend in Hudson?
MA: The community of Hudson and the surrounding areas have received the diverse activities here with open arms. We have had so much support and need from the space. It seems that Hudson’s time is at a tipping point, with so many new art spaces opening and in development all at the same time. Most notably, is “The Marina Abramovic Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art in Hudson” that is in development just blocks away from Basilica. Hudson seems to be a magnet for ambitious, yet avant guarde projects and people. It’s full of a lot of life and activity at the moment, which feels really hopeful as much of the country seems to be in state of decline and economic stress.
AC: Wow, there must be a great artistic energy in the community. Is there focus in a specific field, or is it spread out among many?
MA: It does seem to be diverse between visual arts, music, media and antiques, but a reoccurring theme seems to be very specific or niche emerging and alternative forms of them. There are not very much mainstream sensibilities landing here, which works well with our hopes for Basilica to host such things.
AC: You are a musician and artist, and Tony is a filmmaker, so you must host many kinds of events at Basilica. What other types of happenings and amazing events are hosted here?
MA: This season, we have begun a weekly film screening series showing a range of narrative, experimental, video and repertory; we have carefully put together a 2012 music program featuring concerts by Gang Gang Dance, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Grimes. For the second year in a row, we have hosted Hudson Ramp Fest, a specialty food festival and NADA Hudson (New Art Dealer Alliance) site specific art fair which brought over 2,000 people to the city both years. We are also careful to have a good balance of local events such as Teen Theater Workshops, a High School Prom and an annual Habitat for Humanity fundraiser gala. Then there are the weddings! They are great opportunity to fund the artistic programming.
It is a total dream to be able to host such a range of people and activities.
AC: So much talk about the arts and music. How does the food scene compare? Is there a garden at the center, or any great local farms to visit?
MA: There are so many great farms in the area, and the best way to discover them is at the Hudson Farmers Market which is held on Saturdays on the corner of 5th Street and Columbia. We have not been able to address our landscaping and green dreams at the Basilica YET! But, in addition to planting trees, we intend on transforming most of our flat roof areas into green sod roofs, starting with a small commercial rated community kitchen annex we will build this year. This kitchen will be used by a local nonprofit organization embracing local farmers and cooking as a means for education for young people. The first roof garden we will plant will be a diverse herb garden.
AC: We will definitely have to plan a trip back once the kitchen and gardens are in place. Look at us, planning a second workshop before we’ve even had the first…
Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to share your beautiful story of Basilica.
We are delighted to host our One-Day Retreat at Basilica Hudson.
P.S.: We are sorry to announce (and happy at the same time) that our workshop at the Basilica sold out over the past weekend. Join our mailing list, follow the blog, and check our calendar often for upcoming events and workshops. xoNatalie