Sunday, May 31, 2015

Spreading the light

Thomas Edison is famous for inventing the light bulb. In fact, he built the Montgomery Street power station in Newburgh and helped the city become the second American city, after New York City, to have a street lighted using electricity.

The Lightbulb Project incorporates dozens of decorated 4-foot tall plywood light bulbs displayed throughout the city. All by artists from a range of mediums, subjects include animals, cars, flowers, geometric shapes, cinema, and other cultural references.

The project is organized by Michael and Gerardo, proprietors of Newburgh Art Supply on Grand Street. The store opened in 2008 and is one of the few small local supply shops. They offer paints, pastels, paper, gifts, and more. In addition to the light bulb project and store, Michael and Gerardo organize local art events including the annual Newburgh Open Studios tour. Held this year on September 26 and 27, it's a free self-guided tour of local artists studios. Participants can pick up a map at the store and walk to the many of the locations. I went a few years ago and got to experience the workspaces of painters, a video installation, and went inside the old Regal bag factory on North Water Street. The event provides not only access to unique spaces that are otherwise private, but also a look into the creative process.

I stopped in the store recently and spoke with Michael and Gerardo about the store and what they're doing around Newburgh. Michael said, "We bring art to the public, that's what we're always doing. People can be intimidated about galleries and they don't always know what that's about. We bring it outside."

Newburgh Art Supply:
Newburgh Open Studios:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Seasonal transition

In 2007 Jenny Wonderling taught me an exercise to beat writers block. You open a book, flip to a chapter, read the first sentence and take it in your own direction. Jenny owns Nectar, a store in High Falls that is truly an experience for the senses. I worked there for a summer after college and I like to stop in a few times a year to see what's going on. Nectar, like the Hudson Valley, has especially vibrant and alluring seasonal changes.

Nectar carries home decor, art, jewelry, candles, statuary, children's items, furniture, bath and body gifts, architectural elements, and more. Goods come from all over the world as well as from right here in the Hudson Valley. Many items are fair trade or support women's cooperatives. You'll find beaded sandals, scarves, Buddha statues, and incense. A tall wood cabinet is filled with brass jewelry and pieces embedded with semi-precious stones like turquoise and chalcedony.

A candle burns in the corner and light streams through the front windows, casting shadows of the words of inspiration painted on the glass. Visitors enter to the sounds of world music and are offered a cup of tea, a featured flavor from the store's selection of loose teas. Nectar's collection includes Earl Grey and Vanilla Chai, and the curious may be drawn to flavors like Kaapstad, Kyoto, Queen Nefertiti, and Marry Me Again, blended by local company Tay Tea in Andes, New York.

Last year at Nectar I picked up a book by local author Jeff Davis: The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse For Authentic Writing which instantly became one of my favorites. One might think that there is writing and then there is life, but it's funny how writing exercises can be applied to the rest of life, too. You can take something that came from someplace else, be it a sentence, a photo, a candle, a container of tea, or a statue, and send it in your own direction.


The Journey from The Center to the Page:

Friday, May 8, 2015


There exist oddball superstitions about goats. Their horns mean this, their eyes mean that, their hooves, etc. I'm going to continue paying that no mind because you know what comes from goats? This amazing thing called goat cheese. Known in France as chevre, it's used in cooking, baking, sandwiches, mixed in salads, or spread on crackers.

If you've never tried goat cheese, it has the taste and texture of tangy cream cheese. The restaurant The Last Bite, in the hamlet of High Falls in Ulster County, serves The Goat, a salad of mesclun greens, craisins, pecans, red onions, cucumber, balsamic dressing, and big chunks of goat cheese.

The Last Bite is lovely. And by lovely I mean healthy, tasty, energetic, and offbeat. Its bright space has lots to look at with mismatched chairs and ever-changing art and craft displays. They serve breakfast, lunch, desserts, coffee, tea and juices. Vegetarian and gluten free options are available.

My favorite carryout is Beet This, a juice mix of beet, carrot and orange juices. Beet has a strong earthy taste that goes well with orange. In case it colors your teeth pink, know that beets contain a pigment that's actually used as a textile dye, but on your teeth it's temporary and I think a small price to pay for the vitamins.

Take a seat by the window and you'll find yourself eating with an assortment of plastic farm animals, monsters, soldiers and other figures. Toys, frozen in position by the last eater to sit down, stand guard as diners reach around them for napkins.
Interestingly, much of the setting in the 1987 episode "Unidentified Flying Leonardo" from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was set in High Falls.
The Last Bite has an ever-changing local art collection. You might find paintings, photography, jewelry, pottery, weavings, soaps, and other apothecary items. The yoga skeleton paintings I found on my last visit are by local mixed media artist Tanya Rae, and next to that was earth-toned pottery from Heather Foster.
The Last Bite's music playlist is an extension of the restaurant's unceremonious form with selections like "Calling" by The Birthday Massacre. It's an unconventional place, a bit like the goat.

The Last Bite:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in High Falls: