The Limits of Empathy Gallery Openning

     On April 1st 2017, a tiny window front on Broadway streamed with a crowd onto the steps and through the glass door that allowed visitors to peek inside at Rebecca Hellard's fantastic work. She show cased her She Series of water colors and oil paintings of imaginative landscapes. Limits of Empathy officially opened to the public on March seventeenth and will remain on display at the PUGG gallery until April twentieth-first. Guests of all kinds were present, people of various ages. Even a child as young as ten, from friends, relatives, and strangers. By the end a bouquet rested happily in Rebecca's hands. The opening lasted from 4 pm to 8 pm. People going in and out continued throughout the evening.

     Some may have been swayed by the temptation of food to stop in, but the main attraction was undoubtedly the beautifully crafted art hanging on the walls. Many were interested in the large oil paintings that depicted vast stretches of land. Rebecca said that the space between the viewer and the image was the most valuable. The steps need to cross the terrain and the limitless of them was what she wanted the audience to observe. For her detailed water colors she wanted to explore how simple a shape could be before humans stop feeling care and empathy towards it, as stated in the title of the gallery: The Limits of Empathy. The pieces were created with soft and gentle colors, contrasting with the abstractness of the impalpable organisms.

     Through out the opening Rebecca was busied with greetings. Support and genuine enthusiasm were expressed for her future shows. A graduate from Kingston High school and a young artist with promising talents, she is also a sweet and lovable girl. We look forward to her next project and wish that she'll display her work with us again at the PUGG gallery. Her light water colors and striking geography portrayed in the oil paintings shouldn't be missed.

( Prints are available for the three of her water colors ranging form fifty dollars to seventy-five dollars. Her oil paintings range in price from 800.00 to 2000.00)

What we have done

The Pop-Up Gallery Group is an after school work-study program that sets out to get students involved in Midtown through the arts.  Students learn arts/gallery management skills, as they create Pop-Up Galleries on Broadway, in Mid-Town, Kingston, NY. The gallery’s mission is to show the artwork of KHS Alumni. The PUGG students are learning skills in arts/gallery management, as well as the power of the arts to create community and engaged civic involvement. 

Students began their work by visiting “The School”, a satellite for Jack Shainman’s, Chelsea Gallery, in NYC.  The staff gave our group a back room presentation about handling, preparing, hanging and marketing, works of art. All of the staff at The School are artists, so the students got to see how their skills as artists can translate to good jobs in the arts, with or without a college education.

Of course the group of high school students first had to give their group a name. They settled on Pop-Up Gallery Group (PUGG).

PUGG Students met with David Schell, the owner of GreenKill, a new gallery in town.  He helped them understand how to write a press release and how to use social media to get publicity and generate interest.

We also helped to install the Senior Seminar Show at the Greenkill Gallery, as well as writing the press release and working on the social media presentation.

PUGG’s first Pop Up show, on Broadway, shared the work of Amy and Scott Ackerman.  Both students are graduates of KHS, with Scott having graduated in 2000 and Amy in 2002.  591 Broadway hosted our first show.  The space was large and needed lots of work, so we decided to install walls that turned the windows into display units.  Artists had their own window.  There was no electricity.  We had to find a way to display the work and light it.  We used battery chargers as our electric source with plug in track lighting, and LED bulbs.  The students constructed painted and cleaned the walls, as well as the windows and visible interior. The show was up through the summer.  We received lots of positive response, including people walking by that all stopped to look. Business owners noticed that it made the block seem active, positive, and engaged.  People attending UPAC events were able to see works of art, instead of papered-over window.  Chris Silva, director of UPAC, positively commented about the changed perception.

This past fall was a busy time.  PUGG worked with the Art Walk, and O+. We installed 591 with the work of 3 local artists, Stephen Nicolls, Susan Spencer Crowe and Carrol Struve.  Students met Riley Johndonnell, AKA Uncle Riley, a visiting artist in town for the O+ Festival. With Riley, the students curated and hung work done by a variety of artists using the Int-O Yellow paint, which is a paint developed by Riley as part of a larger project UMEWE, to bring awareness to suicide prevention and depression. 

Riley also helped the students work on their branding by working with them to develop a logo and teaching them how it could be used for a variety of purposes and how to alter the design but keep a brand visible. Students are responsible for creating the graphics, flyers, posters, cards for each event. The work with Uncle Riley went really well, so the students decided to collaborate again, this time on a Happy Spot project, “Pollination”.  With the help of community members, PUGG received 100 ten-inch discs, which they painted with the Into-O-Yellow paint.  They asked 100 KHS students to paint a flower on the front and to write an idea to make Kingston a better place on the back.  The Happy Spots were then displayed at the Int-O Yellow gallery. It opened on October 27 to coincide with the Celebration of the Arts, where the mayor designated Midtown as an Arts district and cut the ribbon on what is to become the Broadway Commons. The Pollination project remained up for over a month and is currently are on display at the Made in Kingston site.

PUGG presented the ideas to the mayor On December 17. and asked for approval to display the Happy Spots somewhere in Midtown this winter.  The mayor was also asked to visit the students who had participated and have a discussion, which took place Jan 17th at the Carnegie building. It was a lively and informative conversation.

Ed Kang, The Owner of the Broadmoor building on Broadway, where Int-O Yellow lives, offered PUGG a space in an empty storefront to use as a temporary gallery space of their own.  Over Thanksgiving break, the grouped worked on fixing up the space.  They had the help of the artists and local community members. They had to sheet rock, put up shelves, hang a door, install lighting, spackle the wall, paint it, repair the floors, and then hang the work. 

Kelli Sillik and Frank Pesko were the first alumni artists to show at the new space. Kelli graduated in 2010 and Frank in 2008. PUGG students wrote the press releases, curated and helped to hang the work.  They organized the opening and hosted.  Organized the social media and handed out flyers and posters. At the opening they kept track of visitors, making sure to get people to sign in the guestbook.  Over 100 people attended the opening, with constant traffic throughout the night. Alumni came out to support the show and the artists. Many art alumni have been in contact with PUGG about possibility of showing in the future. 

We decided to have workshops in the space to help us get more interest in the gallery and the program, while offering free art workshops for kids.  Frank Pesko taught our first workshop, Relief Printing.  Frank graduated from SUNY Purchase with a BFA in printmaking.  It went well.

Our current show, “Top Secret” the work of Matthew Pleva, will run from January 21 – February 28.  Matthew Pleva graduated from Kingston High School in 1993; he currently has a small shop selling his jewelry and dioramas on John St. in Uptown, Kingston.  The opening reception was on February 4, from 5 to 7pm. We were able to offer a recent graduate and current Bard student Isabelle Simek the opportunity to teach a Comic-Making workshop.  Simek published her first comic as her senior thesis for Senior Seminar.  A series of  3 workshops,  January 21, 28, and February 4, from 1 to 3pm, geared toward the 12 – 14 age group, covered all aspects of comic making from character development to layout and design.  The workshops went well, students were engaged and look forward to returning. To be continued.

As advisor for this group I have experienced the power of the arts to create community and enhance the quality of life in a neighborhood. People are noticing the new energy on Broadway. It is a form of respect, staking out space to create beauty and community interaction. We have been keeping Saturday hours and I have had the opportunity to talk with many people strolling down Broadway, checking out the new energy.  Both local residents, students on their way to and from school, curious visitors. It has been very exciting to have the opportunity to be at this crossroads of the Midtown Arts District, both figuratively and practically.

Lara Giordano

Art Teacher/ PUGG Advisor