Unlike Sal, I traveled to Newburgh purposely, for what it had to offer. I had heard whispers about an expanding arts scene, but never seemed to find where this was occurring or who could lead me there. To be quite honest, Newburgh had never been a real destination spot for me other than a few stores and movie theaters. Newburgh has this bad reputation of being impoverished, full of crime and things that go bump in the night and this facade prevents many people from visiting. Fortunately, I was able to experience quite the opposite during my day in Newburgh.
My first stop was Newburgh Art Supply, located on Liberty Street, across from the beautiful Washington's Headquarters. I walked into a small store packed to the brim with an array of environmentally-friendly art supplies, from oil paints to crayon rocks....yes, crayon rocks! I had spent some time talking to the owner, Michael, whom told me about the whispers I had been hearing about Newburgh. Passionate about Newburgh, Michael was eager to talk the arts in it, and gave me leads on where to visit next and some great arts destinations in Orange County (perhaps future post....). As I left Newburgh Art Supply, I wondered why I travel further to purchase art supplies from chain stores who care little about the environment they're located in.
I stopped at Caffe Macchiato for a quick lunch. A lovely cafe with a great roasted red pepper and eggplant panini, the walls are neatly arranged with paintings for sale.
I walked further down Liberty Street to check out the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, located on the corner of Liberty and Broadway. The Museum, which use to be home to the Newburgh Savings Bank is a site within itself. It has beautiful high detailed ceilings and reminders of its original purpose, such as the vault located directly center against the back wall. And of course, the manuscript exhibit, which was The Literal Bible and the Gutenberg Bible on display until April 2010. Donald, the associate director and another passionate resident, gave me a brief tour, which also includes space for local artists, this time the works of F.T. Mitchell.
Diagonally across the street, Broadway, sits the Ritz Theater, who's doors were closed when I visited. Having never been inside, I do plan on attending one of their Guitar Series, which runs through April 2010.
Another closed venue that day was the Ann Street Gallery. I had heard some about it, but will have to wait until their next exhibit, Fahrenheit 180: A Group Encaustic Exhibition opens on February 27th.
Around this time I had been stopped by a man on the street who had seen me taking pictures and probably walking around a bit haphazardly, without a 'point B' to rush to. He had asked me, and I quote, "Why are you so interested in Newburgh? What's so great about it?" I felt a bit shocked and maybe disappointed that he didn't see what I was seeing. Perhaps, like myself prior to this visit, he had fallen victim to the malevolent rumors of Newburgh.
While I did not visit this particular day, I must add The Downing Film Center to this Newburgh post. Located in the Yellow Bird building down at the waterfront, The Downing Film Center is my favorite place to see a movie in the Hudson Valley. An inviting screening room-like environment, the Downing offers a great selection of classic, (like the Film Noir series they have going on now), independent, and foreign films. Recently voted best movie theater in the Hudson Valley, The Downing is ran by the dedication and passion like the many others I had met throughout the day.
As I left Newburgh, feeling like I had skipped many places and missed many scenes, I realized that my entire perception of the place had changed. No longer was Newburgh the place I quickly drove through, no it was much more than that. It was a place rich in history, culture, and destinations. Its inhabitants knew this all along. To end with Kerouac, and I hope they don't take this the wrong way, it inhabitants were "...mad, mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..." Their passion for Newburgh's future burns, burns burns, like those roman candles, and despite the commonplace perception of Newburgh, they're mad to talk, inspire, create, and build a better place called home. I enjoyed meeting everyone of them, "because the only people for me are the mad ones."