If there was ever a town that has soughed and swayed on the mighty pendulum of economic fickleness, it is Saugerties. In 2000, when we first began to regularly spend time in upstate New York, it was a thriving antiquing town with the aim to rival Hudson and steal its thunder. But, unlike Hudson, other complimentary businesses didn’t follow resulting in a mono-culture of antique stores and, like any mono-culture, it lacked dynamism and did little for the economy of the town as a whole. There followed, well before the 2007/8 economic crash and even as HITS (Saugerties horse show series) was being established, a period of depression, shuttered store fronts, and revolving-door businesses. But a few old businesses survived, and a few new ones opened and stayed the course, including the Inquiring Mind Bookstore, Miss Lucy’s Restaurant, and Dig Boutique, all on Partition St. — Cross Contemporary Art (CCA) took over the Imogen Holloway gallery space in 2014 and in 2017 its relocation to larger premises up the street augured well (do catch the current show of photography at CCA with works by Richard Adelman and Susan Copich up through end of March) Then, it seems suddenly, a new generation of entrepreneurs took down the remaining shutters and hung shingles for new stores, restaurants, and cafes so that the center of Saugerties began to have the kind of diversity required to appeal to a broad range of interests and, hopefully, survival. And among those entrepreneurs that took a chance on Saugerties was Richard P. Langdon who opened Emerge Gallery & Art Space on Main St. in 2016.
As indicated by its name, Emerge Gallery focuses on emerging artists from the Hudson Valley region and beyond, and also gives exposure to many excellent but often under represented artists and, as such, is filling a significant gap in the Hudson Valley art scene. The gallery’s focus is on monthly group exhibitions, often with a theme and usually showing works in a variety of media – many of the shows are open submission. Langdon will occasionally stray from his emphasis on group shows with a solo show – this February (2018) the gallery hosted a mini retrospective of Loel Barr’s eclectic artwork.
Langdon’s mission for Emerge Gallery is two-fold: in addition to the above wish to create the space for artists, particularly local artists, to show their work, he is keen to reach out to the community and bring art to them at an affordable price. With the latter in mind, he offers works at a variety of price points to as low as $50, or even less. There is always a selection of affordable pieces on display in the gallery, but most are on the Emerge website. There you can find original works such as fine art prints, unique drawings and even paintings in water color and oil for as little as one might expect to pay for a mass-produced piece of schlock at a chain store. Langdon and I discussed this issue of getting the word out to the general public that art galleries and artworks are not just in the purview of the cultural cognoscenti, “I am very community centered,” Langdon said. “I have a background in working for nonprofits and community building is essential for me. One of my goals at the gallery is to make art accessible and affordable. Everyone who walks into my gallery is greeted and welcomed. Some folks are intimidated to walk into an art gallery, but I want people to know that my space open to everyone. I want them to know that you don’t need a background in art history to appreciate art and know what you like. Sure, it will inform your decisions, but it most likely won’t change that initial reaction one will have to a piece of art. It’s for everyone to enjoy.”
Prior to opening Emerge Gallery, Robert was Director at Gallery U in Red Bank and Westfield, NJ, where he played an instrumental role in furthering the art scene in both communities. In addition to exhibiting local artists, Galley U also acted as a vocational training program for adults with traumatic brain injuries. “As gallery director, I worked closely with the community in furthering the art scene by organizing events such as town wide art walks. It was a unique program.” Here in Saugerties Langdon has, in the short time he’s been there, thoroughly immersed himself in this new community including participating in and spearheading annual events; he has become a significant supporter of Shout Out Saugerties working with co-founders Suzanne Bennett and Susana Meyer on planning a Village wide celebration of National Poetry Month in April. In April 2017, Emerge Gallery hosted an exhibition called Art & Words which was a collaboration between poets and artists – a concept exhibition that has now been incorporated into the gallery’s calendar as a recurring annual event; the 2018 dates are April 7th – 30th with an opening reception on the 7th from 5 – 8pm. The idea is that the participating artists and poets submit works which were then shared and, variously, people write new poems or make new paintings inspired by each other’s work. Among the poets is Mr. Langdon himself! Furthermore, as part of the celebration, there will be a reading of a new translation of the Odyssey at Cross Contemporary Art on Partition St. on April 22; a poetry slam on April 15 at Bella Luna Restaurant, also on Partition St.; a booze and poetry night where guests are asked to bring their favorite poem about alcohol or drinking on April 15 (location TBD). Langdon is also working with Village merchants to place poetry in the shop windows during that month.
Langdon is emerging (no pun intended) as a true contender in the locality in other ways too – he has become a member of the Saugerties Chamber of Commerce and now also serves on the board of Arts Mid-Hudson. In his new capacity as a board member of Arts Mid-Hudson he is actively working toward advancing the arts especially in Ulster County including through Emerge Gallery. On May 17, from 2 – 4 pm, the Gallery will host an important event, “Meet With Merritt,” where Arts Mid-Hudson Grants and Funding Manager Merritt Minnemeyer will provide valuable information for artists and organizations on all aspects of funding and financing, and professional development.
People talk about “the art world,” and often they mean that blue-chip world up there in the stratosphere, but there are many art worlds and surviving in any of them, galleries and artists alike, is a challenge. Emerge has come to play a valuable role for many hard-working artists in the valley and beyond. But like all galleries it needs the support of the community at large, so be sure to look out for the openings at this and other galleries near where you live (best free entertainment in town), and drop in when passing to see what’s happening as exhibitions change every month. At Emerge this year there will be exhibitions that focus on collage and encaustics, and a special exhibition of work by art teachers in Ulster County in September. The Gallery will be hosting its annual small-works/affordable show, Petit, in November and red show, Primar[il]y Red, in December. But before all of those, there are these great events, described above, coming up in April. In addition to April being Poetry Month it is, as also mentioned earlier, a month-long celebration of sculpture in Saugerties (International Sculpture Day or ISDay is on April 28th) and that brings an additional plethora of art happenings in which Cross Contemporary Art plays a major role — more on that soon in a follow up article.
Featured image: JD Weiss, “Emergence” 2017.
Photography. 20″ x 20″
Artworks in this article are a selection from various exhibitions at Emerge that took place since the gallery opened. They are reproduced here courtesy of the gallery and the artists.
Claire Lambe is an Irish born painter whose works have been exhibited on both sides of the Atlantic; she is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and holds an MFA in painting from the City University of New York. Writing credits include contributing author to Teen Life in Europe (part of the Teen Life Around The World series), and articles and reviews for this publication. Claire Lambe’s art work can be seen here: