The Newburgh Lightbulb Project
Posted in Creative Class | Last Updated July 22, 2018
A while back we sat down to talk with Gerardo Castro and Michael Gabor partners as well as co-owners of Newburgh Art Supply, indefatigable promoters on behalf of the arts in Newburgh, and organizers of The Newburgh Lightbulb Project.
We spoke about history, art, and the Lightbulb Project, all in the context of Newburgh: where she has been, what she’s become, and where she is headed.
OUR LADY OF THE SACRED ROLLERS
“Nuestra Señora de los Rolos Sagrado”
To understand their arts activism as it pertains to Newburgh, and how they arrived at it, we spoke of how some of their inspiration for arts activism can be traced tied to Michael’s (now deceased) friend, Don Herron (known for his early 80’s Bathtub Series).
Herron photographed many of the hugely successful Soho and club scene artists who soared to international fame. Artists like Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe were Herron subjects.
We also spoke about their their own artistry (Michael is a photographer and Gerardo is a painter).
It’s the same old, same old of artists moving into a beaten down neighborhood with good bones, only to be displaced as the very neighborhoods they revive begin to gain fortune, chic stores, and trendy restaurants.
Micheal, Don, and a lot of other artists made New York’s Soho, the East Village, and the Flatiron and Chelsea neighborhoods their home turf.
The areas were hugely popular with because many commercial real estate properties were converted into loft-style apartments that were huge and accommodated studios and equipment for a true live-work environment, all at cheap rates.
Eventually these neighborhoods gained so in popularity that the residential pioneers who helped create real estate demand were forced out of their Manhattan digs as rents rose beyond what was financially sustainable.
As these New York neighborhoods were in the process of changing, Michael like Don Herron did what any self-respecting, peripatetic artists would do: find another (forgotten) city, with great old bones and a fabulous history, buy a home there and begin the process of making a home, again.
Michael’s project became the Fullerton Mansion, which he invested a great deal of time, effort and money into restoring. And, Gerardo Castro, explains, Don Herron’s project became the purchase of the town home that was located on First Street around the corner from the Montgomery Street Electric Station, one of the country’s first power stations. In Herron’s own words, “This house on First Street represented everything that was important to me in a house: age (1836), quality of design (designed by Thornton Niven) and history (built for the Clinton family, and wired by Thomas Edison himself in 1883 while he was a guest in the house.)”
Historical footnote: Thomas Alva Edison resided at the town house, living there while supervising the construction of the Montgomery Street Electric Station, which was one of the United States earliest service stations, producing electricity in 1884.
Their appreciation of the confluence of history, technology, and how that was dramatically realized in Newburgh, which for almost two centuries was one of the United States’ premier economic powerhouses, informed their decision to create “The Lightbulb Project.”
Michael and Gerardo encourage the public to engage with each of the Light Bulbs which are on display for about a 2 months period.
Past participants have included Fine Artists, graphic designers, sculptors, tailors, carpenters and even collaborations by NFA students.
Atists used thoughtful and impactful combinations of materials, methods, technology, concepts, and subjects.
Many challenge traditional boundaries and most defy easy definition.
View past years lightbulbs at:wwwTheLightbulbProjectNewburgh.org
Concerning The Lightbulb Project and Public Art, Gerardo Castro states the following:
“Community events are an investment in our future. They create opportunities that can foster excitement and vitality in individual members as well as in the community as a whole.
One of my fundamental objectives with The Newburgh Lightbulb Project is to have art that is uniquely accessible and that enables people to experience art in the course of our daily lives, outside of museums or other cultural institutions.
In consequence, the work can reverberate throughout the community, thereby encouraging a sense of shared ownership and collective affiliation. The Lightbulb Project is intended to provide an intersection between past, present and future, between disciplines, and between ideas.
By building and reinforcing community culture, public art can act as a catalyst for community generation or regeneration, and it’s freely accessible.
Experiencing the 4-foot lightbulbs does something that neither a public space without art nor even a museum with all its art can do: it can capture the eye and mind of someone passing through our public spaces. It can make us pay attention to our environment; it can encourage us to question what’s around us.”