Beacon Studios is housed in the old high school in Beacon, New York. Built 1915 with additions in 1939 and 1974 it is now an adaptive reuse in heart of a city located on the riverfront of the Hudson. The city is beginning to experience a second renaissance, attracting artists and their patrons from around the region.
It is no surprise that synergism has developed organically and an enclave of creative people now occur in this space. Imagine the smell of the air after a bout of fireworks. Faint smoke and the essence lingers. The sound of their booming still in the ears and smoke hovering over the meadow, where 10 minutes prior, a thousand people just sat still on blankets and reached their eyes overhead. The lingering sound is tantamount to the layers, or the years, that dust the surfaces in all old buildings. There is a thick history, often more intense in schools, where hundreds, or even thousands of lives, breaths, dreams, words have passed through. It is the young fire that fills up the space, that which lives in young hearts.
The building is unimproved from the time it was last used as a school in 2001 and is essentially in mildly decaying form. But if the building where pristinely painted and rehabilitated, one might be less likely to sense the presence of its original inhabitants.
In Beacon Studios, the slight deterioration lightens the pretense. Its boldness is partially in the reliance on substance, not aesthetics. This unrefined physical interior makes way for a certain freedom, an easy flow of creativity, and for a diverse environment to spring awake. Its present state releases energy of its own. It attracts the sensibility of the artist and adds a layer of inspiring material about which to create art.
It is exactly this type of space that is crucial to the fabric of a community, and perhaps to the region. With rentals as low as $1.18 a square foot, some might call it an incubator where artists and professionals with small budgets can establish a foothold. And indeed, this building is shared by a mix of artists; as well as professionals and budding entrepreneurs, including a baker, woodworkers, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Green Teen program (matching Dutchess County youth to gardening projects), a seamstress and a recording studio. In fact, the recording studio is now being utilized by popular Americana band, The Felice Brothers. And even though the space is refined there are opportunities for more formal presentation of work. For instance, it has a Premier Studio of over 3000 square feet that can be rented out provided that the renter obtains the proper insurance.
As fertile as this building could be, Beacon Studios is in danger of closing. It is owned by the Beacon City School District which considers the structure to be an extra limb. Although a group of tenants have formed an advocacy group, interfacing with the District from time to time, advice from the State to the District has been to cut itself free of the burden of the building. Thus, the building is currently for sale and the future is unsure. My only hope is that the building continues its other life as inspiration to future generations of artists and entrepreneurs, and continues to teach us inspiring lessons beyond the classrooms of its former use.
About the author:
Atticus Lanigan is land use planner for Orange County. She has lived in the Hudson Valley since 1993. She has a strong devotion to the region that manifests itself through art and love on a constant basis. She has a Master’s degree in City & Regional Planning and is a wife and mother. She recently created a newsletter called Hudson Valley Movement. She can be reached at Hudsonvalleymovement@gmail.com