Main Street Studio to Open Pop-Up Show for Charlton Founder’s Day Celebration Weekend – Spotlight News – Home of The Spot 518
CHARLTON — Six miles down Swaggertown Road, a couple’s plan to convert a longtime volunteer fire station into a workshop and art gallery has turned into a showcase for the proud, self-sufficient character of this community.
Main Street Studio, located at 786 Charlton Road, will feature a pop-up exhibit and market called “Charlton Makes!” It will be a celebration of the artists and creators closely tied to the small, talented community, and it will coincide with the city’s Founders’ Day weekend. The exhibition, presenting the works of 33 artists, will take place over two weekends, from Friday June 3 to Sunday June 5; and from Friday June 10 to Sunday June 12.
The exhibition space is an example of what Jason and Dana Nemec call “rural industrial”. This is a clean, modern style art gallery with white painted brick walls and a black ceiling with exposed metal beams. It is as trendy a piece as in any cityscape. Yet this is a century-old fire station that, until just two years ago, served this town of nearly 4,000 people.
The Burnt Hills couple have talked about moving to the West Coast now with their two sons heading off to college. Pandemic-related closures and a turbulent real estate market have raised more questions than solutions. But when a realtor friend shared a listing of the property, Dana said, “Oh! It could be interesting. They closed on the property a few months later in early 2021.
Jason had wanted to find a workshop to continue his job as a woodturner. A software designer by trade, he said he was drawn to art about 15 years ago when he was on vacation doing nothing. He attended a woodturning workshop in Colorado. He bought a ride and has steadily built up his gear collection ever since.
“I’ve been in software for a long time – before there was the Internet,” he said. “It’s particularly trying if you care about what you’re doing, that every two to five years everything reinvents itself and all the rules change. The things you did two or five years ago are literally, objectively no longer good.
“Woodworking is a practice that results in things that last for generations.”
Jason grew up one block from the fire station. It tells the story of the city. How its founders traveled north from Freehold, New Jersey. A point of distinction only because that’s what they originally named the town. How hard life was for the pioneers, especially those who crossed the native Mohawks the wrong way.
The history of the fire station is documented in a raw and endearing way. “Fuji ’95” is etched into the concrete floor that is now the gallery room. A few other initials can be found elsewhere. The Charlton Volunteer Fire Department has maintained the home well for over 50 years. Like many rural fire stations, the size of modern equipment has forced them to relocate.
“We didn’t realize how tight the volunteer firefighter community is,” Dana said. “When we inherited this building, we also inherited five generations of all the families who installed the lighting, did the metal work on the walls. We met and became very good friends with many people who we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with.
When the Nemecs presented their plans for the building to city officials, they said residents were happy to hear of their desire to preserve its history. Jason was inspired by the Saratoga Clay Arts Center. He observed how it provided studio space for artists, providing tools they wouldn’t necessarily have at home, while providing gallery space to showcase members’ work. Jason felt it could “jumpstart” another artist’s creative endeavors by providing a studio, gallery, and classroom space under one roof.
“The city has been great. They’ve been so supportive of me,” Dana said. “Just the connections we were able to make. I think coming out of the pandemic, I think people needed that connection.
Among the 33 artists to be featured in “Charlton Makes!” is a nonagenarian carpenter who settled in Charlton 50 years ago; a native utensil maker now living in Maine whose work has been captured in Bon Appétit Magazine, a high school student who aspires to be an artist and sculptor from Galway who often has his work featured and sold throughout New York City .
The show promises a wide variety of mediums, from the aforementioned woodwork to oil paintings and photography. Soahn Kuehner, who creates guitars from locally grown gourds and flutes from the invasive Japanese Knotweek, will showcase his work. Jason’s award-winning furniture will also be on display. All with the goal of bringing something tangible and worthwhile to his hometown.
“I love Charton. … It’s a really nice town,” Jason said. “It’s off the beaten track. I don’t know how it’s going to be trying to bring visitors here, but we let’s take it one step at a time.