Gimme Roots

Gimme roots, ivy creeping on brick walkwayShe opens the door to a Lace Mill gallery. She reminds me of every favorite Art and English teacher I’ve ever had. She’s an accomplished writer, poet and Mom. A part of Ulster County and its thriving artist community for her entire life, Holly is one of the people that makes our area the amazing place it is.

As we sit on soft leather couches in the gallery, other residents stop in and out, asking for an opinion on an art project or quick feedback on an inspiration. I ask her if she knows her neighbors, really knows her neighbors. Is The Lace Mill a social building? Her eyes light up.  Residents of The Lace Mill bond over everything: their families, growing up, religion, even politics. At this point in time, almost everyone in the building seems to love the Netflix show, The Adventures of Kimmy Schmidt.

“I do know my neighbors, and I love my neighbors!” extolls Holly. “I was thinking just today that it would be weird for me to move away and not see them anymore. And that’s after less than a year.”  In that time, Holly’s life has changed for the better. Within a place she calls Home, she embraces her true self: a comforting, welcoming, and happy woman. With great shoes.

Holly at The Lace Mill

Holly dressed as Queen Bee for Sinterklaas, outside The Lace Mill

“It’s been a hard few years in these parts,” Holly says.  “Because the apartments are subsidized, my rent is lower than average local rents, and that’s changed my life substantially.  I had been fighting for a while the idea of having to leave Ulster County, which has been home all my life, to find some place more affordable. Since being here, I’ve applied for artist residencies (where you go and just write for an entire month), and I am leading a poetry workshop in Missouri this summer, at an academic conference about Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wrote The Little House on the Prairie books, which are important historical documents about pioneer life.  Maybe even more exciting, I am going to have an article in the local paper, which I have wanted to do since High School. Lace Mill has let me focus on creating the life I want, rather than imagining it to be somewhere else, in some imaginary future.”


She’s realized what a role being safely housed plays in much mental illness, something she spoke about at a recent public hearing in support of Landmark Place. She’s seen first-hand how housing stability plays a huge role in productivity, and what a difference secure housing makes in a person’s life.

Because she’s got a solid place to live, Holly can now open herself to new writing opportunities and collaborations. She plans to hold poetry workshops and finish her new book. Since moving in to The Lace Mill, she’s coordinated several group shows, called Samplers, and gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol in December. Seeing people excited to create new work is what makes the time putting together things like The Spring Sampler worth it, and she loves brainstorming with other creative spirits in The Lace Mill.

She and I agree that having a secure place to live makes you a happier person. Life is hard enough. There are lots of people suffering from all sorts of different things. “I think that when you chronically don’t know where you’re going to live in a year, mental wellness suffers. Everybody needs a place to regroup and ‘just be.’ Moving around a lot, or not having a place to land — it definitely makes a hard situation worse.”

Holly knows what Home means to her. She happily and knowingly appreciates her neighbors, and newfound opportunities. Having roots for the first time, Holly thrives, more and more every day.

This interview has been updated, reflecting a few of Holly’s more current artistic activities.

Rachel Barnett headshotFreelance writer Rachel Barnett wrote this interview while serving as Editorial Assistant in RUPCO’s Communications Department (Fall 2016) as part of the SUNY-Ulster Internship Program. Rachel too knows the important connection between housing and mental wellness; her brother strives for mental wellness, too. Rachel has seen the benefits of stable housing and its affect on his life, and hers. A lover of all things avante garde, Rachel too appreciates fabulous glasses and great shoes.  



Avigayil Landsman

Headshot of Avigayil LandsmanThe featured pieces in my show are illustrations from my book, “Letters from Heaven: Spiritual Guidance from the Hewbrew Alphabet for Every Day of Your Life,” and card deck. The book offers information about each of the twenty-two Hebrew letters and includes twenty-three illustrations. The card deck includes the letter illustrations as well as brief informational cards. This project had been over a decade in the making. It required years of study, research, meditation, and huge doses of inspiration. And…a lot of editing! Illustrations came to me in fits and starts. I did the illustrations in various media and sizes. When drawing and painting failed me, I turned to wool, which I sculpted in low relief. The last piece I did was a free-standing wool sculpture.

Last year’s show featured most of the felted pieces. This year I have selected a few illustrations that I did in other media that include: colored pencil, crayon, pastel, watercolor marker and acrylic paint.

There is no specific reason for choosing the media I used. the imageA. Landsman 3one of Landsman's art work came to me and I was drawn to the media that would produce what was inside of me. I often waited for years to “see” how the letter wanted its “portrait” done. Most often I would see something in nature that would inspire me. Once the idea struck, I ran to my studio and set the image down in about twenty minutes. Occasionally I would redo the picture for reproduction purposes, as many pictures were done very lightly. Several illustrations were replaced because the first version did not fit in with the others stylistically. Although size and media varied greatly throughout the development of the project, there are many common aspects to all of the illustrations.

For more information on Avigayil and her art visit

A. Landsman half page flyer

No Compromise Needed

Headshot of Avigayil LandsmanCompromise requires that one or both parties give something up in order to get something in return; it is a win-lose situation. Unfortunately, we compromise daily, but one should never compromise on a home. When Avigayil Landsman was looking for a new home she expected to compromise on something considering she survived three floods in her last apartment, she figured she’d give up something. As a disabled artist, there were quite a few things that were necessary for her to live comfortably, things she couldn’t compromise. So, when the Woodstock Commons completed construction in 2013, Avigayil was one of the first to apply for an apartment and, much to her relief, one of the first to be accepted.

“It’s clean and affordable, it’s a healthy environment,” she states. It had what she needed most: privacy, proximity and accessibility. Three years later, Avigayil could not be happier. She appreciates the well thought-out flood system and on-site trash and recycling. “The maintenance staff is amazing here. If something goes wrong, it’s taken care of right away. Anything I’ve had to wait on doesn’t interfere with my life. Everything is up to code and in ship shape” commends Avigayil. The one person who seems to stand out the most for Avigayil is Ken Brown, the residential superintendent. “He’s a wonderful neighbor who’s really funny and very helpful,” says Avigayil, “Ken always leaves a smile on my face. He’s the guy I call when there’s a problem. He puts everyone at ease.” There is no greater comfort than knowing someone reliable has your back.

There are tons of other benefits that Avigayil gets to experience while being a part of the Woodstock Commons community. Unlike most apartment buildings, Avigayil is allowed one small pet to keep her company. She also has an in-house washer and dryer, saving her the time, money and travel of going to a laundromat. Best of all, Ms. Landsman is a short walk from town. “Driving is difficult for me, but now I can just take a walk down the lovely path RUPCO created with the sunflowers.” There are also various community building activities which she partakes in; all are offerings through RUPCO’s supportive housing programs. She attends the free acupuncture, participates in tai chi, consults with the monthly nutritionist, and enjoys the community gardening. She also displays her work publicly at RUPCO-hosted artist receptions for resident creators such as herself.

“Woodstock Commons is a little oasis for those of us lucky enough to get in,” says Avigayil. “Here at Woodstock Commons I don’t have to compromise on my comfort,” she states “I’m in my home all the time; home is my world. It’s where I create and it’s where I live.”


HeadshotEmily Lazo is RUPCO’s Editorial Assistant to Communications. She is a student at SUNY New Paltz double-majoring in English and Communication and Media with a concentration in Intercultural/Interpersonal.

Sasha Finlay

Finlay's depiction of a child“I am involved in many artistic endeavors such as Performing, Painting, and Print making. I have a MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute and a BFA from the University of Arkansas in Painting. I have a background in Waldolf Education in teaching my art to students of many ages of the rainbow! My work is mostly paintings in acrylic on board or canvas and watercolors on paper. I have shown in many avenues from restaurants, libraries, cafes, stores, doctor offices, and galleries. My performances have appeared in many parks from San Francisco Bay Area to Central Park in New York City, also in clubs, and theaters.

This series is about the souls seen in the children who live in my neighborhood. Not all children are included, not on purpose, just as I saw them come and go.”

Sasha Finlay is an artist currently resising in the Woodstock Commons. Finlay’s artwork is “based around the human soul and how we interact with it.” This directly coincides with Finlay’s personal artist philosophy, which is “discovering the human soul”

Finlay’s artwork is also on display at White Griffin, Woodstock, NY or her website's Half-page-flyer


Mercedes Cecilia

CooperLake-2015“I enjoy painting when the light plays on the surface of water, when trees, mountains and sky weave their forms with a lake or a stream. I am drawn by the movements of light and wind revealing a tapestry of colors on the waters. While painting I follow the rhythmical movement of the water. I paint as mapping time exploring the spaces of light. I paint the same streams and lakes, every season year after year. In this way I record the changes taking place in our environment. Following in the footsteps of the Hudson River Artists, I celebrate our environment and wish to preserve the beauty of our region.

I began painting the lakes of the Catskill Mountains in October 1980. It was then, for the first time in my adult life, I felt at home. In 1986 I made my home in these mountains. This is the place I love every day, in every season.”Mercedes Cecilia Flyer














Head Shot of Laura Katz“My career has been styling and designing wallpaper and textiles for home furnishings. For 25 years, I had my studio in Manhattan near Gramercy Park. The work was a perfect blend of art and commerce. It gave me the opportunity to work with museums and historical societies doing collections, both licensed and under my own name.

It was not until the late 90’s however, that I began to do Art for Art’s sake. I bought a 100-year-old farmhouse in Woodstock and began studying watercolor at the Woodstock School of Art (WSA). I took to it instinctively and found it to be the ideal medium for painting en plein air as I discovered the beauty of the Hudson Valley. Watercolor was also excellent for capturing locales and moments as I traveled. I studied portraiture and painted people, places and things locally and abroad.

Laura Katz's PaintingAs time went by, I began to feel constrained. Even though my style became looser, I could not get away from representational subjects. Drawing on my archive of historic prints and original designs, I started collaging. Experimentation led to a series that was more personal as I used patterns, ephemera and photographs from my own collections. The focus I had on the interior of rooms during my career, gave voice to a vocabulary evoking mood and feeling. Images projected on backgrounds of wallpaper awakened memories, dreams and reflections as experienced in personal spaces.

Laura Katz FlyerMy musings grew increasingly abstract and I realized that after a lifetime of “coloring inside the lines”, so to speak, I wanted to break out. Studying with Jenny Nelson (at WSA) opened up an entirely different way of working for me. Whereas I had always looked outside of myself for my inspiration, I now found a way to reverse the process. Rather than painting an image I see before me, I’m letting feelings from within emerge. It’s liberating to give shapes, lines and color free reign. They seem to have a dialogue and it’s a process of discovery to move from one area reacting to another until rhythm and composition reach a point of harmony. The canvas becomes layered as I scrape off areas and paint over things so that a history of surface is revealed.

I have not let go of my relationship with wallpaper. I am using fragments and fabrics on my canvas as part of the story. Mixed-media is providing an immediate means of expression. I think I have finally learned to color outside the lines.”

Barbara Schacker headshot “Although I majored in Fine Arts in college, my life path didn’t allow art to be my main career. In 1970, a piece of mine was included in the student section of the Venice Biennale.  However, I never really found my artistic path in college and so didn’t paint until several years later.  Instead, I became a librarian and learned how to play the fiddle. (I love books and music, too!)

Five years later, I moved to North San Juan, California—a sister town to Woodstock in the Sierra Nevada Mountains–and found my true teacher, Jacquie Bellon, an extraordinary watercolor artist. I would not be an artist today if Jacquie hadn’t “saved” me.  With her Zen-like way of teaching, I first learned to slow down and really “see” what is right in front of me or then, to not just see, but to simply “feel” what I feel inside and let my imagination play it out in my own way.  The non-critical atmosphere was just what I needed to break free.  “Just doing this” allowed me to discover my own intrinsic aesthetic—my own look and feel.  In this show, you will see my fourth watercolor painting, “Verbena and Feverfew” from a small portion of Jacquie’s beautiful wild backyard overlooking the Yuba River canyon.

Lupine Meadow watercolor by Barbara SchackerMy style has developed over the years but is strongly tied to the place where I live. When I moved to Woodstock in 1995, everything changed.  I remember sitting down to blank paper and not having any idea what I wanted to paint.  I decided to just fill the space.  That first painting, “Ancient Mountain Portal” is in this show also.  It showed at WAAM and in an article in the Woodstock Times.  Living here, my painting has become more intuitive and emotional, ranging from moody semi-abstract to dreamlike realism.  Most of my landscapes are done from memory which forces me to “dream” the picture instead of doing it methodically.

Barbara-Schacker-art-exhibit-half-page-flyer500x758Yet, with all these changes and my eclectic tastes, one thing remains constant—my deep connection and passionate love of Nature. This show is a retrospective of my work in four mediums from the 70’s to the present.  It includes painting, mixed media, photography and sculpture.”