Hope Through Activism: Lanette Hughes Inspires Through Artwork

Standing outside The Lace Mill, wearing over-sized black sunglasses, talking to a neighbor, Lanette Hughes appears nondescript. A cordial, “Hi, how are you?” to a stranger, she resumes her conversation. You would never guess she churned her tragedy into art in a profound way. A first-hand experience with domestic violence, her identity stolen and her savings robbed from her, these life-lesson setbacks made her willpower stronger. Lanette Hughes is not only a survivor, but a thriver — and her artwork embodies her understated vigor.

Hughe’s parents introduced her to situations at an early age that called for toughening up. They lived in Europe withinin target sites of WWII battle and concentration camp zones. While transitioning between countries, she found it difficult to reconcile that she had friends from opposing countries post-wartime. Her parent’s trip to Dachau further fragmented her sense of peace. The air-raid rubble and abandoned buildings that littered some streets haunted her as a child, a terror still raw when she thinks back.

Recently, Hughes channeled that experience into her artwork, “Human Beings are Not Created for Target Practice.” The large canvas oil painting highlights military personnel . If stripped of their uniforms, would they have reason to shoot the enemy? Hughes bears no bias towards “good” and “bad” sides where nationalism incurs.

She is, however, partial to beautiful art. While living in Germany, Hughes remembers trekking down to monasteries and playing nearby. One day while climbing a wall enclosure surrounding St. Michaelsberg, she fell and hurt herself. Monks brought her in, and she was introduced to wondrous sculpture and paintings within. Inspired, she asked her parents to hire a governess educate her in classical art training and illumination found in religious texts.

Being a sensitive artist and a newcomer whenever her parents moved, she stood out from the crowd. Coming to the United States, she was sorely misunderstood for her European values and mannerisms. She was often bullied and put down, and over time, these experiences impacted her artwork.

She was a target again a few years back, after she returned from a trip to Florida to find her identity stolen. Her home, savings, and future fell through her hands. Hughes became homeless, living out of her car, where she slept and traveled for weeks in Woodstock. She refused to give up her dog when Social Services prompted her to do so, so she could receive a no-pets hotel room. Deprived of everything else, she wasn’t relinquishing her four-footed companion.

Hughes kept her spirits up and applied to housing assistance programs in the local area that would allow dogs. At the time, RUPCO was accepting applications for The Lace Mill for artists. She applied to the lottery  and the patterns of the universe aligned with her needs. “In the miracle of miracles, I got RUPCO housing. And I love it here—every day I thank my creator for this fabulous place and all the friends I have made.”

Hughes realizes that others don’t have it as good. At her last exhibition, held at The Lace Mill in October 2017, Hughes combined her activism with her art show, and made a stand for something larger than making money. She created 50 pieces for sale, where 75% of proceeds benefited local charities. One of her paintings benefited the Haitian People’s Project to provide meals for afflicted families. Consistently without food, Haitian parents often feed their children “mud cakes.” These look like pies, but made of mud, and eating them causes malnutrition and infection. Hughes wants to help in her way, through her art and social activism.

Hughes is proud to live in an apartment where she knows her efforts are supported. She’s made many connections to Kingston nonprofits and continues to support human rights in the way she knows best. Her influence has already been felt among the community; one man started to cry when he saw one of her paintings regarding domestic violence. “’This happened to me, and I’ve never told anybody,’” Hughes recalls. “It really touched him. He didn’t say whether it happened to him, his mother, wife or girlfriend, but it happened to him somehow.”

Her paintings possess an understated emotional impact. She doesn’t wish people to turn aghast, but she wants her visual to resonate with them. She wants people to know that there is awareness, that others have been through similar situations, and the often misunderstood pain — maybe portrayed as endless swirls or spirals in her abstract work — is normal and valid. She connects to her audience on a personal level. “I don’t like the word authentic, but I try to be sincere about who I am. I’ve been through things and I try to relate that to other people.”

Maybe malnutrition, abuse, or trauma has robbed a person of identity, and they use public facades to hide the pain. By recognizing themselves in her work, a part of them is resurrected and recognized. Maybe it will take years to fix, with in-between years of denial. But something clicked, and that is what activism is all about.

Hughes has changed her perspective on earning a living and being an artist. “I don’t need as much as I thought I needed to make me happy. I’m happy with or without. But the fact that I can paint whatever I want is an incredible blessing. And because I live here, I can do that.”

The Metro Hosts Made in Kingston on December 7

Made in Kingston invitationLocal arts businesses, makers, artists, and creators gather Thursday, December 7 for an expo of all things made in Kingston, at a new space under development in Midtown, the city’s up-and-coming arts district. The fifth annual Made In Kingston is co-sponsored by the City of Kingston, Kingston Midtown Arts District, Arts Mid Hudson, Business Alliance of Kingston, and RUPCO. 

This year’s event will be held at The Metro, the former MetLife Hall of Records building, at 2 South Prospect Street (on the corner of Greenkill Avenue, opposite the Boys and Girls Club). RUPCO closed on the 70,000-square-foot underutilized, near-vacant factory/warehouse earlier this year and is donating the space for this special event. RUPCO is proposing The Metro as a film and technology hub to include maker spaces and other creative uses.

“We are thrilled to host Made in Kingston for the second time in one of our buildings,” notes Kevin O’Connor, Chief Operating Officer at RUPCO. “This time, the event foretells what The Metro is all about. In addition to enjoying and purchasing goods from all the makers, we hope this gives attendees the opportunity to see the vision for The Metro, a center for film, TV, technology and makers alike. This building is about the local economy based in creative production with the overarching goal of providing job training and pathways to equity where people make sustainable livings from their creativity. The Metro brings community vitality forward in a space long vacant of any activity or inspiration.”

Made in Kingston opens its doors to the public at 4 p.m. through 8:30 p.m. In addition to more than four dozen local artists, the evening will feature local food, beverages and musical entertainment. For artists’ online registration click here.

“We couldn’t be prouder to support such a homegrown event that continues to expand every year, showcasing the diverse offerings made in Kingston and by ‘Kingstonians’,” said Mayor Steve Noble. “The event has transformed office buildings and warehouses into pop-up boutiques overflowing with locally made products sought after by visitors from throughout the region and beyond. Kingston’s economy is growing stronger every day and it is thanks to the unwavering commitment and investment in our community by our local business owners and entrepreneurs. I look forward to supporting each of them at this exciting event.”

“Over the last few years, we have come to realize just how great the resources are that we have here in Kingston,” added Richard Frumess, a co-founder of the Arts District. “Chief among them is the unique wealth of art manufacturing and crafts industry that is showcased by the annual Made in Kingston event. With our City officials, we are working hard to realize the creative potential the District represents for revitalizing the City.”

For further information, call 845-331-2238 or visit www.madeinkingstonNY.com and www.facebook.com/Made In Kingston

Independent News & Articles about The Lace Mill & its Resident-artists

 

Group of Lace Mill artists in July 2016The Lace Mill: Resident-artists

Kingston artists find love at the Lace Mill, Spectrum News 8/4/17

Affordable housing advocates say region in desperate need (Charlotte Tusch), Spectrum TV News 6/22/17

James Martin: Inspired By the Old Masters & Kingston’s New MAD Creatives, MADKingston blog 6/20/17

Dreamers & Doers: Frank Waters, community organizer-digital media creator, Lace Mill resident-artist, Kingston Happenings 4/15/17

Capital of Culture: Kingston, Chronogram March 2017 page 30

Spotlight on Filmmakers: Sarah Carlson, Dawn (Wan) Bisio, Rubi Rose, Felix Olivieri, Frank Waters), MADKingston Blog 2017 

Chronogram launches community conversations (first session at The Lace Mill 2/8/17)

Collaborative Catalyst: RUPCO’s Lace Mill, Chronogram February 2017 page 51

The Lace Mill: The Building

 

Lace Mill apartment complex recognized as one ‘Preservation’s Best of 2016’, Daily Freeman 2/28/17

RUPCO Featured in 2016 LISC Annual Report, March 2017

The Lace Mill Revitalizes Midtown Kingston, Hudson Valley Magazine 3/17/17

RUPCO begins survey of Midtown Kingston residents for neighborhood renewal opinions, Daily Freeman 8/20/16

Historic lace factory becomes artist housing, page 10,  Affordable Housing Finance 2015 LIHTC Yearbook, December 2015

RUPCO aims to resolve lead problem in Kingston’s Lace Mill apartments by end of 2015, The Daily Freeman 12/1/15

RUPCO, Lace Mill residents dealing with lead contamination issues, Kingston Times 11/25/15

Artist Housing Helps Revitalize Midtown Kingston, N.Y., Affordable Housing Finance, 10/29/15

Artists find new homes at affordable housing complex in Kingston, Times Herald-Record, 8/14/15

Affordable Housing Needs Local Champion, Times Herald-Record, 7/16/15

Renovation of Kingston Factory – Hudson Valley Week in Review with Amy Greene 2/121/15 (video)

Former Lace Curtain Mill to be transformed into artists’ housing – Hudson Valley News, 2/18/15

Applications Now Being Accepted for Artists’ Housing in Kingston’s Former Lace Curtain Mill — The Daily Freeman, 2/16/15

Conversion of former Lace Curtain Mill on track for completion — The Daily Freeman, 2/15/15 (video)

Conversion of Vacant Kingston Factory into Housing for Artists Gets $412k Grant – The Daily Freeman, 2/3/15

Kingston event heralds start of lace curtain factory renovation (VIDEOS) – Daily Freeman 4/1/14

‘Paint Can Opening’ on April 1 to celebrate the beginning of construction to convert vacant Kingston factory into artists’ housing – Daily Freeman 3/16/14

RUPCO Debuts Exciting Proposal at Kingston Planning Board Meeting

Architect's rendering of Greenline Center's second level public spaceAt tonight’s monthly meeting of the City of Kingston planning board, regional community developer and innovator RUPCO will debut its preliminary plans for an affordable housing and civic center for Kingston’s midtown district. The proposal would replace the existing Mid City Lanes Bowling Alley, 20 Cedar Street, which closed Summer 2014.

RUPCO is exploring the opportunity to bring a mixed-use facility including commercial and affordable housing to the underperforming area of Kingston. “We’re still in the first stages of discussion and planning,” notes Kevin O’Connor, CEO at RUPCO. “We’re excited by the prospects this site offers such as bringing much needed civic and commercial options to the City. We believe RUPCO can do so with innovative design and collaboration with other nonprofit partners.”

The proposed building would effectively replace the existing footprint of the bowling alley. “The existing bowling alley has a footprint of 20,422 square feet on the 1.037 acre site,” notes Scott Dutton, lead architect on the project with the firm’s office just blocks away from the proposed project.

At tonight’s meeting, RUPCO is proposing a mixed-income rental housing complex with 6 studios, 48 one-bedrooms, 4 two-bedrooms, and 3 three-bedrooms. “This is just the proposed model,” adds O’Connor. “We’re exploring a “Net Zero for Living” standard, meaning we would strive to generate our own energy through a rooftop solar installation. Our goal is to generate as much energy as we consume for all of the residential dwelling units.” RUPCO currently has the largest solar array in the City of Kingston, with 160-kilowatt capability installed on the rooftop at The Lace Mill, 165 Cornell Street.  “We see this complex also housing 14,688 square feet of first-floor space to be used by civil, cultural and commercial business. As an example, this space could be used for a local food hub, children’s programming, or other businesses that our community needs.”

Early design renderings include a 5,000-square-foot, elevated urban park with sustainable gardens. In total, the proposed structure is 73,407 square feet with varied building elevations in character with Kingston’s midtown district. The proposed building has two 3-story sections, one 4-story section, one 5-story section and a 2,000-square-foot 6th-story rooftop meeting and event space. The building would complete the street line along Cedar Street to comply with the City of Kingston’s Zoning Ordinance Design Guidelines adopted in 2004. The building façade would be designed to read as a series of buildings with party walls to honor and preserve the consistency of the adjacent urban fabric. “The Ferraro family has had the building on the market for approximately 10 years and closed the bowling alley in June 2014,” adds Dutton. “According to Dave Ferraro, the bowling lanes were removed and sold to Stan Zaborwski, so we won’t be able to resurrect a bowling alley there. However, the other opportunities open to us are endless.” Like The Lace Mill project, the property will be open to the public and have an abundance of public benefit spaces and features.

RUPCO has been creating homes, impacting lives and building community since 1981.  A leader in homeownership, foreclosure counseling, energy-efficiency and rental assistance programs, RUPCO is also the Hudson Valley’s leading housing innovator and community developer. The Lace Mill, with 55 units preferenced for artists, blends urban revitalization, historic preservation, energy efficiency, and adaptive reuse to bring creative placemaking to Kingston’s Midtown Arts District. The Kingston Midtown Arts District designation is part of Mayor Shayne Gallo’s larger BEAT (Business, Education, Arts, Technology) Initiative. Last month, RUPCO expanded its programmatic offerings with the recent RDAC affiliation and is awaiting funding confirmation on two other urban revitalization projects in Newburgh and Saugerties. For more information, visit www.rupco.org.