Mending A Community

I consider myself lucky. My parents came from modest backgrounds and large families. Every resource was shared, saved, and utilized to its full expense. Both strove toward higher education; both earned their degrees. As college graduates, they worked hard from the bottom of the corporate ladder, saving what they could along the way, and accomplished enough to provide a comfortable life for me and my brother.

My brother and I were given everything we ever needed. We were taught the difference between needs and wants, and our needs were always met. We may have wanted and not received new gaming systems or clothes, but the minute a bone broke (and many did, we were rushed to the doctor without a second thought. There was never a question if we would have food on our table, heat for our house, or a stable place to live and call “home.”

I realize just now how fortunate I am. Beyond having the financial stability for my basic needs to be met, my home provided emotional stability and a place of refuge from the hardships of adolescence and growing up. I am lucky to have parents who can support me financially, emotionally, and mentally. Through their guidance, I have the confidence and ability to navigate the world around me. My college education was both a gift and an expectation from them, something I truly cherish and want to use to benefit my community. I gained valuable experience learning to serve those in the community and aiding in their overall wellbeing.

Home Matters because every person should feel a sense of refuge, stability, and safety from their living situation. It is the right of every individual to have their basic needs met, physically and mentally. We are all born to different situations and environments, but the need for a safe, secure, healthy home applies to everyone. Suffering due to a lack of these means is more than unnecessary. It is unjust. When a community’s citizens are taken care of and treated well, every person benefits. Working with an organization striving to provide safety and stability to neighbors in need begins the process of mending a community and is something I feel truly honored to be a part of.

Carolyn Smith is a SUNY New Paltz graduate majoring in Communications. She interned with RUPCO as a gran writer assistant in Fall 2017.

Michael Bisio Hits the Right Note in Home-Life Symphony

Michael Bisio holding bass black and white headshotMichael Bisio is an accomplished bassist player, music connoisseur, and long-time adjunct professor. Bisio also moved around many times, from Washington State to NYC, adding to his repertoire of cultural experiences.  He found stability at The Lace Mill in Kingston, where he lives with his wife and fellow artist Dawn Bisio.  Their apartment is his happy place with wiggle room to jive in and hang prized artwork hanging. Now, he can balance professorship, musical gigs, traveling, and love—a harmony he’d sought for years.

Bisio was a reserved student in college, shy and unassuming. Professors took note of his talent and realized self-confidence was holding him back from excelling. They routinely pushed him to step outside of his comfort zone in his work, to self-reflect on the success he wanted. They challenged him to see his potential, flaws included, modeling a budding artist into a star performer. For him, it was tough—to stand in front of sheet music and critics for hours a day. By graduation, he collected his degree and the payoff of a sharper sense of confidence.

Years later, married with a son, Bisio owned a home in Seattle. After experiencing a “high point” in home life, he divorced and moved cross-country for his musical career. He came to NYC, hopping from apartment to apartment for about a decade until he heard about The Lace Mill through a friend. He applied, and a “fantastic” opportunity unfolded for his music, housing and finding the love of his life next door. Dawn and Michael met passing through the door of ASK Gallery in Kingston—Dawn caught Michael’s eye. He flirted with a coy “you’re hot.” Dawn reciprocated, and the two instantly bonded. They soon moved in together and made their own hub for artsy exploration.

Now, Bisio is part of a large pool of artists who help each other out with events hosted at The Lace Mill. He’s glad he is in the mix, but with enough privacy to focus on his ever-evolving career. “I think in the abstract, it created a community that in the long run has proven to be diverse. It [The Lace Mill] gives me a platform to produce concerts, which benefits the community.” Artist-residents attend his concerts and they bring friends. Word of mouth spreads concert details quickly around town. Engaged audience members are key in these live concerts; they are an important “ingredient in the process” and contribute vibes—either high or low frequency—that Bisio feeds off for a unique emotive atmosphere. Live performance, he recognizes, is a special relationship between performer and audience. If the audience doesn’t understand the tradition behind the musical number, “they can still feel it—the overwhelming intensity of it.”

Bisio isn’t going to halt the torrent of gigs soon. He plans on affecting more people through his bassist work as long as he “remains creative and positive.” There’s always more good energy to create in the universe, and he feels it is his responsibility to contribute high-frequency vibrations that align people’s energies into a state of bliss. And after the shows are over, he comes home to his apartment, to relax and rejuvenate as he pleases. Indeed, his sacred space couldn’t be more loving and personal, a place which can be completely silent or filled with music, whichever, and whenever, he prefers. His home is where he can fluctuate between living and prepping for a show, balancing out the dynamics of being and doing, in symphony with his life partner.

Michael’s next Lace Mill concert is Saturday, April 21, from 4-6pm in the East Gallery of The Lace Mill, 165 Cornell St, Kingston. Suggested donation is $10.00. Guest parking is available on South Prospect Street and Manor Avenue. For more information, e-mail Michael at bisio@earthlink.net or visit MichaelBisio.com.

Check out Bisio’s photo feature on the American Express site: https://www.amexessentials.com/hudson-valley-guide/ Click “Start Slideshow and scroll to image #7.

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.”