Art curator Laurie De Chiara and artist Stefan Saffer met in Berlin in the 2000s. She owned a gallery; he was a German artist who had just been accepted to the Whitney’s Independent Study Program in New York City.
“We were introduced by a group of Danish artist/curator friends. One was Stefan’s roommate,” says De Chiara, a NYC native. “His friends had raved about his artwork so I was curious to see what he did. A few months later when he was settled, I invited him to participate in an exhibition at the gallery, and that was the beginning of our working relationship.”
De Chiara and Saffer continued pursuing their independent careers as curator and artist, respectively, until De Chiara co-founded and worked with Saffer on ArtPod, a nonprofit that focuses on contemporary art exhibitions that are accessible to a wide non-art audience, starting in 2010.
In 2016, they relocated to the Hudson Valley to continue their work and discovered Kingston and its historic Cornell Building. It seemed like the perfect fit for their vision: an art center where people feel welcome to be a part of the experience. In winter 2019, ArtPort Kingston was born.
ArtPort welcomes contemporary and diverse artists from the Hudson Valley and surrounding areas to display their works through various forms like painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, and interactive exhibits. On average, the exhibitions contain work from 15 artists or more, giving the cultural space the opportunity to present multimedia group exhibitions.
De Chiara and Saffer categorize ArtPort as contemporary, diverse, open-ended, and non-traditional, offering “more than a painting on a wall,” De Chiara says.
The aim for the 7,000-sq-ft space is to be an accessible hub for art and culture within the community, even during the COVID-19 pandemic when capacity is capped at 40 people, De Chiara says. One way they are able to make sure that happens is by offering free admission, although donations are strongly encouraged.
“It’s about making the art experience accessible to a wider audience, a non-art audience per se,” says De Chiara, who has a background in art education.
Last summer, the museum hosted a shadow puppet workshop, an outdoor chalk painting workshop, and a wooden sculpture building workshop. All live programs are on pause, but will reopen when possible, De Chiara says.
ArtPort is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Its group exhibition Wunder opened February 13 and will run through March 28. It includes immersive and kinetic sculptures that are about transformations.