It’s no secret: Hudson is hot when it comes to the arts. Why, on Warren Street alone there are almost two dozen galleries. Yet just 20 years ago, this once-gritty city — the seat of Columbia County — had much more in common with its notorious past as a center for gambling and prostitution than anything artsy.
It was during this moribund period, in the spring of 1991, that Carrie Haddad opened her eponymous gallery at 622 Warren Street. A transplant from New York City to Dutchess County, Haddad was “inspired” by her two children. “Staying home with my kids was making me crazy,” she says.
Actually, she credits good friend and artist Howard Crouch with urging her to open the gallery, which occupies the empty storefront of a building she’d purchased as an investment to help pay for her children’s college. Long interested in art, she had noticed that there were very few galleries in her area of the Valley — and none at all in Hudson. She and Crouch did much of the renovation and decorating themselves. “I rented a sander and did the floors,” she says. The gallery was an immediate success.
The first customers were mainly decorators and designers from New York City and New Jersey who took advantage of affordable-but-original art that was close to home. About all that she could sell then were “landscapes, landscapes, landscapes,” she remembers — but eventually abstracts began gaining favor.
Success bred success. To date, Haddad has exhibited works by approximately 1,200 artists, including famous names such as Ellsworth Kelly, George Rickey, and William Wegman. “But that’s not what Hudson is about, or what my gallery is about,” she says. “You can’t sustain a gallery in Hudson and show artists whose works cost $400,000. My goal is to show the artists of the Hudson Valley.”
Haddad’s enthusiasm for her job has not waned. “I love to go to work,” she says. “If I go away on vacation, when I come back, there are all my friends, hanging on the walls.” And room for her “friends” is growing: In 2008 she opened a second gallery, Carrie Haddad Photographs, a few blocks away.
Beginning this month, the art gallery hosts a 20-year anniversary show featuring the works of David Paulson, Allyson Levy, Louise Laplante, Vincent Pomilio, and Darshan Russell (Apr. 21-May 20). In June and July, Haddad presents the otherworldly photographs of the collaborative duo Richard Selesnick and Nicholas Kahn.
Next, Haddad shares the secrets of her success.
Success story: Owner Carrie Haddad in her Warren Street gallery
Photograph by Jennifer May
In a galaxy far, far away I grew up in San Francisco. I went to Berkeley but didn’t finish.
First calling I was a professional dancer. In San Francisco, the dance company I was with was like the Alvin Ailey of the West Coast. I went to New York City to be a famous dancer; I guess I kind of fell short there.
Not in Kansas anymore I auditioned for a Broadway show and went, whoa! There was a whole other kind of thing: gypsy dancers. They looked like prostitutes with all that hair and the eyelashes, leotards up high, high-heeled shoes. I thought, “Where do you guys study?”
On buying her first painting It was called Carrying a Heavy Load by Edith Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut’s daughter.
It takes two to tango I met my husband in New York, married in 1983, and popped out two kids.
Valley bound We moved to Red Hook in 1985. I went kicking and screaming, but I really did love it.
Résumé padder I’d worked in a restaurant in Soho and they had a gallery on their walls, but that was it. I was only the waitress.
Her first business model [The gallery] started as a co-op; it’s a cowardly way to enter business — it’s like a safety net. I had about 12 artists. Took 10 percent commission. That lasted one year, then I was on my own — and commissions went up to 40 percent.
Most expensive piece in 1991 $500
Least expensive piece in 2011 $500
The key to gallery survival The antiques dealers in Hudson; they’re fabulous people. They collectively were advertising and had a critical mass that brought customers in.
Her friendly little city If I’m going to get a flat tire, I want to be in Hudson! The old-timey people are so helpful, so nice.
On taking drawing classes at Bard College I now have a huge respect for artists from taking those classes. It’s so demanding, how long it takes to do a drawing or painting.
Bumper-sticker slogan “Buy art, not drugs.” No, that’s a flippant answer.
Bumper-sticker slogan, take two “Show the art you love.” It’s so easy to try to sell it because you’re not lying.
Dead-artist fantasy tête-à-tête I don’t know what I’d ask him, but I love [French artist Edouard] Vuillard. If he came over for dinner, I guess I’d ask, “Where do you get your colors?”
Favorite Valley sight The sunset over the Hudson River. I guess it’s something that’s in a lot of paintings that I love. That pink light in the sky. Those are the sunsets that inspired so many artists who have come here. And still do.