When my wife and I first moved to Cold Spring we saw it as a quaint community in a beautiful setting with a lot of antique shops. We were touring musicians at the time and decided this was a great place to live and tour from, but also thought we probably would not bond with many of the locals because of our life style. We were night people and the town rolled the sidewalks up and fell asleep about 9:30 p.m.. We were artists and at first impression Cold Spring didn’t appear to have much going on artistically; especially the performing arts which was the foundation of our lives.
That first impression didn’t last very long. Within the first few weeks of being here I coined the expression “you can’t throw an antique across the street in Cold Spring without hitting a musician”. We quickly found not only the amazing sub-culture of musicians and artists who live here but we were also accepted by them in a loving and gracious way. Each time we met someone new they would express a longing to see more music expression in Cold Spring but almost always included”¦. “but you really need to go to Beacon to find stuff like that.” I always thought, “Why”?
One of my particular loves is the craft of songwriting. Like anything that one has passion for, it seems to draw others of the same ilk. I met a number of fellow songwriters and started a little song writing gathering in our home on a Thursday night. We would sit around our dining room table, each sharing a song we had written and discussed reasons and background for the creations. There was no night life in Cold Spring at the time, yet we would sometimes have 15 people around our table until midnight and beyond (to the chagrin of our downstairs neighbors) sharing songs, a little wine, laughter, love and moments none of us will soon forget.
I thought, “Why not approach some local venues to see if we could duplicate this Thursday night expression in a public setting.” I have to say that the response for the most part was negative. Again,”You need to go to Beacon for stuff like that”. But I never bought that because of two very important factors: the amazing amount of talented musicians who live right here who travel elsewhere anyway in search of entertainment and nightlife. And the TRAIN! I realized that Cold Spring is situated more perfectly for growth that any stop on Metro-North’s Hudson line. For a few years now, I have listened to complaints about parking yet no one has thought to develop a comprehensive incentive for people to take the train to Cold Spring. Our town IS a “train stop” and I personally feel we could partner with Metro-North and together we could persuade commuters as to the convenient benefits of train travel and both entities would win!
Think of the benefits of TAKE THE TRAIN: Avoid driving in inclement weather, take the train; after a wonderful meal that included alcoholic beverages, take the train; soaring fuel prices and the hassle of parking;, take the train; easily walk or take a fun trolley ride to all points in town, take the train; AND, finally, your train ticket has actual value in Cold Spring!!! TAKE THE TRAIN! It just takes a simple marketing plan, but like all advancements, it also takes vision and determination to change the rut of established thinking.
Against popular opinion at the time, and with a little vision and a lot of determination, I developed the popular Listening Room here in Cold Spring along with my good friend, Joe Johnson. With NO advertising budget, we held 104 weekly shows within two years and had over 200 individual artists perform on The Listening Room stage from this region and literally from all over the world. Essentially The Listening Room duplicated those beginning days around our dinning room table. By the time The Listening Room came to a close we were experiencing sometimes up to a dozen people traveling ON THE TRAIN to Cold Spring from NYC alone. My vision continued to grow for what this town could become.
I realized that people from throughout the Hudson Valley region and all over the world made their way to Cold Spring every year based on limited criteria. Cold Spring basically attracts vacationers looking for scenic views, hiking and shopping along with a few other attractions thrown in. That’s fantastic, and it has created an established and regular flow of tourists. But what if arts and entertainment were integrated with the reasons why people from around the globe make their way to Cold Spring? We could have the gentle flow of regular new visitors that would not overwhelm or alter the standard of living that Cold Spring residents want to preserve.
Many fellow artists I have met with have said “We need to have huge music festivals here that will draw thousands”. I COULD NOT DISAGREE MORE. We do not have the geographic size or infrastructure to handle gigantic events like that. And talk about traffic gridlocks and a parking nightmare. I want to see my community prosper but 30 porta-potty toilets in a row on a hot summer day and 200 garbage bags of clean-up just doesn’t seem like a match for this quaint and tasteful little town. It may even alienate the base of tourists we do draw and would most likely make long time local residents angry.
In short, I fully believe the answer to increasing commerce in Cold Spring is to integrate arts and entertainment into the reasons people come to Cold Spring (as fantasized in my previously published Part 1.) We are in difficult economic times and I fully expect it to get worse, but that should not affect Cold Spring. Throughout history, arts and entertainment have flourished in difficult finical times. In prosperous times people invest in “things”; in lean times people invest in “feelings”. Arts and entertainment produce “feelings”. Discretionary spending protocols change with the economic climates. The same $75 that would once have been spent on a BBQ grill upgrade in prosperous times is considered “foolish” in lean times. However, that same $75 spent on live music and a nice meal with someone you love is mysteriously considered “necessary” in lean times. Suddenly the memory of that good “feeling” is more important than that BBQ upgrade!
I think Cold Spring is at a unique crossroads and it’s going to take a broader vision from many involved to help push us to a prosperous and safe place, in light of the uncertain economy. Part of that vision is for each resident, artist and merchant to realize that each individual part prospers when the whole prospers. Part of the reason why The Listening Room (in it’s first format) ended was because of the lack of that understanding. Desiring to be the “top dog” in Cold Spring is as revealing as it is shortsighted. Having a desire for the Hudson Valley region and the entire world to think “Cold Spring” is far more beneficial for the WHOLE than having a desire for all of Cold Spring to think “MY VENUE”. And that applies to artists embracing the miracle of community in a new way as well.
That’s the understanding I feel it’s going to take to turn my fantasy into reality. I see it and believe it can happen. My wife Jeannie and I love this little town and the amazing people in it. A town wealthy in love, care and kindness. No matter what the financial future brings I do believe we can evolve into an amazingly prosperous town that will be able to maintain the safe environment for all (especially the children) in addition to preserving the high standard of life it now represents. And it would make me very happy to lend my heart, efforts and time to anyone who wants to work together for the benefit of the whole.
As economically conscious locavores, my wife and I will continue to support these efforts in spirit and with our patronage. Events like these presented and the community built by them is part of why we feel fortunate to live in and are enthusiastic about this town. Please proceed Cold Spring, we’ll be there, at all venues, and will continue to spread word.
Thank you, Ken. Reading your article, I was pleasantly reminded of how integral the creative class is to life here in Cold Spring. As a writer and recent transplant to the community, it’s heartening to realize that there’s something of an artist/musician colony here. That fact is brought further into evidence by the Listening Room events I’ve attended. Thanks again for providing a voice and forum for us.
I have lived in neighboring Put Valley on and off for over 50 years and of course Cold Spring has always been very important to me for so many reasons. Currently I have a shop in nearby Peekskill which has developed quite a night life music scene- 12 Grapes, Division St. Grill, Rubens, Birdsall House, Bean Runner Cafe– there’s quite a list of happening places in town. Since Peekskill already has the infrastructure you mentioned, maybe you could share your wealth of music in Peekskill. Kathleen Pemble is a top vocalist, songwriter and musician who worked the Peekskill Coffee House for quite some time and I believe she now lives in Cold Spring. I’m sure she can give you the scoop. I know it’s not all “wine & roses” in Peek, but we do have a wonderful community of artists and musicians too.