Mr. Keith Nieto has been residing in Newburgh for the past fourteen years. He is a home owner and also owns 188 Liberté, a commercial building with a storefront that Mr. Nieto uses to express his love for display work. He also designed the interiors of Newburgh’s first film commission office which will officially open April 5th. Pictured above is Keith, sporting a 18″ jeweled cigarette holder once belonging to iconic Joan Crawford, one of many items being displayed in an upcoming exhibit focusing on the golden age of Hollywood glamour.
You are originally from Brooklyn, tell me about your Newburgh journey and how you ended up here?
I found myself searching for a home in Newburgh in 1999. Coming from 8 years in Boston I wanted to be closer to my amazing parents here in the Valley and of course looking for an affordable home with some architectural character. After looking at many I fell in love with a 1912 foursquare facing beautiful Downing Park. It needed little work, a Gay mans input, and was filled with beautiful light. Home sweet home. Still a work in progress!
My goodness has it been almost fourteen years since I moved here? In that time I kept myself busy making great friends many of whom were artists and preservationists (aka movers and shakers) They welcomed me with open arms. Never locked to a full time job I’ve worked with window display, the local Opera Company and curated my own specialty exhibits in a historic storefront building my family owns on Liberty street. I’ve volunteered for Downing Park, my front yard, Newburghs ARC and work now with the homeless at Ecclessia Ministries.
You own a storefront on Liberty Street, how did that happen?
I was driving down Liberty Street north of Broadway up from the Karpeles Museum one evening when I slammed on my brakes after sighting a lovely brick storefront with the most amazing 9 foot display windows. That was 9 years ago. You see display work was my first love while studying film and working in some of New York’s finest retail establishments. Bloomingdales, Bonwits, Trump Tower blah, blah blah. But these working venues for me were like magic and theater at the same time. I learned much working with incredible people. This in a interesting way tied into my film studies at Hunter college.
I began dreaming of owning this charming storefront and within a year it was on the market! I dreamed of driving, walking or biking to a commercial building which I could put my name on. I could exhibit my work and the work of my very talented artist friends…and for several year we have!
What are some of the interesting historical details of the building?
Its history as so many buildings in Newburgh is interesting. Built as a small private home and in the neighborhood known as Quality Row. It was erected around 1830 expanding itself into a storefront around 1888. In or about 1890 for 30 plus years it belonged to the cities undertaker Charles F. Shaw. Since then it has had many owners of many professions. Jewelers, Law and Gieslers grocery to name just a few. Interestingly around the Civil War its ground floor entrance was buried when the city raised Liberty Street (the old Kings Highway our first real street) several feet to even the unruly road. I discovered in its basement an 1830’s newel post and staircase which would have been its ground level entrance before the Civil War. Now because of post Civil War renovations in my exhibit space I have floating doors and mantles!
What do you use the space for today?
Now since I’ve acquired this versatile space friends and I have hosted live theater, jazz, poetry, art exhibits, classic film festivals, Newburgh’s Style Award luncheons, event rentals and MY personal favorite self curated Hollywood exhibits. During the winter months 188 Liberty Street goes into hibernation and reawakens in the Spring. I’m hoping Newburgh will come out for “Star Quotes” an exhibit in May 2013 that will focus on 12 iconic Hollywood legends. Their work, thoughts on life and items they personally owned. In the golden age of Hollywood beautiful examples of deco jewelry, accessories and other personal belongings were created for the likes of Garland, Harlow, Bette Davis and Chaplin. The exhibit will be both informative and interactive showcasing these collected items and examples of their work on the silver screen…Did you know the silver screen as we know it today was first created to display motion pictures right here in Newburgh? I love that about Newburgh!
What are some of the things you enjoy about the City of Newburgh and how do you envision it in the future?
I love so many things about Newburgh its difficult to list them all. Its not perfect. Its gritty and edgy. It reminds me sometimes of a very large dysfunctional but loving family. But, you can walk past 4 centuries of Architecture. People on the streets are friendly and engaging. I’ve lived in several large urban cities…none of them as diverse as Newburgh. I especially love walking the streets and saying hello to people. The dinner parties are fascinating and you never know what might come up in conversation or ideas. I love that the Mayor has invited me to assist in the creation of Newburgh’s first film commission. Imagine our city hosting “Hollywood on the Hudson”? Right here in our own backyard!
What advice would you give someone looking to move to the City of Newburgh?
Newburgh’s reputation has been battered for decades. But its possibilities are endless. In what I consider my short stay here I see and continue to see the most amazing people moving here to fulfill lifelong dreams. Both personal and business. There are folks here ready to give a helping hand to those less fortunate and those here ready to invest in a dream. To those naysayers who say it will never happen…well what can you really say to those who refuse to dream and hope? My time is limited. I chose to spend time with the men and woman who dream of a better Newburgh and I’m oddly inspired by those who cant. If you want to make a life lived well in Newburgh you need an open mind and generous heart. Keep a clean front yard. AND it would not hurt any of us to help keep our streets and sidewalks clean!