Meet a Newburgher: Judy Thomas

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Meet Judy, a new Brooklyn transplant to the City of Newburgh. She is excited about all things Newburgh, especially her new studio with Hudson River views which she calls the Barge Watch. Learn all about her and why she decided to come to the City of Newburgh. Thanks for participating Judy!

Tell us about yourself. Where are from and what do you do for a living?
I grew up in the Midwest, lived some time in Europe, then moved to New York for graduate school in painting at Hunter College.  After Hunter, I joined the exodus of artists out of the East Village to Brooklyn, setting up a studio in an industrial loft near the Navy Yard. The pioneering, renegade spirit of the early 90’s helped to shape the direction of my art.  With the emergence of empty storefronts and warehouses as exhibition space, I began to explore site-specific sculptural installation as an art form.  In order to support my artwork, I have sustained a second career for a time as a handbag, belt and accessories designer.  I started teaching a few years ago and enjoy that as well. I guess you could say I am a Judy of all trades.   I will have my sculptural installation ‘Expansion’ exhibited at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz from June 21st – November 9th, as part of the exhibition entitled ‘Worlds of Wonder’.  I am thrilled for this opportunity!

How did you find Newburgh and what attracted you?
Friends have migrated to the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn over the years, but no one actually lived in Newburgh. I relocated from the Boston area, where I lived for almost a decade, so moving to Newburgh was like coming home to me. The first day I looked around Newburgh, I knew this was where I wanted to settle.  Each person I met was welcoming and helpful in my search for studio space. Ultimately, I found my ideal studio on Craig’s list – a diamond in the rough, which is also how I see Newburgh. There is a lot of untapped potential in this city.  I also love the outdoors. There are hiking trails with incredible views within a half-hour drive, as well as kayaking, cycling, rock climbing and secret swimming holes.


What kind of studio space do you work in? What is it like working there?
My studio is in a brick industrial building, around 1,500 square feet. It reminds me of my old Brooklyn loft, except now I have a view. Incredible!  It has been a lot of work getting the studio in order, but I love it. The studio was absolutely freezing this winter, but looking out at the frozen Hudson River and the barges cutting through the channel was purely fascinating, and so I created a Barge Watch facebook fan page, how nerdy is that?!  And then this winter a friend helped me renovate the back room space at my studio and set up an exhibition space.  So, now Barge Watch is the name for my studio as well as the ‘gallery’. Please ‘Like’ BARGE WATCH on FB, and stay in the loop!

Why do you think other artists would find Newburgh studio space ideal?
The amount of studio space you can get in Newburgh is comparable to the prices in Brooklyn in the late eighties.  There are options to rent or buy,  a lot of bang for your buck.

What do you enjoy about life in the City of Newburgh?

The other day, a Newburgh friend questioned me “You have only lived here six months?, really?” That sums up how welcoming everyone is here.  There is a genuine spirit of community here.  It’s a city, but also a small town in many ways. There is so much history here, and I love the architectural details of the old homes and churches.

What have been some of the perks and challenges of living in Newburgh?

Everyday I discover new perks – The Downing Film Center shows acclaimed first run films, under $10.  Top notch Yoga and Pilates studios in walking distance.  Free live music at the local pubs. I use my car too much though – for basic things like banking and grocery shopping, and that is different than most of the cities I have lived in.  If I didn’t have a car, it would still be possible to use the numerous taxi services.  As the downtown gets more inhabitants, I hope there will be more services down the road.

What advice would you give others who are considering moving to Newburgh?
Spend a few days and nights looking around, getting comfortable.  Talk to people, ask questions, and if you are interested in renting a commercial space for a studio, be sure to negotiate to get what you want. Or you may just fall in love with one of the historical houses and buy, another great option!

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