It’s re-run season for a few days, and I’m not commenting on current events but instead re-running a past column or two that I think were of merit and had some constructive ideas as we look forward again.
Yes, I know that I risk some blame for the Eco Trolley idea, but the much joked about concept of Eco Trolley is an exceptional one that implies that Hudson of the future has multiple points of interest to engage visitors and be busy with enough visitors to require local transport. Worthy goals, some of which I hope we can reach one day soon.
Weekly Itch #61 Published Hudson Gazette July 2, 2008
If Hudson is seeking a big box resistant retail core, we should consider openly attracting and really supporting artists and galleries. Those who come seeking art will come to browse from far and wide and must eat along the way. We’ve got some great eats in town for them and room for more. Some of our restaurants are already galleries for local artist’s works, so the core idea is already here in a small way.
The annual Hudson Studio Tour’s success convinces me that we have a fine base of artists that can draw a crowd within our reach. We need to create the environment for more top-notch artists to come to Hudson and settle down. We’ve got the ideal eclectically friendly community of people. We’ve got a picturesque semi-waterfront village locale, and tons of local character and characters for added interest.
Ideally, we could eventually attract those who teach art and run schools for artists. Example: week long course in fine woodworking brings midweek customers year round for bed and breakfast and after class theater, libation and eats.
We’re missing some of what we need to really make a go of it but I’ll jump to an end vision of a town and walk you quickly through it. Leaving the car behind we ride the free Hudson shuttle. The shuttle runs continuously and picked us up at from the early train at the Vaudreuil-Dorion train station that it services several times a day on weekends.
On Cameron, in the working artist friendly redevelopment of the Daoust dirt and equipment yard, you’d see an open post and beam building erected by local craftsmen. It has a common open gallery with flexible rental artist studios attached on two levels. Painters, weavers, jewelers, quilters, and the quieter smaller arts would fit well here.
The gallery would be staffed on retail hours and present the works of artists who rent the studios and keep a percentage of sales to support staffing and overhead. When the artists are in studio working, they could choose to open doors from the gallery to their studio to visitors, creating a direct link between artist working and customer and a beehive of interesting activity. The old Medicentre might be developed into a similar concept if space demand and structure permitted.
Walking towards Main road we find options for eats or sweets along the way. We’re drawn downtown to interesting old buildings like Legg’s and Habib’s, their ground floors now commercial galleries full of non-local artist’s work.
The community center is buzzing with activity as one of our artists has booked it for a one-day course teaching the fine points of his form of art. Courses and showings are promoted on the HudsonArtists.com community website and through town funded promotions to attract both Montreal area residents and tourists.
The early weekend Hudson Arts and Theater train is pulling into the station. The Village Theater now offers courses and seminars and hosts a busy sold out weekend schedule year round. Theater people eat and buy art, so before or after the show they browse the community or hop the Hudson Shuttle to Finnegan’s for an hour or two in the summer. Some of the train riders, walk or shuttle to the Yacht Club to enjoy learn to sail days that brings additional day revenue and potential future residents and members into the Club for a summer day each month.
Meandering down Main Road, we notice the new Hudson Fire Hall Complex, which looks old enough to be part of town but is new and finally big enough to actually fit all the equipment and work safely. Upstairs it contains a commercial Hudson fitness center run by and used by the firefighters. Also a few rent subsidized apartments rented to active volunteer firefighters above the equipment bays.
Behind the Fire Hall complex, after the artists started coming, the Public Works yards and administration were moved away from the retail center to somewhere more function appropriate hidden on the edge of town. Heavier larger art is done here in a series of rental lofts for sculptors, potters, wood carvers, and glass blowers. Artists here include anything bulky and not requiring noisy equipment that would disturb close village neighbors. Long established Hudson artists still occupy the rental buildings across Main Road and because of growing customer traffic more wait for space to open up.
Hopping the next shuttle towards Finnegan’s, we get off at the Thomson Park artist’s community surrounding the parking lot across from the park. Few close neighbors to disturb with machinery, the lofts here include fine woodworkers and cabinetmakers and a small woodworking school where a local real estate agent is currently teaching a small group building Windsor chairs. The Thompson Park Café offers sandwiches and the Park is a great place to sit and enjoy the sunshine and lake views before we hop the next passing shuttle to Finnegan’s and spend a couple of relaxing hours browsing.
It’s getting late and we notice a booth at the flea market that makes reservations in all the Hudson restaurants. We quickly get a confirmed table and time at our choice of restaurants and hop the next shuttle back to Hudson for dinner before we head home to the city on the late train.
Could it happen? What would it take? Examples do exist of similar communities that are artist and restaurant centric. I’ve been to a few interesting ones on our travels. Over time they become successful destinations for locals day-trippers from the city and tourists from afar. It wouldn’t happen overnight. We’d have to have vision, cooperation, creative re-zoning and strong purposeful leadership to attract investment over time. Define the end product and manage the path to get there.
I’d rather live surrounded by creative artists, great art and fine food than surrounded by empty shops, modern strip malls and fast food.