This month, we are featuring The Art Effect at the Trolley Barn Gallery as our CaFÉ Spotlight! The Art Effect is an arts education and youth development agency serving youth across New York’s Hudson Valley. The historic Trolley Barn — constructed in 1873 in Poughkeepsie, NY — has been home to The Art Effect since 2019 and has become the area’s first youth-led gallery. The Art Effect has been using CaFÉ since it started hosting exhibitions in 2020, and most recently held the Wonderland International Exhibition, which was the point of entry to the PKX Wonderland Festival that took place September 15-17, 2022.
We contacted Pamela Perry, director of marketing and communications, to talk about the exhibition’s success and its team of youth curators who work with professional art mentors to choose the artwork submitted on CaFÉ.
Tell us a little bit about the history and background of The Art Effect and the Trolley Barn Gallery.
The Art Effect at the Trolley Barn Gallery trains youth as leaders who catalyze the community through the arts and re-energize downtown Poughkeepsie. The Art Effect at the Trolley Barn Gallery is the first youth-led gallery in the Hudson Valley. We are empowering local young people with the skills, experience, and mentorship to take the lead on exhibitions and programming to engage with our community.
The historic Trolley Barn, constructed in 1873 on Main Street, Poughkeepsie, was once a home base for the horse-drawn trolley lines that provided public transportation within the city. In 2017, community member Roy Budnik purchased the building with the intention of renovating it. While standing outside of what would soon be the magnificent windows of the trolley barn doors, Roy encountered a group of children. When asked what they’d like the space to become, they responded, “make it for kids”! After renovations were complete, Roy sold the building to Hudson River Housing for $1 with the intention of opening the space up to the community as an art center.
In 2019, The Art Effect hosted the inaugural event in the newly renovated space, Art After Hours. It was shortly after that, The Art Effect became its primary tenant, utilizing the ample, open space as a studio for The Art Institute in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, The Art Effect’s merger with Barrett Arts Center brought expertise in exhibition and gallery management to The Art Effect, which catalyzed the launch of the youth-led Trolley Barn Gallery. The merger opened doors of new opportunities for The Art Effect, creating a permanent presence at the Trolley Barn where youth and community come together to create and experience art in all forms. Through more than a dozen exhibitions at the gallery to date, The Art Effect continues to nurture and grow Poughkeepsie’s vibrant art scene and help revitalize Main Street.
What stood out to you that made the Wonderland International Juried Exhibition and its involvement in the PKX Wonderland Festival a success?
The festival and exhibition brought in more than 700 people over the course of three days. It featured a gorgeous sidewalk painting designed and created by students and a local artist outside the gallery, a gallery exhibition, a teen dance party, musical performances, food vendors, entertainment, and a wide variety of art-making activities from community partners. The Wonderland International Juried Exhibition and the PKX Festival became an initial building block to the development of a Youth Arts Empowerment Zone, establishing a youth-led arts district in and around the Trolley Barn Gallery, the only youth-led gallery in the state!
The work that the youth curators are doing in Poughkeepsie to not only curate these international juried exhibitions but also develop the Youth Arts Empowerment Zone is creating a place where people of all ages and backgrounds come together and be proud of where they live. The former mayor declared September 17 as PKX Day in the City of Poughkeepsie, which will reoccur for each year’s festival.
See the PKX Festival and the Youth Arts Empowerment Zone in action here!
Can you tell us a little more about The Art Effect’s youth workforce training programming and what the process was like for youth curators to choose the pieces for the exhibition?
In addition to youth-curated, international juried exhibitions, the Trolley Barn Gallery is home to a dynamic blend of workforce programming that brings together youth and established art professionals to present high-caliber exhibitions and festivals that engage our neighborhood and acquaint youth with curatorial and exhibition practices. Each exhibition introduces youth to a different guest curator who acts as a guide and mentor for youth through the jurying process. Chosen by youth workforce students at The Art Effect, Allison M. Glenn worked as a guest curator alongside students for the Wonderland International Juried Exhibition. Poughkeepsie youth, as part of this program, earn a stipend as leaders who are responsible for every aspect of exhibition curation including theme generation.
For the Wonderland International Juried Exhibition, they selected 51 artworks from 563 submissions from around the globe. The youth are trained in and then responsible for art handling, exhibition installation, and interpretation. Additionally, youth learn about project management, develop public speaking skills through gallery presentations and artist talks, and establish professional connections with international artists, curators, and arts professionals to bring impressive exhibitions of high-caliber artwork to Poughkeepsie, NY.
Why is CaFÉ your choice of platform to collect submissions for your exhibitions?
The Art Effect has been using CaFÉ since launching our international juried exhibitions in 2020! It is easy to use to post exhibitions, communicate with artists, and market our events.
What was your experience using CaFÉ?
The number of artists submitting artwork has grown since posting our first exhibition on CaFÉ. We enjoy seeing submissions from around the world! The jurying function is straightforward and easy to use. Our youth, with no prior experience or training, can easily jump in and select artworks. We often work both in-person and remotely with our guest curator, who is able to use CaFÉ to train each cohort of youth on the curation process.
What are you looking forward to in the future for The Art Effect? Any special projects or events on the horizon?
The Art Effect at the Trolley Barn Gallery will host seven exhibitions in 2023. The Youth Curatorial Team is in the process of selecting the theme and creating the call for entry for a summer exhibition opening on July 21. The call will go up at the end of March.
In addition to international juried exhibitions, we will host our second 3-day PKX Festival combined with the 10th Annual Reel Exposure International Teen Film and Photography Festival on May 5-7, 2023 as part of the ongoing development of the Youth Arts Empowerment Zone in downtown Poughkeepsie. This year’s festival will include an international photography exhibition, film screenings, a film race, vendors, food trucks, and a “Breaking into the Business: Insider Info Film and Media Professionals” panel.
Anything else you would like to share?
The Trolley Barn Gallery will also host Art After Dark, The Art Effect’s signature fundraising event in the fall of 2023 featuring immersive art experiences created by The Art Effect staff and youth, culinary delights, and cocktails with an artistic twist. Art After Dark attracts around 200 attendees each fall and will be accompanied by Quiet As It’s Kept International Juried Exhibition with CaFÉ being used as the primary call for entry point!
All photos courtesy of The Art Effect.
Written by Communications & Marketing Manager Justine Chapel