When pop-up book artist Robert Sabuda moved to Ulster County, 90 miles north of Manhattan, one of his favorite walks took him by a barn, where he often saw horses in a pasture. That was 2004. Time passed; the horses disappeared. In their place a “For Sale” sign appeared on the property, six acres through which a small creek meanders. Sabuda made an appointment to see the barn, though he has never owned a horse.
Where someone else might see (and smell) dust and dirt, Sabuda saw the potential for a community art space.
“The barn was already divided up into roomy horse stalls, although there are not a lot of windows because horses don’t worry about the view,” Sabuda said. “And the hallway was extra wide, to accommodate horses walking side by side. The moment I saw it, with its high ceiling, I thought ‘This would be great exhibition space.’ ”
Sabuda bought the property and has dubbed it Ten Horse Art Space. The plan to convert the barn into artist studios and gallery space is in full swing, fueled by Kickstarter.com, a Web site that allows people to pledge donations to various creative projects. (Sabuda’s proposal can be seen here.)
There’s a – forgive the pun – hitch, however. Sabuda must meet a fundraising goal of $30,000 by November 26 or he doesn’t get any of the money at all. As of November 3, he was more than halfway to his goal, with 23 days remaining.
Sabuda knows there is local demand for a center like the one he’s planning. “The Hudson Valley has many artists, but it can be difficult for them to find space to create and exhibit art,” he said. He also knows firsthand the boost it can give to an artist’s career when they are given a professional address. “Like most artists I worked from home for a long time which has advantages and disadvantages. I remember when I got my first actual workspace, how it felt like I had found this completely separate, creative, safe haven.”
Since word of the project spread, Sabuda has heard from many Hudson Valley artists wondering when it will open, how they can apply for studio space, and whether he’d consider allowing classes to be taught on the grounds. (He will!) “A friend saw the pasture and the creek and said it would be the perfect place for a sculpture garden,” Sabuda said. “Everybody is so ahead of me.”
First he has to remake the barn. The structure is solid, but the interior needs an overhaul, beginning with a new concrete floor Sabuda hopes to pour “before winter sets in.” Sabuda isn’t intimidated by the renovation – he has construction in his blood. “My father was a mason and a carpenter, as was my grandfather, and my great-grandfather. It’s no surprise I build things myself, only that I do it with paper.”
Every dollar contributed goes directly toward renovation, which Sabuda estimates will cost $50,000. To promote giving, Sabuda is offering rewards that will likely entice his considerable fan base to (sorry!) pony up: signed pop-up cards, limited editions of some of his bestselling pop-up books, and an original block print of the future Ten Horse Art Space. (For a $5,000 gift, the gallery space can bear your name.) For the most generous donors, he’ll make a “one-of-a-kind, can't-get-anywhere-else, hand- made, limited edition pop-up of the future Ten Horse Art Space.”
“Those are for my ‘constant readers,’ who are not only supporting me on this but have been supporting me my whole career,” Sabuda said. “For them, I have to make the coolest thing possible.”