Six months ago, The Treehouse rooted itself in New Paltz and since then, owner Kathy Preston’s goal has not swayed — taking the relationship between local artists and consumers to new heights.
The Treehouse, a local, handmade fine arts and craft shop located on 5 N. Front St., branched out onto the downtown shopping landscape during its grand opening on March 31.
After a jam-packed, “wonderful but totally crazy” 2011 holiday season, Preston, a New Paltz native and artist, received a call asking if she wanted to open a shop. Preston, who had previous gallery ownership experience, said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity or location.
“I didn’t want to be making art to make rent,” she said. “I wanted to be making something else, and I started to think about how I could make that work and promote other artists. I came up with a business model [and] it’s basically a tiny craft fair that’s been condensed into these 700 sq. feet.”
Due to the small space, Preston has to limit the number of artists she can allow to exhibit at one time. She said she holds an open call for artists every few months and has to stagger their entrances to create consistency in the shop while offering new work for her customers.
“Right now, I have 19 artists exhibited including myself,” she said. “I’m going to be getting a few more in at the end of the month and a few more in December. Everyone who is accepted into the shop is grandfathered into the next cycle.”
One of the artists featured in The Treehouse is New Paltz resident Matt Maley, who creates landscapes on reclaimed barn wood. Maley said he was in the first group of artists and has had his work in the shop ever since.
“I kind of stuck with it,” he said. “It’s been a really good format to work in. The space is helping me readjust my price point and see what people want in their homes. It’s [also] nice to have another spot in New Paltz that caters to fine arts, crafts and sculpture.”
Preston has very specific standards when looking for artists including the quality of the craft and how well the piece will fit in with the store’s collection.
“I make sure that all the pieces in the shop work as a collection,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that everything…had the sense of being a juried space, of being seamless, of working together.”
Maley said Preston has “really good visual sense” which reflects in the gallery’s aesthetic design.
“There’s a great interior design quality,” he said. “Nothing stays in the same place. Every time you go [it has] a great exploring feel. I like the way it never really gets stagnant.”
The Treehouse caters to the college town it’s in by keeping prices relatively low, Preston said. There is an entire section of the shop dedicated to items $20 and under, and most of the pieces are between $20 to 60.
“College students are really appreciative, because you can get something really unique and special,” she said. “You might not be able to buy a beautiful $350 wood piece for your wall…but you can get a $25 piece that will be as significant, meaningful, beautiful and valuable to…your life.”
As an artist herself, Preston realizes the importance of making art a part of people’s lives.
“Having a cup of tea out of a mug that’s made by a person is a much different experience than having [one] out of a paper cup,” she said. “You can take art and bring it into your life, and enhance your life by having art in it.”