At Water Street Market in New Paltz, patrons can buy a cup of coffee, go antiquing and visit an art gallery—all in the span of about an hour. With a lovely view of the mountain ridge and green meadows speckled with September sunflowers along State Route 299, Water Street, the “village within a village” is an idyllic home for any business.
That’s why Ryan Cronin and his wife, Melanie Cronin, saw Water Street as the perfect place to house Ryan’s art gallery, “CronArtUSA,” which opened in 2015.
The two met while attending SUNY New Paltz. “After graduating it made perfect sense to settle down here and make New Paltz our home,” Melanie said, who plays a crucial role in managing CronArt. “I think New Paltz has a magnetic pull for some people. It’s hard to leave.”
New Paltz’s “magnetic pull” is made evident by the continued success of Water Street Market, which celebrates its 20th birthday this year. The longevity of the market street demonstrates the crucial role that local businesses play in our community and the drawing power that small businesses have.
“Water Street Market has the perfect blend of tourism and local supporters,” Ryan said. “We have had a great experience growing our fanbase via people discovering us as they walk by, but we also have an online presence. I’m a big believer in making art accessible, so we have hats, t-shirts, plates and cups, all driven by my original work.”
As a local artist, Ryan Cronin has used CronArtUSA as a platform to facilitate donations and support for community causes. In 2018, Ryan Cronin and 19 other artists created sculptures for the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary to generate donations for rescue farm animals.
“I had a lot of fun with the project itself,” Ryan said. “I created a flying pig on an eight-foot pedestal. The Mayor of New Paltz was the winning bidder and now has it in his home.”
Ryan has also painted murals at schools around the Hudson Valley, keeping the local community’s needs in mind. “I love working with the kids in the schools,” Ryan said. “Pretty much everything they say is inspirational.”
While painting the vibrant mural on the side of Schatzi’s Pub in New Paltz, Ryan live-streamed his progress and raised $5,000 for the cervical cancer charity Go Doc Go, as well as the TMI Project in Kingston.
Back at 10 Main St. in Water Street Market, the Cronins and co. keep their doors open to patrons. Because of its open-air layout, game tables, free bike rentals and patio chairs, Water Street draws in a large number of shoppers and pedestrians each day.
“The gallery has become a community hub and we love that,” Ryan says. “We feel really grateful for everyone who thinks of us when they need to buy a gift…we love selling art, but selling a piece of merchandise is just as important to us.”
Ryan describes his art style as a modern adaption of Pop art that “teeters between Abstract and Representational.” This style is evident throughout his gallery and in the simple, bright designs on his merchandise. When text is included in his art, the phrases are generally fun and playful; some sayings include “Outlaws Drink Tequila,” “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” and “You Are Here.”
And you might be more familiar with Ryan’s work than you realize—If you’ve been driving around the roads of New Paltz for a while, you may have noticed Ryan’s “Expect a Bike Ahead” signs scattered about town. These signs were created in 2016 in light of the life-threatening injury of cyclist Gabby O’Shea; the signs aim to raise awareness for cyclist safety and warn motorists to share the road.
Next time you’re on Water Street, make sure to stop by and show support for local artists. “Having the shop in Water Street has absolutely changed my practice as an artist,” Ryan said. “It has shown me how important it is to give back to the community. We welcome everyone to connect with us and #bepartoftheart.”