In a college town, it’s important that safe spaces are made to protect the members of our community. Nightlife is a quintessential college pastime and New Paltz is quite the bar town. It’s tempting to engage in, while also very exciting, however it’s important there are measures put into place to allow everyone to feel comfortable and have a good time. The Grand Artist Guild (GAG) is a new collaborative group created in New Paltz that has been hosting events since May 2022. They describe themselves as “a collection of artists brought together to support one another through creative endeavors.” The guild was founded by founder Daniel Blake with help from fellow artists and friends: Xek Noir and Mariabella Rivera-Todaro.
Blake is the team’s patriarch. Coming up with the designs and ideas for events, he is the one that can be seen taking photographs, hosting and putting the occasional performance. Blake has just started to play in the world of performance art and thanks the Guild for allowing him to explore these other mediums. The self proclaimed “cold step mother” is Blake’s right hand help, Xek Noir. While she may seem icy, her love for the arts and human connection shines while she performs. She is a burlesque dancer who has been in the game for nine years. In the past, she has performed with SUNY New Paltz burlesque troop, Alpha Psy Ecdysia, but also performs with other Hudson Valley troops and her own, Black Magic Burlesque. Noir uses her experiences to guide the Guild in achieving their event goals. Mariabella Rivera-Todaro describes themself as the mover and shaker for the team. When asked what kind of art they practice, they explained, “the things I do are really an art form of itself.” Rivera-Todaro, who practices both visual and performance arts, brings their artistic practice to all aspects of their life whether it’s helping out with the New Paltz Free Food Fridge or hosting at a GAG event.
The Guild is a group project, with many moving parts. The team’s strong connection allowing them to put on exceptional events that the community can enjoy. The GAG strives to create spaces for new and seasoned artists of different mediums and create opportunities to explore their work in a professional setting.
In their mission statement the Guild explains that they are “out to aid others like us in achieving their dreams. We wish to cultivate spaces for others to showcase and sell their work, perform, create and explore. We strive to move forward with integrity, honesty and encouragement. We don’t do this alone either! We seek help from our community to aid in bringing ours, and others, ideas to life!”
Their most recent event, “Dante’s Inferno,” was a benefit event that consisted of artist donations and drag performers on Friday, Oct. 28. The event was held during Halloweekend at Bacchus, which allowed for a large turnout of people. The theme of the night was Angels and Demons, so people were encouraged to dress up as their own interpretation as they celebrated the night dancing to DJDookz and the nine amazing performances. This affair was the GAG’s first ever benefit show where they brought the community together to help Blake with raising money for his top surgery operation. Noir, Rivera-Todaro and Blake explained to The Oracle that integrity is important to them. They described how the nightlife scene can be difficult for newer artists who are trying to get their names and art out into the world. When they host events they make sure they are transparent with the talent they work with, and oftentimes the fans, about where the money is going and who gets what. Rivera-Todero also highlighted, “A big part for me when we were starting GAG was making sure that this wasn’t a space where you felt like you needed to do drugs.” They opened up about their sobriety and how living in New Paltz might affect it. With the hardcore drug scene, it’s easy to feel pressured to follow that type of crowd. Although the events take place in a bar, they make sure that the event is inclusive for everyone. They make sure to do check-ins throughout the night with their artists and encourage everyone to speak up if there are any issues.
The GAG encourages those who want to sell their art or perform to reach out to them through their Instagram page, @grandartistsguild. Their DMs are always open for new ideas and talent. Events are held at least once a month, so make sure to give them a follow to know all the information for the next kiki!