On a rainy Saturday night, members of the New Paltz community stepped into the warm, welcoming environment of Roost Studios, where collaborative married couple Michelle Michalko and Emre Arapkirli shared several universal perspectives and storylines through their mixed media works.
Roost Studios is a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit, member-run gallery and cooperative. The idea for the foundation began as a self-expression and leadership project through a program in which President Marcy Bernstein had been involved.
“The purpose of the course I attended was to look into the communities that you’re part of, and you look for something that’s either missing or could be made better,” Bernstein said. “When everyone says “Wouldn’t it be great if?” And it’s not there. So I saw that [a gallery] was something that was needed. What they [the program] say is the way you do your project the way you do your life, so it was great learning experience for me.”
Roost Studios officially opened in March 2016. There are currently 23 studio members, all of whom are given opportunities to host their own solo shows that last about a month or so. However, membership is limited, since the directors would like for all members to get the most out of their time and financial commitment.
The opening reception of the gallery “Journey Starts Here” featured live music by Arapkirli, musician, co-collaborator and photographer, amongst an ever-growing expansion of fascinated, inquisitive conversation within the small brick room.
Arapkirli is from Istanbul, Turkey. Before working with his wife, he had not yet printed or displayed his photographs from the past 10 years. Michalko finds delight in the transfer of images onto printmaking paper, then silk-screening them with Purell hand sanitizer. The two eventually decided to unite their artistic natures in order to create this style of artwork.
“So, you see a photo that I took from my travels across from either Europe or Turkey, and the figures that go with them are hand-created and handprinted pictures that Michelle made,” Arapkirli said. “Then we mix them together.”
This particular gallery has a significant focus on travel and the discovery of one’s self. Michalko believes that people grow through their travels. She and her husband wanted to create secretive, yet diverse storylines for all viewers of their collaborative pieces.
“When you look at the back of people’s heads you can make assumptions, but you never really know what that person is like, or who they are, and I love that mystery,” Michalko said.
Michalko also emphasized that she never displays people’s faces, as she feels it is unimportant to the essence of her work. She wants their own adventures and discoveries to remain private moments within their individual selves. She wishes to capture her creative influences in their personal explorations, to make and morph the pieces with Arapkirli’s photographs to make their artwork relatable for all people.
“My big thing is to have a variety of people. I want all types of people,” Michalko said. “I don’t want anyone to feel left out. [my artwork is] extremely universal, and if you can identify with it that’s really what I’m going for.”
Bernstein encourages students to look into internship opportunities through Roost Studios, and advises anyone who is interested to stop by the gallery, located at 69 Main Street.
“I like the collaboration, because Emre’s photos are so different than the collage, opaque-solid figures that are on top. They’re different because he’s from Turkey, and she’s American, then they came here to study and got together; so it’s really two different worlds coming together,” Bernstein said. “They’ve traveled a lot together, and he’s traveled a lot on his own. The photos are really ephemeral, beautiful, different travel photos. And then to see these solid patterned people in there with no faces, and to be looking at a piece of artwork, where you’re looking at the back of somebody, looking at something else has a really cool effect.”
People are welcome to walk up the steep, vibrant orange staircase of Roost Studios, and enter the creative world. The art comes to life in the many diverse, colorful artwork showcases of the New Paltz community.
“Roost was founded because we felt there was a need to bring a lot of artists together within the New Paltz area,” said Vice-President David Wilkes. “A lot of people talk about the arts in New Paltz, but we saw the need to have a presence right on Main Street, because we really wanted to be able to give access to the arts to people walking through town, students, you name it. Roost fills a need that wasn’t being filled before we came.”
For more information about Roost Studios, you may contact Bernstein via phone (845) 568-7540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit them online at their website www.roostcoop.org.