By James Miranda
Jill Leary was 13 years removed from teaching art and wanted to go back, but didn’t want to be bound by a school district. Opening Railyard Arts Studios in Croton Falls was the perfect way to do it.
The 49-year-old artist taught in the Brewster School District—first at CV Starr Intermediate School then at H.H. Wells Middle School—for 12 years before giving birth to her first of two daughters. She had always wanted to own her own studio, which opened on Monday, January 7, and wanted it to be a social, community rendezvous for everyone to motivate and evoke different ideas.
“I don’t want to be locked in a room doing my artwork by myself, and some people are great at that,” said Leary, who first took up pottery her sophomore year at Syracuse University in 1989. “The whole vision for it was a space where people want to come in and not leave. For me, it’s very hard to do art work alone, I like to be social.”
While some artists create with the intent for their pieces to have a deep meaning, Leary, a Somers native, creates for function for the most part. She creates bowls, cups, and other items that people can use among other things. But the same can be said for the business.
While business hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, members have 24-hour access to the building to work anytime of the day. There are two main studios and a lounge area in the lobby for classes and socializing. They’re provided with cupboards and shelves where they can store their work. And it’s “closed” on weekends for artists to have some dedicated time, with the exception of workshops and rentals.
“Everything I put in [Railyard], is what I would have wanted in a studio,” said Leary, who teaches pottery, knitting and croqueting, and children’s art classes. “A lot of pottery places all over the place—not just even where we live—even in Syracuse, it was a hut. We took a lot of time thinking about what we were going to put in here and I’m lucky enough to be able to do that.”
The 2,300-square-foot art studio offers a considerable number of classes and workshops for all skill levels such as pottery/wheel throwing, art journaling, stained glass, and portrait painting. Class prices can range from $200 to $360 and workshop prices vary between $40 and $80 depending on the length of the class, but were designed with affordability in mind.
Railyard also serves as a philanthropic spot for the “Healing Hugs Happy Hearts” program her and a friend founded, which sees more than 1,000 handmade Valentine’s Day cards prepared by local school children then delivered to various hospitals on Valentine’s Day. It will take place at Railyard on Sunday, February 10.
It’s indicative of what future possibilities Railyard might hold.
“We’re trying to do more one-night workshops like a paint night or come try the wheel out for a night just to get people not afraid of the art, it’s for everybody,” Leary said. “I’m open for anything.”
Railyard Arts Studios is located at 621 Route 22 in Croton Falls. For more information, call 914-617-8541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.