Arts & EntertainmentThe Putnam Examiner

Using Art to Bridge Gap Between the Special Needs and General Populations

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Hudson Valley Interarts Creative Director Eric Archer Dahlberg speaks to the crowd at last Friday’s ribbon-cutting of the organization’s 27,000-square-foot arts center in Patterson, Putnam County. Vicki Sylvester, right, the CEO, and Program Director Taylor Martin look on.

Community Based Services has had more than four decades of experience in helping members of the intellectual and developmentally disabled population reach their potential.

More than two years ago, the nonprofit branched out into the art world to not only continue broadening the interests for those they serve, but to bring them in greater contact with the general population by creating Hudson Valley Interarts, a separate nonprofit run by Community Based Services.

Last Friday, Community Based Services celebrated its new 27,000-square-foot home that features artists’ work space and gallery space in Putnam County with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Currently, only about 15,000 square feet are being used.

Vicki Sylvester, the CEO of Community Based Services, called the opening of the renovated space “a big deal” for the organization.

“We serve our people who have autism and other developmental disabilities, our number one focus, but we’re also focused on bringing in people from the community who can benefit from what we’re doing here, which is trying to connect people in a very safe, nurturing kind of way through the arts, where you can meet people, friends, and do so in a really beautiful way, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Sylvester said.

Hudson Valley Interarts occupies the two-level structure at 40 Jon Barrett Rd. in the Town of Patterson and has a space for nearly every medium imaginable. There’s a conventional gallery and a library, but visitors will also find studios for music and sound, arts and crafts, yoga and movement, ceramics, fiber arts, healing arts, digital arts and space for working artists. In fact, 15 to 20 independent artists are using the facility.

With the unused square footage, there are plenty more possibilities, said Eric Archer Dahlberg, the creative director for Hudson Valley Interarts.

“There’s so much to say about what this place can be, what it will be to us,” Dahlberg said. “We can have solo artistic practitioners, but to build a community art center is very unique.”

Community Based Services and Hudson Valley Interarts CEO Vicki Sylvester and Chief Strategy Officer Bhakar Singh cut the ribbon during a celebration last week for the organization’s new 27,000-square-foot arts center in Patterson. Congressman Mike Lawler, right, and other personnel affiliated with the program help with the honors.

The idea to fuse art with the developmentally challenged population was hatched about two-and-a-half years ago primarily by Sylvester and Bhakar Singh, chief strategy officer for Community Based Services and Hudson Valley Interarts. Until the organization could buy the building, they used space in its basement and also at a farm it owns in Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County, Singh said.

Although they had a soft opening in December, it has taken several months to get the vast array of different spaces into a fully functioning arts center, he said.

“This is the true (beginning) where we can start, and where we can go is, I believe, the sky’s the limit, okay, in terms of bringing people together, (to) help them connect with each other, be creative, have fun and enjoy and have a strong community,” Singh said.

Community Based Services bought the building for about $1.1 million, according to Singh, money derived from a loan, donations and funding from the Empire State Development Corporation. Renovation, which had originally been estimated at $600,000 far exceeded that figure, although Singh did not specify.

The ribbon-cutting featured musical performances by a few members of the Intellectual and Developmentally Disabled (IDD) community who are served by Community Based Services as well as pianist and singer Cassandra Kubinski.

They were joined by Congressman Mike Lawler (R-Pearl River), who helped the organization celebrate the occasion. Lawler said these are the types of programs that can make a difference in people’s lives.

“Really, this is an important program for our most vulnerable population and making sure that the IDD community has the support and resources that they need,” Lawler said. “Art, obviously, is something that brings us all together as a community but really gives us an outlet for young people, young adults and adults to really explore, to create, and so this is just a fantastic program, and I’m just happy to be here in support today.”

The arts and crafts room at Hudson Valley Interarts’ new space in Patterson, Putnam County.

Singh said that artists and visitors from throughout the Hudson Valley, and not just Putnam County, are welcome to explore what Hudson Valley Interarts has to offer.

A schedule of classes offers art, visual arts, music, movement, meditation and yoga classes. Classes are offered seven days a week.

Program Coordinator Taylor Martin said it’s been exciting to watch how Community Based Services was able to renovate the building and turn it into an exciting space for artists.

“It’s been amazing to watch the building and the transformation, and also to watch the transformation of the people that come through and support what the classes are to people and how they come in, and then after a few weeks, I hear people talking about how they’ve become artists, they call themselves musicians,” Martin said. “So it’s been special to watch people (get) opportunities they might never have in their lifetimes.”

To learn more about Hudson Valley Interarts and the programs and opportunities available, call 845-501-9193 or visit





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