Some Verplanck residents have known for a while what’s about to happen at KinoSaito, the new non-profit, contemporary art center occupying the former Saint Patrick’s Catholic School on 7th Street.
Mikiko Ino, President, Director and Chair of the nonprofit’s board, brought cookies around to her new neighbors to introduce herself when she moved in.
The newly renovated space comprises two galleries, a performance space, a classroom, two studios and living quarters for resident artists, and a café. On the property is also a garden that opens to a spacious lawn for outdoor events.
Over the weekend of Sept. 9-11, the ambitious cultural venture will open its doors to the public. The opening coincides with Saito’s birthday on Sept. 9, marking a celebration of public events as KinoSaito joins the vibrant Hudson Valley arts and culture scene.
Ino and Executive Director Beth Venn are excited to welcome visitors to a series of exhibitions, music, theater, and discussions celebrating the life and works of Ino’s late husband, renowned artist Kikuo Saito, along with the work of contemporary artists and performers. The venue’s name is derived from the couple’s two names: K. Saito and Ino.
KinoSaito describes itself as an “interdisciplinary art center established to extend the collaborative and experimental practices of the Japanese American abstract painter and avant-garde theatre designer Kikuo Saito (1939-2016).” His work is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art and elsewhere.
After the opening exhibitions, in the first gallery, visitors will be able to see a selection of Saito’s work that changes quarterly, each iteration highlighting a theme, motif, painting style or area of focus worthy of the artist’s extended study.
The second gallery will show a rotating series of exhibitions featuring the work of contemporary artists across disciplines, media, and artistic practices.
In 1996, Saito was the artist-in-residence at Duke University, where, in collaboration with his first wife Eva Maier, he created the conceptual, wordless performance Toy Garden, which would later be performed at groundbreaking Greenwich Village experimental theater club La MaMa. Toy Garden Reprise will be performed at KinoSaito during the Sept. 9-11 opening.
“Seeing the dancers’ expert reinterpretation of Toy Garden lets us know that [Saito’s] spirit and sensibility — which had so much to do with experimentation and pushing boundaries — are alive and well here at KinoSaito,” says Ino. Saito worked with such theater legends as director/choreographer Jerome Robbins (West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, et al).
The current artists in residence at KinoSaito are multimedia artist Alexandra Rojas and painter/photographer Jane Dickson. Open-studio events invite visitors to talk with artists and see works-in-progress. The inaugural residencies finish on Sept. 15, with the next artists moving in on Oct. 1.
Inside the main foyer of KinoSaito is Banana Dang cafe, a specialty coffee and smoothie shop from California. It will serve the general public as well as museum visitors.
Getting a new space up and running during a pandemic presented obvious challenges, but, says Beth Venn, “It’s important to open this fall to allow our community new cultural experiences, after so much time away from visual art and live performance. We are following all applicable guidelines to ensure visitors a fulfilling and safe experience at KinoSaito.”
KinoSaito, 115 7th Street, Verplanck 10596. Open to visitors Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Thursdays by appointment. Admission is free, with donations encouraged.
Briarcliff Manor resident Lee Hemphill is a regular contributor to River Journal North and River Journal.