After Bryan Lauas lost everything to hurricane Sandy, he thought carefully about where to start over.
A trip through Catskill, N.Y. quickly persuaded him.
“I was looking for a home zone,” he told us last month.
Perched on a chair in his West Bridge St. office, Bryan, a retired engineer with a creative streak, says the beauty of the historic town complements the range of charming individuals he’s met here.
“There’s a polarity among people here that makes Catskill interesting,” he says. “The mix is more pointed.”
‘Mavericks and art people colonize here’
Reflecting on what gives Catskill its “campus feel” and such wide appeal to artistic-minded people, Bryan’s concluded: “it’s the random collisions between different types of people. It leads to synchronicities.”
Just as the advent of steamship travel led to the expansion of Catskill hundreds of years ago, the internet is now having a similar effect, he says.
Bryan points to media coverage of recent Catskill initiatives as well as an influx of weekend residents, new investors and the breadth of creativity showcased around town as indications of growth.
“Right now, we’re seeing a lightning cluster. It’s powered by things like social media rather than steamships.
“People have often coalesced in Catskill, at other times in history — mavericks and art people colonize here,” he says, referencing historic art colonies established nearby.
Catskill’s newest creative space: The Catskill Maker Syndicate
The momentum has been a boon for Bryan’s own creative pursuits, inspiring him to co-found the Catskill Maker Syndicate, a workshop space less than a mile from Lumberyard where members collaborate on projects.
On Nov. 14, the group will kick-off another collaboration with the Catskill Public library, introducing the kids to coding, robotics and all things high and low tech.
The monthly ‘Maker Monday’ workshops have been popular in the past encouraging Bryan to joke about the benefits of raising “the younglings into Jedi tech lord self-reliance”.
Other Syndicate collaborations are underway with the Freehold Art Exchange, a nearby farm which hosts artists for two-week residencies.
The Syndicate space contains computers, a 3-D printer, a small desktop 3-axis router/mill and other tools. Anyone with an idea and the motivation to pursue it is welcome, he says.
A culture of tinkerers emerging
In an era where we’re collectively reliant on technology and automation, Bryan says he sees more and more people motivated to know how things works and are made.
“We’re seeing a generational change, not yet manifest. Our modern systems dependence has removed us from the basics,” he says.
“It’s inspiring people to reconnect with nature, to craft the things we use and eat.
“I’m a maker. I have an analytical personality. Fixing things is my happy, sheltered place. I play with things because people can be confusing,” he says.
“I’m motivated to help others.
“Collaboration isn’t my original mode, but am now about pulling back and enabling others.
Working together “can be bad, but it can also be magical.”
Home at last
The easy-come vibe of the Syndicate mirrors what Bryan likes about Catskill.
After searching the Hudson Valley for a place to resettle, he passed through Catskill and ended up speaking with “a nice guy named Chuck at Catskill Country Store on Main St.”
Looking back, Bryan says the connection was serendipitous — Chuck would go on to become his landlord.
“There was a personal resonance,” he says.
“One person can change everything.”