When Frank Cuthbert was restoring his fifth Catskill building, an artist friend persuaded him that the natural light pouring into the space’s ground floor made it ideal for use as a gallery.
In 2005, BRIK Gallery celebrated its opening with a cocktail party that attracted more guests than Frank dreamed would attend.
“The place was mobbed. There was a lot of pent up demand and appetite for culture. All sorts of people living in the woods who needed a place to go.” he says.
In addition to numerous contemporary art shows, the gallery has also hosted string quartets and a jazz music series.
More and more artists relocating to Catskill
While BRIK enjoys popularity among local residents, he says he’s most gratified by the number of city-dwelling artists he’s worked with who have ended up moving to the Catskill area.
Frank, a singer and songwriter, fondly remembers his own transition from New York City to the Hudson Valley when a serendipitous encounter at a Catskill restaurant set him on a new path.
A car accident had left him in debt and without direction when he heard of a nearby building for sale.
‘Big dreams’ begin to take shape
“I didn’t have a lot of money, but I had a lot of energy and big dreams,” he says.
With the assistance of a local bank who supported the revitalization of Catskill’s Main Street, Frank purchased his first building and set about restoring it to its original appearance using historic photos as a guide.
“That began a years-long process of working 350 days a year on buildings with a crew of independent contractors.
“The beautiful 19th century brick buildings had good bones. Restoring them turned out to be a very satisfying process.”
‘Outsider’ gains a nickname: Mr. Catskill
To date, Frank has purchased and restored 25 Catskill buildings.
He rents many of them out for residential and business use.
Those who questioned his wisdom investing in a riverside town that hadn’t thrived for decades eventually became his greatest supporters.
“People once looked at me as an outsider. Now they call me Mr. Catskill.
“After a number of buildings had been restored people began to recognize the opportunity,” he says.
“Friends starting coming up to me saying, ‘I might want to buy a building.’”
‘Opportunity exists when everything isn’t perfect’
Frank hopes to soon attract a full-time gallerist to run BRIK so he can work exclusively on a new musical theater production he hopes will end up on Broadway.
He’s delighted that more and more organizations are investing in Catskill’s potential.
“I take a long-term view: I see the region growing incrementally. What’s good for Hudson, Rhinebeck and Woodstock is good for Catskill. We are only two hours north of New York City.”
Frank encourages others to take the leap of faith he took back in 2000.
“Success is incremental. You wake up each morning and take one day at a time.
“Opportunity is a funny thing. It exists when everything isn’t perfect. Once everything is perfect… you have missed the boat.”