Lisbeth Firmin is a studio artist and the bitter Catskills winters present a chance to hole up and focus after a summer spent mostly teaching in upstate New York and New England. Although most of her subjects are in transit, either walking deeply in thought or musing by the window of a moving train, they are rendered indoors. “It’s cozy in the studio and there’s less demand on your time in the winter” she says, not to mention her steep driveway that becomes dangerous when it ices over, prohibiting visitors.
Being in the studio full-time is “like being in a monastery. It’s very ascetic: depriving yourself like a hermit, wearing same clothes every day and painting every day,” she says. “I think it was Milton Avery who said, in his work as an artist, if you just approach it like a job, even only just two or three hours a day every day, you’ll be surprised what you can get done”.
I moved up here in 2001, three weeks before 9/11. It was such a shock. We had no cell service and I don’t think we had even gotten our dial-up yet. I had no idea that anything had happened until the afternoon when I heard some phone messages. It really did seem like everything changed after that. [House] prices went up. They were still very affordable but they were much lower before when I was looking in the period before moving, late August.
Entrepreneur Keith Carollo closed his NYC business and moved to the Catskills full-time with his husband Chris. They are both pursuing careers in the arts, with Chris directing the local school play.
How long have you lived in the Catskills?
We’ve lived here full-time for about a year now and we had our home four years before we moved here full-time. It was just a weekend home.
What made you move here?
It was for financial reasons really. We had a business that we closed and at the same time, they were increasing our rent in the city, so it just seemed like it made sense to come here where our expenses would be lower. And that became the next adventure for us.
A friend in NYC asked me last year “don’t you get bored up there?” There’s this mis-conception that we’re a bit dull up here in the mountains, not edgy enough or uncultured. Not so, my friends, for right on my doorstep, literally a hop, skip and jump is the Spills and Sunday night, March 15th, there’ll be live jazz featuring Eric Rosen, Nina Sheldon and Rich Syracuse. What better way to round off the week than lounging around in the Spillian bar listening to live jazz? Spillian, a place to revel, is a unique location in that it’s a boutique hotel that’s wild at heart and a-fire with desire to make you dream, play and “imagine past what you think is possible”. The only goal of proprietors Leigh Melander and Mark Somerfield is that you revel. Last time I meandered with Melander at the Spills, I started to read aloud from a Charles Bukowski novel and instead of being politely shushed and shuffled into a corner, I was given a piano accompaniment (until a dog started howling). For the second year in a row, Spillian has been hosting Soup Sundays and Soup Salons with Voices From the Catskills co-produced by Chris Hensley, a music industry veteran. The Catskills is the place where artists and producers come to produce the entertainment they love and despite our sleepy reputation most of us are crushing it.