A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Adventures In Kindness And Connection:

How The Current’s Been Making Waves

This January marks the tenth anniversary of the official founding of the Hudson Valley Current, although a few Currents had already changed hands. (The first-ever Current spent, in 2013, is still here in the Hudson Valley.) Since then, over 1.5 Million Currents have flowed from hand to hand, really keeping money in our communities.

Like water carrying vital nutrients and tiny lives in every drop, Currents carry warmth and energy — they’re an economic tool that builds connections, not just transactions. This month, instead of a spotlight on a single member, we’d like to celebrate three of those joyful connections and reflect on the ways that Currents have rippled through the community. So here are three slices of Current Engagement—with a big shoutout to the creative leaders involved.

Kitt Potter, Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs, City of Kingston

When Kingston was chosen as the first small city to host an 80-year-old program of the US State Department that would bring visitors from dozens of countries to town for a conference called “Promoting Social Change Through The Arts,” part of the International Visitors Leadership Program. Potter — who brought with her two decades of research, event planning, and program coordination and development experience when she took her role with the city in 2022 — reached out to Tilda’s Kitchen to offer the guests a meal that would showcase our community’s delicious depth and diversity.

The August ‘23 conference, she explains, had objectives that fit the mission of Tilda’s like a glove, including exploring ways in which innovative arts programming can encourage the building of sustainability and address personal and community healing and illustrating the connection of performing arts to free speech, expression, and the shaping of values that build a civil society. “Tilda’s is a hub for culinary arts and performing arts and promotes sustainability of communities,” Potter says. “Had Chris not been a caterer, he’d have been invited as a guest panelist or participant in the evening meet and greet or as a tour stop. The mission is the reason they were chosen over all other caterers.”

Arts directors, arts educators and activists, many of them all three, most on their very first visit to the US, came to Kingston from all over the globe: from Angola and Ghana, from the Netherlands and Tanzania, from Europe and Eritrea and Nicauragua and Colombia, from Uganda and Korea — from 23 nations in all, along with representatives from the Mississippi Consortium for International Development, organizers of the conference. The guests participated in a panel with local arts leaders, toured the Center for Creative Education and the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History, and met with Ulster County officials at the Matthewis Persen House Museum.

All told, there were about 100 mouths to feed at two meals — and nobody went away hungry. “Very satisfied,” Potter reports of her guests, “with lunch and dinner both. The presentation and global cuisine were very much enjoyed.” The tab supports the Current.

After the event, Tilda’s was empowered to stuff the community fridge at Beyond the 4 Walls Outreach. “I’ve always re-plated leftovers after big meetings or events and delivered to orgs addressing food insecurity myself,” says Potter. “I don’t believe in wasting good food when hunger is a crisis in our community. I was so happy when Chris told me that they too had this as their mission and purpose and were donating the lunch leftovers as well as the dinner leftovers to our helping orgs. We have to look out for one another. As Bob Marley sang, ‘A hungry mouth is an angry mouth.’ We are a rich country. No one should ever have to go hungry.”

Jill Pacheco, Broadway Bubble Laundromat

Just walking into the Broadway Bubble, you know you’re in no ordinary laundromat. It’s spacious and useful and clean, as a laundromat needs to be — but there’s free soap if you need it, and drying is free on Wednesdays and Fridays. And unlike the typical laundromat, there’s a corner devoted to a seating arrangement that’s clearly designed to draw people together — read stories, draw, study, talk. This laundromat has been run by Kingston Midtown Rising since spring of 2022, and what’s offered here is deeper than simply clean clothes — though clean clothes are no small thing.

“All of the staff here, we really go out of our way to get to know the people that come in,” says Jillian Pacheco, part of the team at Broadway Bubble. “And they trust us. Some stop in every day, even when they don’t have laundry to do, just to check in with friends. And I really love it here — it’s never the same twice.”

Pacheco grew up in Kingston with teenage parents who’d separated. “I was partly raised by my grandparents, my daughter was the first WIC recipient in Ulster County, my husband went through the immigration process. So I’ve been through it, you know? My kids went through Head Start. They’re teens now, and doing great, and people look at me and say, ‘wow, you’re a great mom!’ But I didn’t do any of it alone. I had people rally around me; I had a community that had my back. Teachers, Head Start people, fellow volunteers — there were always people that had my back.”

It was her teen son, through his volunteer work with the Kingston YWCA Farm Project, who nudged her into enrolling in SUNY Ulster’s New Start program. “He put in a garden bed on campus, and came back with a flier for that program saying, ‘you should do this, mom!’ I was like, I’m not going back to school. But then I broke down and called them, and it’s been truly life-changing.They were so supportive. I ended up earning a one-year business certificate — me! I kept saying, ‘But I’m not a business person!’ But the skills led to my getting this role and being genuinely helpful here.”

The Bubble is thriving. A newly created green space in the backyard will soon become a playground, with fruit trees for food and shade. A newly finished 850 square foot classroom/meeting space is equipped for hybrid in-person/zoom calls, trainings and more, along with a private office and kitchenette.

Though not technically a Current member, the Bubble handles dropoff laundry for Tilda’s and accepts Current cash as payment, which are then passed on to Midtown-based employees who can then get a tasty Tilda’s meal. It’s a cycle that fits flawlessly with the clothing drives and swaps, English classes, karaoke evenings, story hours and festivities that draw folks in.

“I believe that it’s up to us to look out for each other,” says Pacheco. “There are a lot of folks in this community struggling, and it feels amazing when I can connect them to resources. And it maybe looks like I’m helping them, but they’re helping me just as much.”

For more on the offerings at the Bubble visit thebroadwaybubble.com.

Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt Executive Director, The Art Effect

(Full disclosure: Fenichel-Hewitt is married to Hudson Valley Current founder and Midtown Lively publisher Chris Hewitt. We are nonetheless certain she would not say this stuff if she didn’t mean every word, because that’s how Nicole rolls.)

“The Art Effect is a longtime Current member,” says Fenichel-Hewitt of the arts education organization she runs, based in Poughkeepsie. “We both accept them and spend them. We have a student-led video production company called Forge Media, and we accept Currents to do video projects for up to 100% of the cost, so that’s been a great way to earn them. We also offer classes for Currents. We do art, video,and digital art workshops, and individuals can use Currents to pay for those. And we receive Currents from business sponsors, which has been really wonderful.”

The Currents accepted by The Art Effect circulate onward. “We spend them mostly on advertising,” says Fenichel-Hewitt. “We have a couple of advertising partners that accept Currents, and it’s really helped us spread the word about the classes and the youth production company. So it’s like a really beautiful circle, both of partners who understand and use the local currency but also of receiving and spending and seeing how it can support both ends. It can support us doing the work, because we’re receiving Currents to engage young people in the arts, but also supporting the work by receiving Currents directly to support programs through sponsorships. It’s smooth and really nice.”

Fenichel-Hewitt has also found Currents useful after work. “I’ve used Currents for so many things,” she says. “Car repairs, massages, tickets to events, food shopping. Workshops and camps for my kids. Donations to nonprofits. And with the new app, it’s really easy — it’s just like using Venmo or any other digital based currency.”

To understand the vast variety of programs offered by The Art Effect, visit thearteffect.org.