A.I.R. Studio Gallery/Performance Space


-by Cheryl A. Rice


At 8:00 p.m. Jim Marzano stood in front of the A.I.R. Studio Gallery ("A.I.R." stands for Artist in Residence) and introduced the 'house band' for this year's Beatle Bash, an annual celebration of the Fab Four's music held on or around the anniversary of John Lennon's murder each December. Plan B, featuring birthday boy Barry Miller, settled into the makeshift stage area, a casual arrangement of kitchen chairs and oriental rug. Spatters of paint artfully scattered on the floor confirmed the spaceís day gig as an actual working studio for Marzano, a longtime artist, and his family (between him and his wife, physical therapist Nina Silverman, they have five). An upright piano stood at the ready for any player who might need it.

The list of performers was evolving according to who came, but included at the start local musicians Denise Jordan Finley and Daniel Pagnon, Ken Blumberg, Pete Santora (of the original cast of Beatlemania), Gerry Silverman and Drew Ferraro. The $10 admission (two for $15) entitled one to a pleasing assortment of coffee, tea, goodies, cookies, cakes, breads and dips and spanakopita, both homemade and purchased. Marzano announced at the start that any leftovers would be donated to the Queens Galley Food Kitchen in the morning "so nothing will go to waste".

In its previous life, the great Victorian house at 71 OíNeil St. was both a home and a florist shop. Marzano and Silverman, bought the 3000 square foot house in 1991, and continue to renovate it, attempting to maintain what Marzano calls on the A.I.R Studio website as its "antique integrity." It is an "artistic cooperative" by Marzanoís definition, in that the space is not only utilized to display the artwork of various Hudson Valley artists, but for musical and literary events. The second Saturday of each month is devoted to the Acoustic Artists Coalition and Art Party, spearheaded by Bobby Kennedy, with featured performers and jam sessions. It was also the site for many years of the annual Sylvia Plath Bake-Off, perhaps the worldís only combination open poetry mic and baking contest.

"I love being able to live and work in the same place," said Marzano. "Insomnia at night? You get up and do some work." Silverman opened her own private physical therapy practice in the former offices of Dr. Alfred Zamm at 111 Maiden Lane this past summer, and already has a two-month long waiting list of loyal clients. Marzano and friends worked to renovate that space as well, and it is used for art exhibits too.

"Whoeverís got an instrument come up to the front of the room please!" calls Miller. Many do. The audience is huddled together in the tight seating. Although winter weather has descended on Kingston, the A.I.R. Studio was well-heated, body and radiators simmering with nostalgia. For the Beatles Bash the walls and ceiling were hung with Lennon and Beatles memorabilia from Marzanoís extensive personal collection. A poster of John in cap and long coat hung over the shoulder of performers. Directly behind them the four youthful lads gazed soulfully at the crowd, hair cropped into the mushroom bobs that caused such a stir all those years ago. Yellow Submarine action figures decorated the ledge just below the stained glass windows in front.

Normally the walls feature Marzanoís own artwork, as well as that of Robert Eggers, Jim Krzymowski, Leslie Miller, Glen River, Todd Samara, Roberta Sickler, Ruth Wolf, Lee Yaple, and Richard Zarro. Regarding getting your own work displayed, Marzano said, "Iíve never turned anyone down yet." Born in the Bronx, he was raised in Monroe, New York, graduating from Washingtonville High School in 1970. In the 1980s Marzano operated the informal Off-Broadway Gallery on Liberty Street here in Kingston, and hosted poetry readings there too, peopled by the likes of George Montgomery and Jim Donnelly.

Despite the tight quarters, there were around forty in attendance Saturday, but the numbers fluctuated as people wandered in and out of the studio, into the kitchen, living room, and out onto the porch for a cigarette at breaks. This sharing of home and studio has rarely been a problem for Marzano. "Thereís a fine line between protecting your privacy and accommodating the public." Coming from a large family himself, it seems the lifestyle is a continuation of the open door policy he grew up with.

Friendly chatter blended with the Beatles music, the hiss of the coffee pot, the click and whirr of electronic equipment and mic stands. The A.I.R. Studio Gallery is also equipped with an eight-channel sound system with digital and audio and video recording capabilities. Denise Jordan Finley will be recording her next CD there at her feature on April 12. The studio space is also available for rent for workshops and work, and Marzano offers Art Fun for Kids, a program of guided creative therapy for at-risk children. "I live here, so just tell me when you want to come. Iím not restricted to nine-to-five hours." He studied Art Therapy through Empire State College. He can also coordinate an Art Party for childrensí birthdays. "Itís a perfect alternative to Cyber-Station or the bowling alley."

He has found little time in recent years to put any great amount of energy into his own artwork. "It is a balancing act. Every since Iíve had children I havenít had time to do anything creative. I can be completely consumed by the creative process and I canít do that as a parent."

Departing as Bobby Kennedy took the mic, wishing a safe journey home in the cold, the joint was still jumping. A commemoration was planned for 11:30 p.m., the hour of Lennonís "assassination," as Marzano refers to his death. As the website says, they live there. Call the A.I.R. Studio Gallery for information on exhibits, rentals, events or Art Fun For Kids at 845-331-2662, or stop by. The A.I.R. Studio Gallery is at 71 OíNeil Street, on the corner of OíNeil and Tremper Avenue, diagonally across from Boice Brothers Dairyís Ice Cream Shop. Their web address is http://www.airstudiogallery.com/. To make an appointment with Nina Silverman, cross your fingers and call her offices at 331-8590.

"I think thatís my karma," said Marzano of his work, his studio and his life. "To help by putting positive energy out there, and help make the world a better place to live, both physically and spiritually." Right now, this is the only lifestyle he can imagine to accomplish that goal. "Iím just drawn to the creative process - music, food and art. I canít think of anything more fun than that that doesnít involve being naked.