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Happy to Be Here: New role for an old bank

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Makers are wanted to help fill a new space.

Not only painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, stained glass artists, metal workers, weavers, potters, quilters and woodworkers, but also, digital designers, journalists, authors, animators and video makers and creative businesses.

The new space — for making and showing — is opening on a highly visible corner in Milford, N.J. Makers Alley, an artisans’ collective formed in Frenchtown, N.J., has found a home in the former Milford Bank.

It’s a place where creative people can go and leave their solitary lives behind. Working at home has advantages but being part of a community can be a vital ingredient of creativity.

The stone building had been vacant for years when Peter Rosenthal discovered it just a few months ago. As banks tend to be, it’s the most imposing structure in this small town — a front door looking out to Bridge Street, large enough to let people know it’s important, a columned canopy at the main entrance, a spacious interior, tall windows and a taller ceiling, a vault and offices on the first floor, a stairway and elevator to more offices on the second floor. The tellers’ windows are gone but the room is a reminder of a grander past.

For years, Rosenthal had a thriving studio in New York, producing music videos and commercials at a time when all kinds of art forms were exploding. “It was a zeitgeist moment,” Rosenthal said, “for all creative fields.”

His studio was a beehive of creative activity, a staff that kept growing, with creative people in many mediums responding to clients, even designing and building physical spaces like nightclubs.

Seven years ago, Rosenthal and his wife, Amy Rosi, a creative image maker in her own right, acquired a getaway home in Erwinna, Bucks County. Both were working in Manhattan but gradually they were putting down roots in their house on the Delaware. Peter gravitated toward the creative people in Bucks and Hunterdon counties, all the while developing his own talent as a sculptor in wood.

Just across the Frenchtown bridge, a community was waiting for him. It was a group of “makers,” painters and sculptors and others who wanted to show people what they made. With that core group, and the help of local merchants who donated space, Rosenthal developed the organization called Makers Alley, which held its first juried shows outdoors and moving from shop to shop. The 2022 show was in a large tent on Bridge Street in downtown Frenchtown.

Rosenthal carried the same 2022 show into the bank to introduce the possibility of using the large entrance space as a gallery. The show is open for two more weekends — Feb. 18 and 19 and 26 and 27 — before the next event, the Delaware Valley Fiber Artists, in “Textile Expressions.”

Besides the gallery, the bank building has spaces waiting for makers to fill them. Rosenthal was able to arrange with the owner of the building for a window of time to acquire tenants and promote the space as workshops for artists and artisans and offices for business enterprise companies.

The spaces are flexible, with more than a dozen rooms, in addition to the 1,332-square-foot main gallery, ranging from 96 to 434 square feet. The rental fee depends on the size of the space.

And there’s equipment on-site — a kiln and a lathe are among donations to the group.

“Our goal is to identify and assemble a collective of working artists, art and design dealers and any creative business enterprise companies to participate in the proposed Makers Alley Art and Design Center,” the building brochure says.

Rosenthal sent a message last weekend to thank people who visited the show at the bank and who expressed interest in Makers Alley. “It has been exciting to see new life percolating in the Old Milford Bank for the last two weekends. It was good to meet so many engaged and curious visitors...,” he wrote.

He announced two open meetings at the bank to introduce Makers Alley members and tour the building. The first meeting was Feb. 11 and the second is at noon Saturday, Feb. 18, in the Milford Gallery, 34 Bridge St., Milford, N.J.

And by the way, Makers Alley is looking for a person to manage the building, its exhibitions and its tenants.

Information on Makers Alley can be found at makersalley.org, and info@makersalley.org.


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