Kingston, New York, is a charming town on the Hudson River 90 miles north of New York City. It was the first capital of the state before being burned to the ground in 1777 by the British in the revolutionary war, and then, with the discovery of natural cement, it became a center of the country’s industrial revolution. It has three stone and wood historic districts, the Stockade District uptown, the Midtown Neighborhood Broadway Corridor, and the Rondout-West Strand Historic District downtown, but the town seems like its best years are way in its past.
This could be changing, as a new effort is driving momentum to build on the village’s industrial core using design and education to create a “creative exchange.” The Kingston Creative Exchange (KCX)—a group funded by southern California based Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP and including an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty from Pratt Institute—have opened a center in Kingston. Students will gain an introduction to the design world and practices through the use of historical techniques once employed in the town.
The new center, a peer-to-peer incubator space in a historic building, will support an exchange of design ideas between the local artisans and young people from Kingston High School and focus on workshops that propose bringing design thinking and education to confront serious urban problems. Architects and designers often use the phrase “design thinking” as a possible solution for all sorts of urban ills, so it will be interesting to see if this experiment has the legs necessary to make a difference in Kingston.