By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Growing up, Ryan Miosek spent many afternoons in photographer Jim Kosinski’s darkroom above Danny’s Market, developing film he had shot around town.
“All we had to do was provide the paper,” he said. “The chemicals and equipment were all there, free of charge. As long as we showed respect to the place, you could get a key.”
Now, Miosek is president of a board of directors trying to develop 53 Pioneer St., a stone row house that’s one of the oldest buildings in the village, into Studio 54, a community arts center.
As Kosinski did informally, idea is the turn the building into Studio 53, a community venue for classes, workshops, lectures and more including a darkroom.
“I want to provide a space for people like me who didn’t have the resources to take an art class,” said Miosek, now a local attorney. “We want to be able to make the arts accessible to everyone.”
Anyone can give lessons in any arts-related field, but the condition is: “Participants must be able to take the class for free,” he said.
The project began in 2016, when the Cooperstown Art Association put the building – for a while it had been the Smithy Pioneer Gallery executive director’s lodging – up for sale. “They were trying to sell it for very little, and no one was buying,” Miosek said, who was on the CAA board. “I asked them to give me the building for this project.”
He put together a board of seven people with backgrounds in art and architecture, including guitar maker Tom Leiber.
The building was in bad shape. The front wall was bowing; the foundation was unstable. “This was the only buildings to survive the great Cooperstown fire,” he said. “We dug so far down into the ground to stabilize it that we found charcoal from that fire. But I felt we had to preserve its history.”
Once the building was stabilized, crews Redpoint Builders gutted the interior and tore out walls. “We want a big open space,” Miosek said, although “we want to keep the original fireplace,” he said. “And the bathtub!”
With the building stabilized, the Studio 53 board has begun a fundraising campaign, aiming to raise $300,000 to complete the rehab, including and new roof and putting the front wall’s stones back in place.
“We had a private donor who kept us going for three years,” he said. “But they wanted to see the community rally around this project.”
They set up a website, www.studio53project.com, where they share photos, project updates and accept donations via Giving Grid. They are also seeking a grant writer to help them apply for grants to assist in the cost, as well as accepting donations of equipment or supplies.
“I bought darkroom equipment for CAA four years ago,” he said. “And I bought it back for this project.”
And although the project is not quite complete, teachers are reaching out to Miosek to offer their services when it is. “As long as it has some basis in art, we want it,” he said. “A talk? Dance? Teaching short stories? Fine! We’re happy to have you.”