Mill Street Loft was established in 1981 in a 7,000 square foot space on the fourth floor of the former Bond Clothing Factory building at 366 Mill Street in Poughkeepsie where founder Carole J. Wolf and eleven other working artists had opportunities to create, exhibit, teach, and share ideas.
They established the Dutchess Arts Camp in 1982 for their children, as well as children of neighbors and friends at the loft. This was the first arts program of its kind in Dutchess County dedicated to “building self-esteem while learning through the arts” and has received several awards.
A Summer Enrichment program for high school juniors and seniors interested in drawing, painting, print-making and portfolio development and parent and child workshops was developed in 1982-84.
In the mid-1980’s the Visions for Peace international youth art exchange program was initiated, as well as the Educational Center for The Arts at the loft offered workshops and adult classes in a variety of media.
Quickly outgrowing the loft on Mill Street, a Barn Renovation Capital Campaign was begun in 1985 at the Maplewood Senior Citizens Complex.
Intergenerational programs developed in 1986 offered innovative arts and enrichment activities to people of all ages and abilities on a year-round basis in a variety of locations, including: local schools, senior housing, community centers and nursing homes, helping to build a renewed sense of pride and community.
In 1987, in cooperation with the Council of Native American Indian Advisors, Folk Art Programs were created and focused on the contributions of the Hudson Valley’s Lenape and Iroquois people and their culture.
Mill Street Loft completed renovations in 1992 and moved into its current and now fully accessible facility, an historic two-story barn at 45 Pershing Avenue. The first floor is comprised of two studios, a gallery, two restrooms, and a small kitchen.
ARTSTEACH, a partnership with Ulster BOCES was created in 1992 as a model arts-in-education program engaging at-risk youth in innovative and experiential learning by infusing the arts into all areas of the curricula. Through the years the relationship evolved into the New Visions arts program for motivated High School Seniors seeking guidance for careers in the arts and mentorships with professional artists.
Evolving from the Intergenerational Programs, Building Bridges was established in 1992. It was a licensed after-school childcare program, using the arts to bridge the gap between the generations, and was voted by Child Magazine, “one of the ten best after-school childcare programs in the nation.”
The upstairs of the barn was renovated in 1994 and now houses administrative offices and a common conference room space.
In response to the needs of at-risk area youth, Project ABLE (Arts for Basic Education, Life Skills and Entrepreneurship) was initiated in 1994. Find out more about Project ABLE here.
In 1996 Project ABLE received a special grant for their Team Nutrition Poster selected by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the USDA and the National Endowment for the Arts, still displayed throughout the nation in every US Department of Agriculture food stamp office.
The Art Institute was established in 1997.
The Friend of the Arts Award annual fundraising event benefiting Mill Street Loft’s Outreach Programs and scholarships fund began in 1998. Many outstanding community activists and arts advocates have been honored for their contributions to the arts and their community, including Pete Seeger, Rob and Emilie Dyson, Dia:Beacon, Peter Max, Bard College President Dr. Leon Botstein, and many others.
PASWORD (Program for Adolescent Student Women Of Real Direction) was created in 1998 in collaboration with Poughkeepsie Middle School.
Year-round art classes, workshops. lectures, exhibits, educational forums and performances continue to attract a diverse group of children and adults of all ages and backgrounds.
Project AWARE (Adolescent Women Are Realizing Empowerment), a sister program to PASWORD, was born in 1999 to empower adolescent girls in the City of Beacon.
The PASWORD and Project AWARE Alumnae Council began in 2002, committed to creating opportunities for young voices to be heard, addressing key personal, community and world issues. Program graduates create and produce public performances, nationally distributed Public Service Announcements, and are trained as peer mentors and community leaders.
In 2004 Habilidad (Spanish for “ability”) was created as an extension of Project ABLE to serve the growing population of Hispanic/Latino youth from Poughkeepsie Middle and High schools.
In 2005, Mill Street Loft’s current facility and surrounding land were purchased and launched the first phase of its new Capital Campaign to provide building renovation, additional space for growing program needs.
Summer 2007 saw the start of the Junior Art Institute for students ages 11-14.
PASWORD and Project AWARE Alumnae represented their schools at the United Nations International Day of Peace in 2006 and 2007 in New York City, and were hosted at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck for a week of personal and artistic exploration and discovery.
Students and artists from The Art Institute participated in our first International Art Study Tour in Mexico during August 2007.
Classes and exhibits were offered at the St. Margaret’s Historic Site in Red Hook, NY offering area residents a northern satellite in summer and fall of 2007.
The Arts For Healing partnership program with the Vassar Brothers Medical Center, serving children with acute and chronic diseases and their families, was launched in 2007.
In 2010, The Art Institute reached a landmark, with over $20 million in merit-based scholarships offered to its students since 2000.
In 2011, Mill Street Loft launched a satellite center for programming in Beacon at Scenic Hudson’s River Center.
Girls LitClub, a collaboration with New York City’s LitWorld, began in Fall 2012.