Wild Place Kingston by Doug Menuez: Frank Waters Featured
ABOUT THE PROJECT: Wild Place is the English translation of Wiltwyck, the original name given to Kingston, New York, in 1661 by the Dutch who were facing fierce resistance from local Native Americans. My wife Tereza and I recently moved back to Kingston after a decade away and can see and sense a lot of changes, with more to come. It seems like an important moment. As a documentary photographer and artist I am very interested in understanding our community and finding connections that remind us of our shared humanity in the midst of transition. By shooting a series of portraits and video interviews of folks from all walks of Kingston life, I’m doing just that.
There are more artists per capita here than any city in America, according to BusinessWeek, and a large number of young people, families and retirees arriving every week from New York City, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco and all over. There are a host of new world-class restaurants, small tech startups and new factory to loft conversions. This growth means that the challenge of gentrification is rising along with income disparity. Concerns about these changes are apparent in some interviews, which you can watch below. When I look back on the places we’ve lived over the years it was always the relationships that made a place our home - this project is starting to make us feel at home. Thanks to everyone who has participated and to those who participate in the future.
A special thanks to artist Deborah Mills Thackrey for producing the project.
Who are you? My name is Frank Waters and I'm an executive director of Kingston, Midtown Rising.
How long have you been in Kingston? I've been in Kingston for about eight years.
What gives you joy about Kingston? What gives me joy about Kingston is the community here. Coming from the city is a big difference–the way that people are separate in the city. So here, like everyone lives together here, all cultures, all backgrounds, it's very diverse here. And, and ever since I've been here, I've been able to do a variety of different projects. And the support that I received from the projects, being a newcomer, was really overwhelming. So I've appreciated that so much with the people here from all walks of life.
What, if anything, would you change about Kingston? Well, one of the things that I would change is the separation of class, I guess in Kingston. People do connect from all areas, but Kingston is separated from a Midtown downtown and uptown. And the Midtown area, is, say, the least popular. So moving here, I've heard so many stories about Midtown and how it was underserved and didn't have the resources and opportunities as the other areas. So that is something that I would change. I would definitely distribute more opportunity to the Midtown area and put in the resources needed to have it be treated fairly and equal to the rest of Kingston. So low income housing is key, right? Because most of the people here are looking for better homes, better housing. There's a lack of home ownership. The majority of the residents here are renters, so they don't have any equity in the property or the land here.
So, there's education on home ownership for one, but there's also just equal housing opportunities. That way folks will have a better foundation. And then you can begin to work into a career opportunities, entrepreneurship, where people will be able to provide for their families and have real talents and skills being implemented into the community so that they can have sustainable lives. Education, you know, as another part of that as well, Kingston city school district does what they can, but just being in the same systems that we have, we may want to look at alternative education solutions to make some of the curriculum, more equitable to everyone involved in this and this particular area of the community.
What is your secret hope for the future? Well, my, my secret hope, you know, is to work as executive director of Kingston Midtown Rising to really pay attention to this area of Kingston and crew and, and connect to people, allow opportunities for this community to create, understand that imagination still exists and give them the hope to feel as if they belong, but not just hope, but for a real chance of being here and providing the resources needed so that people can take that and utilize that within themselves, within their community, and then give back to their community. And this is going to enrich and enhance and promote positive lifestyles within this community. And once that happens, that not only benefits the individuals, but it benefits their families, their neighbors, as well as this entire town of Kingston.