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100 Reasons I Love Peekskill - Post 15

Magician and Acupuncturist Margaret Steele blogs about living in downtown Peekskill.

My Artist Loft. I know, I know. After a flurry of posts over the summer, I just sort of disappeared. I've been here, but not so out and about, as I've had my nose to the grindstone, finishing my book on Adelaide Herrmann, Vaudeville's "Queen of Magic."

But like the calf roper who finally throws his hands in the air, I can finally tell you it's done!! The book is at the printer. However, there was already another calf running around the ring: nearly forty magic shows booked for the month of October. Thirty-two of these shows are part of Historic Hudson Valley's Legend Celebration at Sunnyside (Washington Irving's estate in Tarrytown).

For Legend, the performers must provide their own 19th Century costumes. So before my book was even finished, I dragged out my dress form and sewing machine and started making the costume. After it was done, I had to rehearse in it, to make sure I could move around and work my illusions while wearing an enormous hoop skirt.

During every step of this project, I've whispered words of gratitude for this incredible space I occupy. For anyone who doesn't know, Peekskill's downtown is is peppered with about 90 live/work artist lofts. Some of them are co-ops (on South Street and Central Ave) and others are second and third floor leased spaces above commercial street-level businesses.

Not just anyone can rent or buy one: potential occupants must apply to the City of Peekskill to become Certified Artists. The application process is pretty rigorous. I had to submit a portfolio of my work, proof that my work generated income, reference letters, and a proposal on how I would use my loft to benefit the community. (I’m Peekskill’s first Certified Magician!) Downtown Peekskill is home to over 100 Peekskill Certified Artists - making our little city a vibrant, eclectic and wonderfully wacky all-hours place.

Until you've experienced one of Peekskill's Open Studios events, you won't believe the amazing spaces tucked away all over downtown. The one I occupy, on North Division Street, I think is one of the best and absolutely perfect for me - a big open loft space with a separate office for my acupuncture practice and separate living quarters close by.

I've never had this much space. I could never afford something like this in the city. The skirt for my Legend costume is six yards of fabric. What an incredible luxury to spread it out full length to measure, cut and pin it. When I was done sewing it, I rehearsed in front of my black theater curtain, first in front of a camcorder, then with friends and neighbors called last-minute and seated in folding chairs.

Whenever I started going stir crazy, I stepped outside onto North Division Street and visited my friends--those who run neighborhood businesses and the artists & other friends I invariably run into every time I go out.

Nowhere else have I found this combination of affordability, support for artists and wonderful community. Only in Peekskill.

We have two more weekends ofGather your kids (or borrow some) and come see me!


(As an aside, to my friends who wonder if I’m the same person who for twenty years had an unpublished phone number and kept my address a secret. All performers know the risk of publishing both their address and their performance schedule and most of us employ multiple levels of home security. Magicians are known for their especially creative systems, often designed to keep out other magicians intent on stealing their secrets. Think Home Alone on steroids--then think again…)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Frank Cimino October 20, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Just an aside question: You mention there are 90 artist live work spaces in Downtown Peekskill. Why do you say most people dont know this?
Katie Schmidt Feder October 20, 2011 at 03:17 PM
We are lucky to have a wonderful, generous performer like Margaret Steele as a Peekskill resident! Margaret, I personally look forward to your book about Adelaide Herrmann - and sincerely hope we all get to someday see - in Peekskill - the show where you portray Ms. Herrmann!!! Also - LOVE the "Legends" costume!! Wow!!!


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