Visiting KinoSaito

County Legislator Colin Smith beamed as his mother, Dolores Smith, wandered through the building of a former parochial school in Verplanck, where she was a student years ago. The school, most recently transformed into a contemporary gallery and artistic space, still had elements of its former youth, such as blackboards and other manifestations of its teaching past.

We didn’t see any rulers, although we took Dolores’s word for it that the sisters on occasion would line up the students to give them a slap on the wrist with a ruler as a disciplinary measure. Other than that, Dolores’s memories were quite sharp as to where the third grade, the seventh grade, and the principal’s office were located. Now those classrooms are galleries showing the works of the late master painter Kikuo Saito, who purchased the school building with his wife Mikiko Ino. She opened the art center after his passing to memorialize her husband’s abstract expressionist work and give other artists the opportunity for a residency scholarship.

It was a bit of irony that as we were eager to introduce the Legislator to one of the newer cultural assets in his district, we found out that his mother had actually been a student there. We invited her to relive the past on a tour of the new galleries that were designed by Sarah Strauss, an architect student of Kikuo. Dolores said she doesn’t know much about art but her son Colin was her masterpiece.

The hamlet of Verplanck is not exactly known as an artist haven. The town was by Dutch and Irish settlers. In fact, the name “Verplanck” was the surname of Abraham Isaacson Verplanck, who owned the land in the 1600s. During the 1800s, Verplanck had a brief but solid role as a center for brick making, with some 10 major companies employing about 420 men and producing 60 million bricks per year.

The art center is located in the newly renovated former St. Patrick’s Catholic School. According to its website, the studios for resident artists ensure that working artists, their ideas, and their energy, are a constant presence there. For more information about its gallery and performance space, you can visit their website at