Cat museum gains a 10th lifeBy Kyle Adams Hudson-Catskill Newspapers | Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 1:15 am
CATSKILL — The Catskill Village Board Wednesday night granted a group of concerned citizens four months to turn the Catamount People’s Museum into a lasting monument that the village can be proud of.
The museum, a giant walk-through cat statue on West Bridge Street made of recycled wood and other materials, was threatened with demolition this month after local business owners complained that it had become rundown, overgrown with weeds, a hangout for young people after dark and a fire hazard.
A group that coalesced in recent weeks to save “the cat” approached the village board Wednesday night to discuss ways to turn the installation from a nuisance into an attraction.
“As somebody who’s been living and working in Catskill for a while now, I feel really strongly about this and I would be really sad to see it go,” said Harry Matthews, a central figure in the group. “All it might need is just a little bit of positive clean-up.”
The cat was created in 2010 by Catskill-based artist and builder Matt Bua. It was intended as a one-year installation, but kept up due to community support, according to Village President Vincent Seeley.
“I believe that what Matt has created could be a really iconic image of what Catskill is, bringing in tourists and showing that Catskill is a place of and for art,” said Matthews. “We really feel strongly about it.”
A Facebook group, “Save the Cat in Catskill,” has 55 members and Matthews said it’s “growing every day.”
Matthews and others who turned out to support the cat, including Bua, asked for the opportunity to address the board’s concerns — to clean it up, add more gardens, possibly add lights to discourage night-time loiterers, improve signage, and so on.
“We have a group of concerned people that would really love to see it stay and are really willing to donate and volunteer time to, on a weekly basis, to go in there and do whatever’s necessary,” said Matthews.
The village board was supportive, agreeing to give the group four months to make improvements and demonstrate a commitment to maintaining it.
“What is option B?” asked Trustee Jim Chewens. “We take it down and we have an empty lot, and now we really have a problem because everyone walks away from it. And then we start screaming that the property owner isn’t keeping it cleaned up. Right now, it seems we have your attention, we have a group of 60-some people who are willing to go over there and take care of it.”
Despite complaints that the installation attracts young people late at night, Catskill Chief of Police David Darling said he has never received a report of an incident there.
Trustee Joseph Kozloski suggested that the cat should function as a kiosk, where visitors can find up-to-date information about what to do and see in Catskill. He initially suggested the four-month reprieve, adding, “If it goes back to what it was, then I’d say it’s time to come down.”
Matthews and Bua both agreed that it should and could be a unique access point for visitors.
“It was created as a piece of art, but it’s managed to stay a little longer and become part of the community,” said Matthews. “And now, we as art lovers and artists and a community, need to be sure that it stays a kiosk where information can be found and it’s welcoming. Now that it’s evolved, let it evolve.”
The group plans to organize a major clean-up in the first week of July.
To reach reporter Kyle Adams, call 518-943-2100, ext. 3323, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org