New Paltz’s Artist

Click on the 60 second video demonstrating a typical day at the gallery.
Video by Jess Napp

Picture the work of Keith Haring, Philip Guston and Andy Warhol, then shatter your preconceived notions of modern art and you can begin to visualize Ryan Cronin’s work. It’s loud, sometimes juvenile, but always whimsical.

Two years ago, Ryan and Melanie Cronin opened Cronin Contemporary in Water Street Market. The space doubles as an art gallery to showcase the local painter’s work as well as a store filled with colorful products ranging from coffee mugs to graphic tees.

The young and old alike gravitate towards this space on warm sunny Saturdays because of Cronin’s playful take on commonplace items. Chewing gum, airplanes and even a giant pink bunny reminiscent of the Easter candy, Peeps, are a few fun favorite subjects.

Photo by Jess Napp

“He is a contemporary artist,” Cronin’s wife and business partner said.

Cronin graduated from SUNY New Paltz with his BFA in 1998 and never left. His partner said that he is often referred to as New Paltz’s artist. They both try to utilize the gallery space for events as much as possible.

On the last Saturday in February, Cronin Contemporary hosted Speak Up, Speak Out, an all day letter writing campaign that encouraged local residents to contact elected officials. The gallery owners provided postcards, paper, pens, postage and handling. Posters on the walls demonstrated a model letter and provided potential issues to explore.

“In these tumultuous times we were striving to open a dialogue within the community and address social issues through encouraging engagement and free expression through the act of writing,” the painter said.

  • Ryan Cronin, the artist, in the gallery.
  • Adults and children gathered to Speak Up and Speak Out.
  • "Refugees are welcome here."
  • The gallery displayed inspiration for writing material.
  • Local resident, Nancy Heiz, hangs her finished letter.
  • Children actively voiced their concerns.
  • Around 200 postcards were completed.
  • A young girl writes a local government official.
  • College students wrote to request a town hall with John Faso.
  • The finished letters sat in a box, ready to be sent off.
The photo gallery provides a glimpse into the event Speak Up, Speak Out. All pictures by Jess Napp

According to Cronin, people of all ages poured in and out of the space all day. Among the masses included New Paltz resident and close friend of the Cronin’s, KT Tobin, who wrote a letter to John Faso and President Donald Trump.

“I think it’s important for everyone to voice their concerns to our elected officials in Washington,” Tobin said. “It’s important to tell officials when you disagree and agree with them.”

The artist creates an ever-changing space by rotating out his old work with his new gallery pieces every few months. His most recent work is also reflective of the political climate with pieces reminiscent of victory signs from Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Another work of art proclaims, “I’m with KT Tobin” in homage to his close friend Tobin.

Cronin’s partner said that he likes to play with form and space in his pieces, which is emblematic in his current artwork that ranges in size and shape. Aside from painting he creates sculptures, installations and large-scale murals and exclusively uses Rust-Oleum paint on wood board.

“What interests me is using color to steer the eye across the plane,” Cronin said. “I present the subject, but the meaning is not dictated. That is left to the viewer,”

Co-owner of The Cheese Plate, Theresa Logan, loves the fun and lively atmosphere that the gallery brings to the Water Street community. Something about passing that pink bunny every day truly relates to her inner sense of childlike wonder.


“I don’t think I would be painting the way I am today if I were somewhere else.” Cronin said. “I am here. I am home. I am comfortable and uncomfortable. I am surrounded by fun and creative people and I try to draw something from that.”

In the future, Cronin Contemporary plans on continuing to delight through art and thoughtful conversation. On Thursday, May 4 at 5:30 p.m. they will host a “House Gathering” for Planned Parenthood.

This story was adapted from an original article published in The New Paltz Oracle.

Jess Napp

My name is Jess Napp and I’m from Mount Kisco, New York. I’m a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in creative writing. My passion is arts writing and I’m on a mission to find the perfect sandwich.

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