Colborn Bell’s Kingston Home | House Profiles | Hudson Valley

click to enlarge

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Colborn Bell’s home, the former Sacred Heart of Jesus church, sits on a hillside in the hamlet of Wilbur in Kingston. Built in 1884 to serve the local populationof bluestone masons, carpenters, and shipyard workers, the church overlooks Feeney’s shipyard. A former owner refurbished the church’s locally sourced red brick walls and replaced the asphalt roof with metal and added copper gutters.

Like the rapid evolution of technology; like the revolution posed by cryptocurrency; like America’s changing notion of where we should all hang out, Colborn Bell’s home is in a bit of limbo. “Everything in my life is pretty ad hoc,” says the financier and founder of the Museum of Crypto Art. “I moved here last December and have been traveling like nobody’s business ever since.” “Here” is an industrial corner of Kingston’s Rondout neighborhood, up the hill from Feeney’s Shipyard, which Bell chose for it’s mix of peace, quiet, and community.

As well as his home, it’s the physical manifestation of the Museum of Crypto Art, which was founded online in early 2020 and dedicated to showcasing the depth and breadth of digital art. Bell’s abode is in an open-concept, loft-like first-floor space. In one corner, the kitchen—caught design-wise between phases in the Rondout’s evolution—juxtaposes a suite of modern appliances with an Art Deco crystal chandelier and colorful lamps salvaged from the Russian Tea Room. In another corner, a workstation with multiple screens and piles of books and papers is where Bell oversees the operations of MoCA and curates his growing collection of NFT art.

click to enlarge Bell has appropriated the church’s nave as the physical gallery space for the Museum of Crypto Art, which he founded online in 2020. The gallery space features the church’s 20-foot ceilings, stained glass windows, and rough-cut timber beams. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Bell has appropriated the church’s nave as the physical gallery space for the Museum of Crypto Art, which he founded online in 2020. The gallery space features the church’s 20-foot ceilings, stained glass windows, and rough-cut timber beams.

At the back of the space, two sliding barn doors hide his bedroom. And everywhere, lined up along the red brick walls, stacked in corners—some of it hanging—are prints and painted canvases. “I end up with a lot of art,” he explains. “Because people selling NFTs often also give you the physical piece.” Storage, admits the visionary and virtual art collector, is a bit of a problem.

Bell sees no irony in the fact that he’s located the headquarters of his forward-thinking, 21st-century project in a deconsecrated 1884 Catholic church. Maybe, suggests Bell, the 7,400-square-foot building, the former Sacred Heart of Jesus, hand built by parishioners, is the ideal location for his particular live/work arrangement. “I’ve always been fascinated by the reappropriation of sacred symbols,” he says. “And I also like exploring the idea of the third place.”

click to enlarge On the first floor, the church’s former rectory has been converted into an open-concept living space. It features refurbished hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and pipes as well as shiplap on the ceiling. Restored lamps from Manhattan’s Russian Tea Room add Art Deco flair to the room. Along the brick wall, Bell has hung a mix of acrylic and oil works. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • On the first floor, the church’s former rectory has been converted into an open-concept living space. It features refurbished hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and pipes as well as shiplap on the ceiling. Restored lamps from Manhattan’s Russian Tea Room add Art Deco flair to the room. Along the brick wall, Bell has hung a mix of acrylic and oil works.

Based on a theory first explained by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, a community’s third place (after homes and jobs) is where people spend their free time. Traditionally a place of worship, and often in modern times a barber shop or bar (think “Cheers”), the third place is easily accessible and essential to free-flowing banter and the exchange of ideas. Bell believes third spaces throughout the globe were already in trouble before the pandemic, and that the lockdown pushed the issue further.

“So many people have tried to find their third place online, but that’s just led to a fragmented community and in America we have a real problem of trust,” he says. “People are being forced to change and that scares them. I find the best way to help people open their mind to the possibilities on hand is to invite them to reconsider new forms of art.”

click to enlarge Bell and his friend Wesley Sempkin hang out in a corner of MoCA’s gallery space. Displayed above them is Lovers in - The Sun by Indonesian artist TwistedVacancy. “There’s an incredible amount of talented digital artists all over the globe,” explains Bell. “Digital art is opening up avenues and opportunities that didn’t exist before.” - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Bell and his friend Wesley Sempkin hang out in a corner of MoCA’s gallery space. Displayed above them is Lovers inThe Sun by Indonesian artist TwistedVacancy. “There’s an incredible amount of talented digital artists all over the globe,” explains Bell. “Digital art is opening up avenues and opportunities that didn’t exist before.”

Third Place Transitional

Bell grew up in California and then moved to New York to attend college at Columbia. He majored in economics and psychology, but Columbia’s core curriculum, which included a rigorous focus on elements of Western philosophy, art, history, and music, left a lasting impression on his professional trajectory.

After college, he worked as an investment banker before becoming involved with impact investing and the world of finance. This lead him to the world of cryptocurrency, which became a revelation for him. “Once I began to accept Bitcoin as a new form of money, everything began to change for me,” he says. “Having self-custody over your own assets is very empowering. Instead of depending on a bank, you depend on yourself.”

click to enlarge The church’s former altar now features a large digital motion graphic work, Glass Jail by Kidmograph. On the smaller screen, artist Michelle von Kalben’s photograph Peace within Chaos explores how peace and chaos coexist in the modern world. Bell found the white bust sculpture at an antique store - and matched it with an oil painting by local artist Emily Cavotti. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • The church’s former altar now features a large digital motion graphic work, Glass Jail by Kidmograph. On the smaller screen, artist Michelle von Kalben’s photograph Peace within Chaos explores how peace and chaos coexist in the modern world. Bell found the white bust sculpture at an antique storeand matched it with an oil painting by local artist Emily Cavotti.

Bell became disillusioned with digital currency when, like many things in both the art and tech world, its original, idealistic intent was infiltrated with bad actors. However, digital currency had already led him into a new frame of mind, one that had him reconsidering the world of art.

“Like crypto currency, crypto art is decentralized and by its very nature crosses all sorts of boundaries. It brings a lot of new people into the ecosystem on the basis of the visual language,” he says. “Visual language is more of global language. Unlike social media, with algorithms that thrive on division, crypto art is authentic. It comes from individual artists and when you begin to collect art it forces you to interrogate what you care about and why, by way of the images and symbols you’re exposing yourself to.”

click to enlarge The home’s primary bedroom is separated from the living area by sliding doors. Bell matched his leather bed with a piece of a painting by artist Rachel T. Harris. “It was part of a paint party where guests painted 6,000 feet of canvas,” says Bell. “At the end of the party she gave all of us a section of the art.” - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • The home’s primary bedroom is separated from the living area by sliding doors. Bell matched his leather bed with a piece of a painting by artist Rachel T. Harris. “It was part of a paint party where guests painted 6,000 feet of canvas,” says Bell. “At the end of the party she gave all of us a section of the art.”

After nine years in New York City, Bell moved to the Dutchess County town of Milan, where he lived a solitary life in the woods for three years. It was a time of reflection when he really reconsidered how he wanted to spend his time. “I work in extremes,” he explains. “After so many years in New York City, I needed to redefine my personal identity. I think a lot of that was baked into this project.”

He launched the virtual museum at the beginning of 2020, a prescient time for virtual enterprises and the accelerated idea exchanges they would spur. As the museum grew and his nexus of artists across the globe expanded, Bell realized it was time to find a brick-and-mortar location to match the space he was creating online. He found the church in 2021 and by the end of the year it was his.

click to enlarge WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

Think Global Rooted in the Local

While the nature of the museum is cutting edge and the participants are global, Bell’s mission is squarely rooted in Hudson Valley tradition. “I’m continuing a long tradition of artists and creators coming to the region for peace and quiet, but also maybe more freedom,” he says. “This space is helping to facilitate that for others and also getting people interested in and showcasing digital art in new and novel ways.” The church’s second floor, the original nave, was ideally suited to become the museum’s brick-and-mortar gallery. Fully refurbished by a previous owner, the 3,000-square-foot space features 20-foot vaulted ceilings and two walls of ornate Tiffany stained glass. Flooded with light, the space also features exposed timber beams and hardwood floors.

click to enlarge The refurbished kitchen features a mix of vintage style and modern appliances. A Viking stove and Subzero refrigerator are topped with granite countertops. The original stained- glass window is paired with black Art Deco lamps from 1920s France. On the left wall, Elephant Walk by Ilya Shkipin, an oil painting augmented by AI. On the right hangs a print version of the NFT Something #5/7 by 431BD1. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • The refurbished kitchen features a mix of vintage style and modern appliances. A Viking stove and Subzero refrigerator are topped with granite countertops. The original stained- glass window is paired with black Art Deco lamps from 1920s France. On the left wall, Elephant Walk by Ilya Shkipin, an oil painting augmented by AI. On the right hangs a print version of the NFT Something #5/7 by 431BD1.

Throughout the room, along both the refurbished brick walls and against the raw timber beams, is digital art displayed on screens, interspersed with sculpture and paintings on canvas. While it’s based in the virtual world, Bell has made a point to meet most of the artists featured in the permanent collection in person. This has required extensive travel, but it lends a depth of connection to the space so rooted in the Rondout location.

“There is just an incredible number of talented digital artists all over the globe,” he says. “The connections I’ve made online with the artists have been some of the most genuine. People all over the world have invited me into their homes. It’s been immediately familial. The digital art world has become a true third place where people connect.”

click to enlarge The Wilbur hamlet of Kingston on the Rondout Creek is a working waterfront. On the right, Feeney's Shipyard and on the left, the former Sacred Heart - of Jesus church, which now houses cryptocurrency financier Colborn Bell and the Museum of Crypto Art. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE

  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • The Wilbur hamlet of Kingston on the Rondout Creek is a working waterfront. On the right, Feeney’s Shipyard and on the left, the former Sacred Heartof Jesus church, which now houses cryptocurrency financier Colborn Bell and the Museum of Crypto Art.

Bell’s plan is to bring that spirit of connection and conversation—that new third space—into the former church, recongregating around art. Off the central space, two church offices have been turned into bedrooms lending the space to artist residencies. The large open nave, with its rolling acoustics, has also been the site of musical events. “It’s a space where imagination and innovation can flourish,” says Bell of his plans. Through the church’s windows, cranes loading boats in Feeney’s shipyard, a nearby trestle bridge and the hustle and bustle of the neighboring Rondout are in full view. “I think art is probably the best place to start the conversation,” he adds. The collection can be viewed at Museumofcryptoart.com.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*