State of the ArtsAnne Pyburn Craig | June 3, 2015 | Comment
The highly contagious arts epidemic that’s been raging in the region for centuries has infected most every corner and shows no signs of letting up. You’ll trip over it everywhere. Banks, cafes, and supermarkets hang local painters and photographers. Pub crawling in New Paltz or Uptown Kingston will run you head on into music and poetry. Our small towns fill to bursting with bold face names at festival times.
Our heavy-hitting major arts players are a big part of the reason. Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Sullivan County, on the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, is a treasure trove for anyone curious about the 60s—and the national and international names that perform there are just one piece of a multifaceted menu of exhibits, lectures, films and fiestas of all sorts. Vassar College brings it on with Powerhouse Theatre, a summertime series presenting over 20 new works a year by the emerging and established alike. Maverick Concerts in Woodstock is celebrating their 100th season this summer, lending an air of even wilder exuberance to their open-air chamber music series. Bard’s Fisher Center and its Spiegeltent will be exploding with Summerscape: world-class opera, jazz, cabaret, dance, theater, and film.
Flanking the river on either side, the Bardavon 1869 Opera House and the Ulster Performing Arts Center regularly feature shining stars of all genres on their marquees. Downriver, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival will be breathing life into the works of the Bard all summer long, in the open air on the glorious grounds of Boscobel. Caramoor in Katonah, with its Spanish Courtyard and Venetian Theater, showcases classical, jazz, opera and roots music.
Our artsfolk are unpredictable, indefatigable and generous-spirited, doing black tie and blue jeans with equal grace and force, bringing in the heavy hitters and nurturing the up-and-coming with equal aplomb. Take Kaatsbaan, for example. Pro dance companies and choreographers from Manhattan and beyond come and spend a couple of weeks working and creating and gracing the intimate theater with its Metropolitan Opera-sized stage. The 2015 season will feature sixteen professional companies; you can attend a formal performance or stop by and catch an open rehearsal for free. And meanwhile, teens from everywhere are there studying Extreme Ballet.
Smaller venues, from the many college theatres to intimate spaces like the Falcon in Marlboro, the Towne Crier in Beacon, the Chance in Poughkeepsie, BSP in Kingston, and the Rosendale Café are constantly raising the bar for excellence and eclecticism. TangentArts in Tivoli, the Shadowland in Ellenville, the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck—the problem isn’t finding something great to do with your evening, it’s choosing just one. (All the more reason to visit often and stay awhile.)
We have fabulous, quirky places to spend the day immersed in art: Opus 40 in Saugerties, where you can hear music in a giant stonework sculpture, and Innisfree, acknowledged as one of the planet’s top ten gardens. We have hard-to-classify marvels like Omi International Art Center in Ghent, where artists from over 100 nations have converged to learn, work, play and turn you on. There are 500 acres of world-class cutting edge sculpture to explore at Storm King Arts Center.
If you happen to catch a rainy day, while away the hours at the Dia:Beacon, with nearly 300,000 square feet of contemporary art, or take in the over 5,000 works at the Samuel Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz. Both are constantly getting up to something innovative and fresh; your chances of finding an opening or a lecture on any given weekend are excellent. You can gaze upon the antiquities and Old Masters of Vassar’s Lehman Loeb collections, or check out the contemporary works at Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies/Hessel Museum.
Besides the mondo museums, our towns and byways are dotted with midsize and smaller galleries: the Barret Art Center in Poughkeepsie, the Carrie Haddad in Hudson, RiverWinds in Beacon, and the Center for Photography in Woodstock being but four of the better-known on a long list.
The Hudson River School isn’t just a chapter in an art history text. It’s alive and well, growing and thriving, and we never forget to pay homage where homage is due. This summer, two of our finest art destinations—Olana, the Persian-themed Hudson estate of Frederic Church, and the Thomas Cole Estate in Hudson—are collaborating on “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home,” in which the paintings of 30 contemporary luminaries (Maya Lin and Chuck Close among them) will be displayed alongside selectively curated works by Cole and Church themselves in a dialogue spanning riverbanks and ages that could only happen here.