The biggest regional arts extravaganza in recent memory launches this Friday, splashing color on every corner of the Hudson Valley. Held this July 21-24, Upstate Arts Weekend (UAW) is this summer’s don’t-miss celebration of art in all its forms.
Launched by accomplished arts professional Helen Toomer in 2020 with just 23 participants, the UAW has mushroomed this year to more than 130 events and exhibits. In tying together the many threads connected to arts institutions and artists’ communities in the Hudson Valley, the event reveals the characteristics that make this region special, namely, the making and showing of art having a sophistication linked intrinsically with New York City, and therefore by extension to the international art scene, in a stunningly beautiful natural setting. (The environment itself is an inspiration for much of this art making and in some cases plays a central role.) That’s not to say home-grown artists don’t hold their own amid the plethora of famous names.
Besides the sprinkling of shows chronicling an art historical movement (not to mention the role of the area’s museums at Vassar, SUNY New Paltz, and Bard in doing this), UAW also showcases the region’s abundance of cutting-edge, out-of-the-box work that mixes up media and genres (turns out, fresh air and lots of space is a spur to experimentation). In equal measure, it displays the tight connection of the arts with local communities. In short, there is something for everyone.
Part of the delight of providing an opportunity to experience the richness of the Hudson Valley’s cultural scene in this moment is the variety of venues, ranging from museums, galleries, and artists’ studios to barns and farms to historic estates to sculpture parks to repurposed industrial spaces to even a YWCA, brewery, motel, and former post office. Food and drink also play a role at some venues, representing yet another category of culture that distinguishes the region.
Among the events with an international bent are an exhibition and film series of Arte Povera, Italy’s 1960s “impoverished art” movement, at Magazzino Italian Art, in Cold Spring; an exhibition of paintings, sculpture and works on paper by young Chinese women artists who studied at the U.S. at Chambers Fine Art, in Salt Point; and a display of work by South African artists and designers at Kombi, a new gallery in Stone Ridge. Assembly, a former Buick dealership in Monticello that was transformed into an expansive exhibition space by Mexican architect Alberto Kalah, will display the work of Bosco Sodi, who founded the gallery in 2022, and several other Mexican artists. (Based in Brooklyn, Sodi is connected with nonprofit artist residence and foundation Casa Wabi, in Oaxaca.)
Fans of Minimalism will want to head to Catskill Art Space, in Livingston Manor, to catch Forrest Myers’ monumental installation, which relates to his seminal 1973 SoHo piece The Wall and works by Ellen Brooks, Francis Cape, Sol LeWitt and James Turrell. An exhibition of major New York artists from the 1970s and 80s, including Anthony Carol, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland, is featured at KinoSaito, located in Verplanck.
An interesting footnote to Surrealism is captured and documented at The Seligmann Center in Orange County, which displays works made by Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp at the former estate owned by Kurt and Arlette Seligmann. Visitors can also view Kurt Seligmann’s Surrealist-inspired artworks and enjoy glasses of wine and Calvados while viewing a video installation in the garden depicting the Seligmanns hanging out with Breton on a 1938 trip to Paris.
There’s so much to see, and over such a broad area—the venues geographically range from Kinderhook and East Durham in the north to Westchester County and from Delhi in the west to Millbrook, near the Connecticut border—that an arts enthusiast must make painful decisions of what to leave out. Fortunately, the planning process has been made easier on the upstateartsweekend.org website—first, by including a list of all the participants alphabetically with links on a Google map, and second, by enabling one to search the map by day and county.
The organizers have also debuted The Guide, in which writer Julie Baumgardner suggests five routes (Woodstock area, Kingston to Catskill, Germantown to Garrison, Beacon/Newburgh, and West of the Ashokan). Many of the exhibits are up for the month or season, so that to some extent, the directory for UAW can serve as a regional summer guide to the arts. Unless otherwise indicated in the listing, the events are free (although in some cases one must register in advance).
That said, it’s the special performances, film screenings, mini-festivals, and rare opportunities to visit an artist’s studio or site not usually open to the public that one might want to prioritize. Foreland, the renovated historic mill complex on the Catskill waterfront, will be hosting an arts fair of its own, organized by the nonprofit NADA, which over the course of three days will feature works by more than 60 artists; a ticket for the event includes a Saturday evening concert. A series of site-specific commissions within the complex, having such intriguing names as “The Glass Bridge” (by Rachel B. Hayes) and the “The Tower Stairs” (by multiple artists), will also be on view.
White Feather Farm in Saugerties is hosting a Soil Fest, with presentations on how to develop a deeper, sensory connection with mushrooms, make soil portraits (visitors are encouraged to bring their own samples), and build up microbes; there will also be tastings of beers brewed with sorghum and rice grown on the farm. (See the event brief in this issue for more details.)
The Institute for Cultural Activism International’s outdoor immersive installation “We Do: Surfing the Apocalypse & QR Portal Activations” promises to make the trip to Delhi worth it for a taste of the future of our social interactions, for better or worse: Costumed performers will hold mobile phones activated by bystanders, who in turn watch curated films depicting end-of-the-world scenarios and ongoing actual projects related to social justice and the environment on their phones.
Art Omi in Ghent is exhibiting a five-decade retrospective of the works of Pippa Garner, the trans artist who is known for inventions that repurpose and satirize consumer products. On Saturday at 3 pm, Garner will present Haulin’ Ass!, a performance featuring a 2003 Ford Ranger pickup truck that she has deconstructed and welded back together with giant truck nuts. On Friday night, Art Omi will host the Hudson Valley Intertribal Noise Symposium, in which experimental sound artists will perform in conjunction with the release of a new book by artist Nathan Young that traces indigenous territories in the area.
Opera singers will perform at the Turley Gallery, located in Hudson, in conjunction with the solo exhibition of works by Martine Kaczynski on Saturday at 4 pm, followed by “Hymn/Hiss,” by Andy Siemenda, described as a combination performance/sculpture.
There’ll be tours of Wave Farm’s 29-acre Art Park, which features 13 sound media art installations, and an all-day concert on Saturday in which various percussionists will improvise with the sounds of insects amplified through on-site sculptures, perform on a gamelan with a marimba tree and water drum, and improvise drumming on branches, bark, and other tree elements.
A jazz concert by four resident musicians who worked with Harry Belafonte, Sun Ra, and other greats will be held Friday night at Transart, an event that also marks the opening of the nonprofit’s move to a gorgeously renovated 19th-century historic house in Midtown Kingston. On Friday night, the Javon Jackson Band will perform music from the score Jackson wrote for a new documentary on artist Peter Bradley.
The Ellsworth Kelly Studio, located in Spencertown and pretty much unchanged from when it was used by the late artist, will be open for a tour of the studio, archives, and exhibition of Kelly’s postcard collages, which is the subject of a monograph published by The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum. Sculptor Kathy Ruttenberg, whose numerous commissions of her fantastical figurative art include a public art series for New York City, will be welcoming visitors to a church on her property she has transformed into a gallery., in Bearsville. And visitors to Mother-in-Law’s, located in Germantown, can rummage through the “yard sale” of ceramic objects created by artist Lauren Cohen as part of her exploration of the character Brian, which she was inspired to create while experiencing the isolation of the pandemic. The mixed media installation “Darkening Skies” is an ominous meditation on climate change and migration, while the group exhibition outdoors examines the weedy space around our homes and ways humans can negotiate nature’s regenerative, sometimes annoying, capacities.
Succurro, located in the rural hamlet of East Meredith, is featuring a screening of Transformer, John Halpern’s documentary film about Joseph Beuys, on Saturday, which will be followed by a lunch of pizza cooked in an earthen oven, a workshop on creativity, and a guided walk of an outdoor exhibition of works by artists in residence which examine the relationship between land, human beings, and the larger network of creatures; on Sunday, there’ll be a demonstrate of ancestral medicine practices.
Women artists feature prominently in many of the exhibitions.
The David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center, based in Tarrytown, is showing works by women Modernist artists drawn from its collection at Kykuit paired with work by seven contemporary women artists. Thomas Cole National Historic Site, in Catskill, is exhibiting “Women Reframe the American Landscape: Susie Barstow & Her Circle,” works by 19th-century women artists connected with the Hudson River School, which are similarly paired with pieces by contemporary female artists. Minerva Projects, a nonprofit feminist press located in Pine Plains, will feature an immersive sound installation by Ganavya Doraiswamy and a sculptural installation by Ilona Pachler, along with readings by Pachler from her book. In Poughkeepsie, “Seen/Heard: A celebration of BIPOC Feminine Artistry” features work by Black, indigenous and Latino women; on Saturday afternoon there will be a block party out front, on South Clinton Street, and an artists’ talk on Sunday afternoon. Women’s Studio Workshop is exhibiting itty-bitty works of art by six artists, entitled “In the Palm of Your Hand,” demonstrating that tiny can be as engaging as the monumental, and perhaps more fun.
Other shows on my hope-to-see list are Gabe Brown, Polly Apfelbaum, and Erika deVries at Alpana Bawa, in Ellenville; Laurene Leon Boym’s drawings and sculptures of cigarette packs, packages of crackers, oats and other consumer products at Available Items, in Tivoli; and “Listening to Land” at Newburgh’s Ann Street Gallery, in which artists working in wood, water, stone, clay, metal, horsehair and other materials reveal something profound about the land and humans’ connection to it through storytelling and the use of ancient and contemporary technologies.
For more information, visit upstateartsweekend.org.