Woodstock Music & Art

Woodstock Music & Art

curated by Kathleen Kenyon and Kate Menconeri

featuring Nancy Bogen, Ken Franckling, William Gamble, Ron Naar, Shelly Rusten, Andrea Barrist Stern, and William Wade

November 20 – December 19, 1999

music … art …

…it’s what defines Woodstock – and why we are celebrated as – the small town known around the world

it’s the motivation of this exhibition to honor the spirit of Woodstock as a metaphor for creativity…

On the occasion of opening our newly expanded artistic home, it is this link that brings us together and what we honor today. The spirit of the arts forms our legacy as a cultural haven. We rejoice in the power of imagination
to bring us into community and to enrich our lives.

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In the past decades theater, opera, poetry, music, literature, painting, sculpture, crafts, and photography have competed for prominence in Woodstock. The list of internationally famous visual and performing artists associated with the town — the oldest functioning art colony in the United States — has filled volumes — Isadora Duncan, Helen Hayes, John Burroughs, Archipenko, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Will and Ariel Durant, Konrad Cramer, Russell Lee, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Milton Avery, Janis Joplin, Philip Guston, Heywood Hale Broun, Gael Greene, Mary Frank, Jessie Tarbox Beals, Russell Lee, Manuel Komroff, and Clarence White, among others.

Woodstock’s origin as an art mecca began in 1902 with Englishman Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead’s establishment of an utopian arts and crafts colony, Byrdcliffe. The founders of the Woodstock Art Colony saw it was here that (man’s/woman’s) mightiest creative energies might be released. Shortly thereafter, the Maverick Colony was founded by Hervey White to allow artists, writers, and musicians greater freedom of expression. Maverick — the idea of originality and irrepressible freedom — is now embodied in the Woodstock tradition, the Center’s home, and the nation’s culture.

And as we move into the new century this is what we want to carry forward — free expression — It is the Center’s vision to present a space which allows each person to express their imagination in a community which supports individual sight. We bring together a culturally diverse community in an environment which encourages interaction and exploration of the visual arts through innovative programs. Together we give shape to a world in which a multitude of views are given life.

Woodstock is as much known for it’s visual art as it is for performing arts. This particular exhibit focuses on the power of song in Woodstock and on those who have made visual records. Our exhibition photographers (some of whom are musicians too), show us images of the talented musicians who have made their home in Woodstock, those associated with the place, those associated with its spirit, and those at the famous music festivals. Of course, none of the “big” music fests were ever actually in Woodstock proper, but all were named to honor Woodstock’s great power.

The Maverick Festivals were in fact the very first Woodstock Festival. Weekend long events, they were fundraisers to support a unique community of artists that lived here. The money raised throughout the years built a theatre, a concert hall, artist studios, subsidized daily existence, and created The Maverick Press (1915-40s).

Woodstock was once again in the news for music in 1994 when its name was used for a three-day music festival to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the famous concert that rocked the nation in 1969. The first concert wasn’t held in Woodstock, but in Bethel, about 100 miles south in Sullivan County, New York. Again in ‘94, the event was held, not in Woodstock, but on a farm in Saugerties, New York, 15 miles to the east, and, in 1999 on an airforce base in Rome, New York. And – as in 1969 – more than a quarter million people descended on these sites to hear rock and roll, which, in ’69 included Joan Baez, The Jefferson Airplane, and musicians who made their home in Woodstock — Bob Dylan, The Band, and Janis Joplin.

Many of the artists who photographed the original festival, and who were published in LIFE magazine, are included in this exhibit: Michael Fredericks, Elliott Landy, Lisa Law, and Shelly Rusten. Images from 1994 and 1999 are represented by Mark McCarroll, Patricia Mitchell, Ron Naar, William Wade, and videos by Dave Channon and Tobe Carey. Woodstock musicians are portrayed by Nancy Bogen, Dion Ogust, Ken Frankling, Andrea Stern, Roy Gumpel, Ben Caswell, William Gamble, John Cohen; including players who have performed at treasured sites in Woodstock proper – the Maverick (the oldest continuously run chamber music festival in the U.S.), the Kleinert/James Woodstock Guild, Bearsville Recording Studios, Opus 40, the Joyous Lake, to name just a few; and Tony Levin illustrates with innovation the local caves at which he recorded the music for From the Caves of Iron Mountain.

Our new gallery which showcases this exhibition, and is housed in the property chosen (and purchased in 1987) as the Center’s permanent home. A historic two-story building located at 59 Tinker Street, the Center is in the heart of Woodstock on its Main Street. The structure dates back to the 1700s, and has a venerable history, much of it with artistic and musical associations. In 1907 and 1908, the Art Students League held classes in the building. The students opened an art supply shop and started a tea room called At the Sign of the Hearse – a reflection of the building’s earlier incarnation as an undertaking establishment. Later in the decade the building functioned as a town social center, housing Woodstock’s first ping-pong parlor (quite the rage in those days) and providing space for dances held during the school holidays. In the next decade the Woodstock Library was located in the building.

By the 1920s the building’s owner rented studio space to artists and opened The Nook, a coffeehouse where the artists sold small paintings and postcards and could buy photographic films. The Nook became The Espresso, which in the 1960s saw the birth of the great folk music revival with performances by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. In Woodstock’s Espresso Café (the Center’s first floor), Dylan, Baez and a teen-aged John Sebastian would sit around a rickety old table, glasses of wine in hand, and sing old folk songs like House of the Rising Son. Then Dylan would walk upstairs to his rented apartment, (the Center’s second floor) muse before his manual typewriter and write such songs as It Ain’t Me Babe, Subterranean Homesick Blues and Mr. Tambourine Man. Later the first floor space was the site of the Tinker Street Café, where many local players performed.

When people speak of the Woodstock Sprit, the Woodstock Generation, what do they mean?

Seeking to answer these questions, our shows parallel the dreams of those who come now and reveal a shared history. Inheritors of the Woodstock Festival spirit, the Center contributes to the town’s vital creative tradition and serves to link artists and audiences from all generations. Those who came to the musical explosion in the 1960s celebrated ideas seeded on the same spiritual ground where Hervey White — fifty years earlier — had set the stage for his catalytic Maverick Festivals.

The Center for Photography at Woodstock’s COMING HOME: BUILDING OUR FUTURE capital and creative program drives have allowed us to open our new doors to invite in a wider audience and to better serve our community.

We create this context to raise and deepen awareness of Woodstock’s rich artistic legacy and to serve as a beacon of hope for those who seek the joy of art.

There was peace and harmony …Woodstock became a symbol to the world of a better way of life – of freedom, of love, of spiritual union between many. There was hope…. Woodstock is a way of thinking, a way of being – kindness, consideration, sharing, and enjoying life as it should be…”

– taken from Elliott Landy’s Woodstock Vision, The Spirit of a Generation, 1994.